Remembering Berlin artist and singer Françoise Cactus
She was half of the band and all of the French accent of Stereo Total. She died Wednesday of cancer at 57.
Berlin-Concerts by Berlin electro-punk band Stereo Total in the mid-90s were excessive, wild and cult-like, but also welcoming and familiar. Part of it was the French accent of singer Françoise Cactus, who added such loving directness to even frivolous song content that it was hard to not like. Her ability to mix her larger-than-life personality with her accent can best be heard on the band's biggest hit, the German-language song Liebe zu Dritt (Love in threes): "Over a goddamn pub with no smoke/And cream with no fat/Beer with no booze and digital sex/Because it's the weekend, don't stress!" the song goes.
"I'm wasting my youth/You stay in your room," it continues. "I want love in threes."
But Stereo Total was a band of only two – Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring. American singer and bassist Angie Reed and organist San Reimo joined later. Instead of just being a band, Göring and Cactus pursued Stereo Total as an intellectual project, but in a less spiritual way than, for example, the famous New York model of the Talking Heads around David Byrne and Tina Weymouth.
Françoise Cactus was smart and witty
For Françoise Cactus, however, there was a musical core that she could always fall back on, and that gave her something tender and fragile, despite all her punky shrewdness. She was able to talk passionately and competently about Yéyé music, that mixture of pop and French chanson whose most important representatives included France Gall and Françoise Hardy, and occasionally she did so publicly in her own programme on Radioeins.
As much as Françoise Cactus was absorbed in Stereo Total and its music, she was also an artistic multi-talent. Her life-size crocheted doll Wollita sparked a sex scandal in Germany's tabloids. The doll was on exhibition in Kreuzberg's Bethanien and was defamed as evidence of a "child porn exhibition". Together with Wolfgang Müller from West Berlin performance artists Die Tödliche Doris, Françoise Cactus dealt with the scandal as only Françoise Cactus could – in the book Wollita - Vom Wollknäuel zum Superstar (Wollita - From a ball of wool to a superstar).
But for many journalists who were still young at the time, Françoise Cactus was simply a funny, witty and creative colleague. For several years, she worked as a layouter at the daily newspaper taz. For me, she personified the taz project. I bow deeply before Françoise Cactus, who was able to open the eyes of us text jockeys. On Wednesday, at the age of just 57, she died from cancer.