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To be clear, Germans aren’t nearly as fanatic about the Hoff as pop culture has led you to believe. They know of the stereotype, and they hate it. But they can’t deny that for eight weeks in the summer of 1989, they made Hasselhoff’s anthem “Looking For Freedom” the No. 1 song in what was then West Germany.

People in Communist East Germany heard the song as well, and even though the lyrics are actually about a son getting out from under the shadow of his rich father, they took it as a rallying cry – or in the Hoff’s words, as their “song of hope.” A few months later, people started tearing down the wall with their bare hands. To thank him for his inspiring song, they invited Hasselhoff to sing there on New Year’s Eve. One piano-key scarf later, and the rest is history.

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