Nico: Life And Lies Of An Icon

Nico: Life And Lies Of An Icon


Nico was revered as ‘the most beautiful creature who ever lived’. She was Andy Warhol’s femme fatale and the High Preistess of Weird, yet few knew her real name or her wretched origins. When she called herself ‘a Nazi anarchist junkie’, they thought she was joking.

Bob Dylan wrote a song about her, Jim Morrison a poem, Jean Baudrillard an essay, Andy Warhol a film, Ernest Hemingway a story – yet she fought against the idolatry of men to assert her independence as a composer of dissident songs.

Nico’s contribution as an artist (17 films and 7 LPs) was smothered by gossip of her alleged affairs with men and women, whether Jimi Hendrix or Jeanne Moreau, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones or Coco Chanel.
She drifted through society like a phantom. Each era celebrated a different Nico – the top covergirl of the Fifties, the Siren of the Sixties (as The Times acclaimed her), the Moon Goddess of the Seventies, and the High Priestess of Punk when rock stars like Siouxsie Sioux and Pattie Smith acknowledged her pre-eminence. Ironically, they did so at the lowest point in her life. For behind the Garbo-esque veneer lived a lonely woman trying to stand autonomous in a fast-changing world, seeking to survive her heroin addiction and to cope with her tormented mother and her troubled son, his existence denied by his film-star father.

In this pioneer biography, which Nico asked the author to write shortly before her outlandish death in 1988, Richard Witts uncovers the reasons for her subterfuge, and examines the facts surrounding her encounters with terrorist Andreas Baader, the Black Panthers, and the Society for Cutting Up Men. Exclusive contributions from artists such as Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, Viva, John Cale, David Bailey, Siouxsie Sioux – and many others including her relatives, friends and enemies – make this the definitive biography of an icon who was not only a testament to an era but hitherto unrecognised influence on popular music and style.

About the author

Richard Witts

Richard Witts first met Nico when she appeared on a TV programme he co-presented for BBC 2. She later visited his London apartment to watch a series of films starring her ex-lover Alain Delon. She eventually invited him to write her biography before she died. Richard is now a professor of music at Edge Hill University and consultant to the modern music ensemble, Icebreaker. He is the author of three books: Nico, Virgin Books (1993); Artist Unknown, Little Brown (1999); and The Velvet Underground, Equinox (2008). His lyrics for the post-punk group The Passage were published in 2016 by the poetry publisher Eyewear. Richard has been a television and radio presenter for Granada and the BBC, including contributions to The Essay on Radio 3. He is working on a history of BBC music policy.
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