Sunday, May 20, 2018


Today is Astrid Kirchherr's birthday.  She was just another young woman in Hamburg in 1960, having grown up in the shadow of the war.  She and her art school friends felt guilty about being German, and were looking for something new.

One day, after a fight with her boyfriend Klaus Voormann, he walked out.  When he returned, he told Astrid and fellow friend Jurgen Vollmer that he'd seen something new--an amazing rock and roll band.  The trio weren't into rock, but they followed Voormann back to a bar in the sketchy St. Pauli district to see his discovery.

They stood out among the toughs on the Reeperbahn, but what they saw mesmerized them.  It was The Beatles.  At the time, the band included Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe, but no Ringo.

Their lives changed.  The Beatles' lives changed, too. The trio and the band became close friends.  And beautiful Astrid started dating Stuart.

It was nice for The Beatles, living in squalor, to know some young and relatively well-off people in Hamburg who could feed them, clean their clothes and give them a nice place to sleep.

Astrid was a budding photographer.  She took some of the earliest photos of the Beatles, and they are still some of the best.  Astrid and her friends also changed the Beatles' haircuts and the kind of clothes they wore.

She and Sutcliffe--who was a talented artist outside the band (and to be honest, not much of a musician inside the band)--fell in love.  When the Beatles had a return engagement in Hamburg, the two got engaged.  He left the band and stayed with her (to the horror of his family back in Liverpool, who didn't think much of Germans).  But Stu suffered from debilitating headaches, and died of a brain hemorrhage in 1962, only 21 years old.

Astrid's became a freelance photographer, married and did many other things.  But her name, and her life, have always been tied to The Beatles.  There are worse things you could be tied to.

Happy 80th, Astrid.


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