“He just wants to play” – What the hit song “Herzilein” has to do with science

How Burkhard Lüdtke balanced his work as model building lecturer at Technische Universität Berlin with his calling as a singer and songwriter.

Burkhard Lüdkte is a man of many talents. As university lecturer for model building at TU Berlin, he has guided generations of students for over 30 years and earned national and international honors for his teaching projects. His musical talents have always been closely linked to his professional creativity. He has also received awards as the songwriter for the hit "Herzilein" - gold, platinum and double platinum. Karl Dall and Jürgen von der Lippe were just two of his many partners, as was the Wildecker Herzbuben folk music duo. Together with his wife Carola, he wrote songs with catchy titles such as “Lars vom Mars” (Lars from Mars), “Dann schmeckt die Maß doppelt so gut” (Then your beer tastes twice as good), and the famous “Herzilein” (Honey), one of the greatest German folk music hits.

Sway along to “Herzilein”

A journey to the past

How did he get involved in Schlager music? Lüdkte’s stories are a journey back to the period of German reunification and offer a look at cultural life in what was then West Berlin. Lüdkte was first introduced to the world of music through a Protestant youth group. He learned to sing and used a long-playing record (LP) by Schlager singer Heino to learn guitar. His guitar skills were the foundation for composing his own songs, which he later performed in bars. A popular meeting place for many artists in Berlin was “Go-In", a jazz and songwriter bar on Bleibtreustraße. There Lüdkte met Karl Dall, Ingo Insterburg, and Jürgen von der Lippe, who commissioned work from him. He owes his greatest hit “Herzilein” to the music production company Hansa, which contacted G.G. Anderson, who then sent “Herzilein” to his two band members, who were to later become the “Wildecker Herzbuben”. Peter Alexander and Gottlieb Wendehals were also interested in the lyrics, but according to Lüdkte, they wanted to make too many changes to the original for his taste.

30-year anniversary of “Herzilein”

In 2020, “Herzilein” celebrates its 30-year anniversary and the success of the Schlager song can be seen in many places. For example, fans of Hertha BSC football club may be familiar with the adaptation “Herthalein, du musst nicht traurig sein” (Don’t be sad, my dear Hertha). Burkhard Lüdkte describes his personal success as such: “It is incredibly moving to perform at the Waldbühne and suddenly have 25,000 people sing ‘Herzilein’.” It is not surprising that “Herzilein’ was also a commercial success. For a time, 40,000 LPs sold each day. Here is another of Lüdkte’s many anecdotes: His wife Carola, with whom he wrote the song over a glass of Greek wine while on vacation, made the Wildecker Herzbuben promise not to lose any more weight to prevent detracting from the success. He adds: “We felt like hippies while writing ‘Herzilein’.”

Schlager music in the architecture studio

Lüdkte is well aware that Schlager songs like “Herzilein” are not for everyone. Smiling, he says, “Older people are so touched they tear up at the sound of these typically German songs. Young people tend to cry with laughter.” Lüdkte can prove this with a test of his own: Whenever students wanted to stay for a few hours after the model building seminars, he would play “Herzilein”, upon which the studio would quickly empty. His students smirk at “Herzilein”, many know his tactic. It is an “open secret”.

Herzilein on Valentine’s Day

Academic career

Lüdkte has been lecturer of model building at the TU Berlin Institute of Architecture since 1986. His qualifications include a Diplom in design, teacher training in art education, and a post-graduate degree in liberal arts. The greatest achievement of his academic career has been the development of the subject model & design. His aim was always to not simply build models but also design them. With his company “1 ART” he was able to strengthen collaboration with industry, business, and politics and thus initiate many externally funded projects which continue to provide funding to employ 70 staff and train 70 students.

100 flops and one hit

The financial security ensures a good teacher-student ratio. Every semester approximately 150 students take “Model + Design” with Burkhard Lüdtke, where they learn the basic technical and design principles of model building as well as experiment with materials. They are involved in many of his projects, some of which have attracted considerable public attention. One special feature of his work was the handicap accessible design of buildings, which is reflected in the study specialization “Design for all”. National and international prizes were awarded to projects, such as his “Reichstag für Blinde” model in 2007, the “Sprechende Stadt” in 2013, and the exhibition “Close your eyes and see” at EXPO 2010 in Shanghai. Just as he has developed his own potential, he wants to reveal his students’ personalities in order to develop their creative potential. “Being creative also means being stubborn,” says Lüdtke. He continuously inspires and motivates his students with his own story, telling them: “Sometimes it takes 100 flops before you make a hit.”