An elderly man with a hat slowly sits down on crutches at a wooden table and looks at the camera in the semi-shade. “Look at me, the old man, my life was full of happiness,” sings pop star Tony Marshall to the black and white video from April last year, his sons Marc and Pascal join later. His face has narrowed, his eyes are wide and awake, his voice still powerful. Marshall says goodbye, it seems.

After various health turbulences and finally an emergency operation in May last year, it has now become very quiet around him. Marshall turns 85 on February 3 and celebrates with his immediate family. “Hooray, the 85 is here!” he says. “And then I’m also very fortunate to be able to celebrate my birthday with the very people who have always accepted me as I am.”

He has sung all his life. Even as a baby, he is said to have cried so loudly that his career as a singer was virtually inevitable. That’s how Tony Marshall told it a while ago, laughing, friendly and, as always, full of joie de vivre. He has had a unique career – and continued it for over six decades. Actually trained as an opera singer, he indelibly put himself in the annals of German hits with the hit “Schöne Maid”: In 1971 he had his musical breakthrough as a pop singer with the song.

120 singles released

Countless hits follow. In addition to “Beautiful Maid”, there are, for example, “Today we’ll hit the drum”, “Boy, the world is beautiful”, “Bora Bora” or “On the road to the south”. He has released around 120 singles, moderated around 40 TV shows and performed in thousands. His recordings are sold in the millions.

He was born Herbert Anton Bloeth – later he changed his family name to Hilger, his mother’s maiden name – in Baden-Baden, where he still lives today. After his classical training at the Karlsruhe University of Music, among others, he opened a pub for the first time. Until the “beautiful maiden” comes and suddenly turns him into a cult star.

As the nation’s feel-good singer, Marshall will shape the hit world in the future, fill halls or sing on smaller stages. He tours with “stars of folk music”, sings in the musical “Anatevka”, releases the super hit “Schöne Maid” in English together with rock singer Anastacia and even opens a small gallery in Gaggenau near Rastatt in 2021. It is filled to the brim with memories: photos with his hit buddies Karel Gott or Roberto Blanco, trophies, gold records. “All in all, everything went smoothly,” he says a short time later.

Always caught up by low blows

But despite all the happiness and confidence: the life of the singer, who used to have permanent waves and curly brown hair, later wore a toupee and has long since worn a hat, has been accompanied by health setbacks over the past ten years. He suffers from the nervous disease polyneuropathy, which is at times accompanied by symptoms of paralysis. He wears a pacemaker and was in a coma for days after a stroke in early 2019. In 2021 he will survive a corona infection. Most recently, he has to have dialysis several times a week.

Tony Marshall always breaks a lance for the hit, even more explicitly over the years. Although he slipped into the genre more or less by accident at the beginning of his career, he vehemently defended it against disparaging comments and prejudice. He thinks that hits need a bigger stage and are neglected. His motto is to tour the country and bring joy to people – until now his body forces him to pause.

His family has always given him support and security. He has been married to his childhood sweetheart Gaby for ages, with whom he has a daughter and two sons. Marc and Pascal have long followed in his footsteps as singers. Even now his whole family is around him, from his wife to his great-grandchildren. “I’ve been successful in my career as a singer and I’m happy,” he says. “For me, every day is now time! And I celebrate that!”