Klaus Renft

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Dubbed "the bad boy of East German rock & roll," Klaus Renft epitomized youth rebellion in the Communist-controlled German Democratic Republic. Born Klaus Jentzsch on June 30, 1942, in Jena, Germany,…
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Dubbed "the bad boy of East German rock & roll," Klaus Renft epitomized youth rebellion in the Communist-controlled German Democratic Republic. Born Klaus Jentzsch on June 30, 1942, in Jena, Germany, he assembled the Klaus Renft Combo at age 16, assuming his mother's maiden name as his stage alias. Within months the group ran afoul of GDR authorities for its raw, frenetic rock, and in 1964 its leader dissolved the lineup, immediately forming a new group, the British Invasion-inspired Butlers. In response, the East German secret police, the Stasi, opened a file on Renft code-named "Wanderer," and in 1965 banned the Butlers from performing. Renft spent the next two years woodshedding, writing songs and honing covers of favorites including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. When the GDR lifted its ban in 1967, Renft returned to the stage with longer hair and even more contempt for Stasi authority than before. Songs like "Autostop," "Wer die Rose Ehrt" (He Who Honors the Rose), and "Der Apfeltraum" (The Apple Dream) were scrutinized by government censors and fans with equal fervor, and the intensity only grew when lyricist Gerulf Pannach joined the lineup in 1969, steering the Klaus Renft Combo in a more explicitly sociopolitical direction than ever before. Finally, on September 22, 1975, GDR authorities summoned Renft and his bandmates and informed them the group would officially cease to exist from that moment forward. A splinter group, Karussel, soon formed, but the Combo's back catalog deleted and its gigs canceled, Renft finally fled to West Germany, working at radio station Rias. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he relaunched his career, and in 1997 published an autobiography, Zwischen Liebe und Zorn (Between Love and Anger). Renft died in Löhma, Germany, on October 9, 2006.