Music, like film, has connected— and continues to connect—Berlin and Los Angeles.

Lou Reed sets the scene for the tragic romance at the center of his legendary rock opera Berlin against the Berlin Wall on the title track of the same name. During his “Berlin period,” David Bowie wrote his signature track “Heroes” after watching his producer and his girlfriend embrace by the Berlin Wall. Years later, his performance of the song at the Reichstag in 1987 has been credited as catalyzing the Wall’s fall. And in the twenty-first century, on their 2016 release Human Performance, New York-based band Parquet Courts documented another aching heart in the wall’s in the song “Berlin Got Blurry.”

Whimsically recognizing this musical connection between Berlin and Los Angeles in the 90s, then-council member Tom LaBonge created a mix CD to celebrate their sister-city partnership. Today, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the partnership—and in conjunction with our exhibition Berlin/LA: Space for Music—we assembled a playlist of our own. Composed of 22 tracks, it’s a collection of iconic songs about Berlin and Los Angeles from American and German artists alike: from Marlene Dietrich’s “Left My Suitcase in Berlin,” to Dawes’s “Time Spent in Los Angeles” and Nena’s “99 Luftballons.”

A couple walks next to a fragment of the Berlin Wall after it had been dismantled.

Berlin, 1989, soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9 of that year. Photo: Raphaël Thiémard from Belgium, CC BY-SA 2.0. Source: Wikimedia Commons

More to Explore

Berlin/Los Angeles: Space for Music exhibition information