Born Hans Last in Germany in 1929, both he and his brother Werner made music their life’s work and both were anglicised for the international market and Werner became ‘Kai Warner’.
Hans became ‘James Last’ but before too long his friends, anyone who simply enjoyed his music, knew him as Hansi.
Over an incredible five decades, this German bandleader broke record after record and shattered the conceptions surrounding music.
Nothing was off limits as Hansi ‘borrowed’ music from Mozart to Madonna and adapted it to his own ‘happy’ sound. In the process he served up an entire musical palette to audiences who might never have heard of Rihanna, Lady Gaga or even LMFAO.
And that was the mark of the man, he made music accessible to all, I’ve been to concerts where members of the older generation loved a particular new track but looked puzzled when told it was by The Wanted!
However, last night The Gentleman of Music moved on to become part of heaven’s orchestra, leaving me along with many thousands of fans distraught.
Quite simply, Hansi was my music teacher, my first musical memories are of James Last which is no surprise when you consider my dear mum was going to his concerts while pregnant with me.
There is a picture of a six year old me sitting on Hansi’s lap, I hope once this grief has subsided I’ll be able to find it and look at it with a smile on my face.
I’ve travelled thanks to James Last, seeing countries I may never have seen and learned more about music than I may ever have known.
Much more importantly, I’ve got to know hundreds and hundreds of people united by the love of the music of James Last. No not friends, more like an extended family.
To be at the historic Royal Albert Hall to witness a James Last concert was something to behold, to see the warmth this German was greeted with in a quintessentially English venue year after year reminded us to always make peace not war.
To have known the music of James Last was to have experienced an education in song, in verse but also in life.I have tears in my eyes as I write this as 14 hours on I somehow still can’t believe it to be true.
But I also raise a glass to toast his memory and in keeping with the spirit of the man, I will do so with a ‘Happy Heart’.
Sleep well Hansi, may you Rest in Peace