Rocker Peter Maffay was the best-selling German pop star of his generation, wielding his celebrity to become a powerful advocate for antiwar efforts and an outspoken critic of domestic abuse.
Born Peter Alexander Makkay on August 30, 1949, in Brasov, Romania, he was 14 when his family relocated to his parents' native Germany. Soon after, he founded his first rock band, the Dukes. After a short stint working with art manufacturer Chemigraphics and moonlighting in local nightclubs, Maffay flung himself into music full-time. His 1969 debut single, "Du," proved a career-defining smash, selling in excess of a million copies and setting the stage for his debut LP, Für das Mädchen, Das Ich Liebe. Maffay's career almost ended in tragedy in 1972, when he was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. He not only survived, but his music enjoyed even greater popularity than before, with subsequent efforts including the two-LP set Omen, 1974's Samstag Abend in Unserer Straße, and 1977's Dein Gesicht all entering the German Top Ten. With 1979's Steppenwolf, Maffay broke German sales records, moving over 1.6 million copies; a year later, he bettered his own mark, selling 2.1 million copies of Revanche, and his live shows were box-office bonanzas as well. With 1983's Tabaluga oder die Reise zur Vernunft Maffay shifted gears, teaming with children's musician Rolf Zuckowski and author Gregor Rottschalk to create a fairy-tale world headlined by the dragon Tabaluga. Books, an animated series, a live stage musical, and additional LPs expanded the franchise. In 1986 Maffay also expanded into film, co-starring in director Peter Patzak's The Joker. In the years to follow, his political activism shaped his music, and in 1996 he received the Order of Merit for his social commitment, and in 2005 performed for German troops stationed in Afghanistan. The children's charity project Begegnungen: Eine Allianz für Kinder followed in 2006. Tabaluga returned in 2007, and again in 2011 for, respectively, the festive Frohe Weihnachten mit Tabaluga and Tabaluga und die Zeichen der Zeit. Maffay made another album as himself, Ewig, in 2008, and in 2010 released Tattoos, a 40th anniversary collection featuring re-recorded versions of all his biggest hits. Wenn Das So Ist, released in February 2014, was a massive hit, reaching number one in Germany and charting for over a year. ~ Jason Ankeny