Hoff the record: The musical career of David Hasselhoff

From Knight Rider to Baywatch and beyond, David Hasselhoff has been a wonderfully ever-present figure in our lives for over 30 years now and as he releases his latest single we take a look the somewhat overlooked musical career of the man, the singer, The Hoff.

Here at MVD we love the Hoff. Hell, let’s face it, everyone loves the Hoff. Most of us probably aren’t even sure why, but we do. It’s a very curious phenomenon, and one worth pondering for a moment or two.

Essentially it boils down to this. The Hoff is like a big joke we are all in on, including the man himself. We know he’s not the greatest actor in the world, and so does he; we know his career has been one slightly naff moment after another, and so does he. And that’s what we love about him. He’s cool but really not very cool at all and he’s seemingly not only self-aware enough to acknowledge this but also self-deprecating enough to play along with it. Therein lies the curious dichotomy: it’s him and us knowing that the Hoff is really not cool in the slightest which makes him so cool.

Nowhere is this irony more evident than in his musical career, something which stretches back almost as far as his fame as an actor and which is an exercise in extreme cheese and, let’s be honest, sheer awfulness. There really is no way this man should ever have been let within a mile of a recording studio and yet somehow he has managed to date to release 17 albums, 39 singles, and 10 compilation albums shifting well over 6 million units in the process. Admittedly, most of these sales have come in his paternal homeland of Germany (his father was half-German and he retains many roots in the country) but still, 17 albums?! That’s a considerably discography for a man who, in all honesty, can carry a tune but could never be considered a singer. Except in Germany of course where they obviously consider him to be a pretty great singer. Either that or we have been seriously under-estimating the German capacity for humour all of these years…

Anyway, what I want to do is take a look back at some of the highlights (ahem) of his musical oeuvre for no other reason than, well, it’s just damned entertaining stuff. Terrible, yes, but entertaining at the same time. Kind of like the man himself.

Night Rocker (live), 1987

Let’s go back to the start. The Hoff released his first album Night Rocker in 1985, a year when he was riding high on his fame as Michael Knight in the utterly fabulous TV show Knight Rider. Indeed, such was his association with the show and in particular his co-star KITT, an artificially intelligent Pontiac Trans-Am, that the car pops up on both the album cover and here in this clip from his live show a couple of years later (albeit minus the trademark red flashing bonnet light). The album was produced by none other than Joel Diamond, who had worked with the likes of Sister Sledge, Englebert Humperdinck, Barry Manilow and countless others and is cheesy 80’s pop and then some, like an exercise in just how bad 80’s pop music could actually be,

What I love about this clip is that even then the Hoff seemed to be mining some kind of ‘so bad it’s good’ niche for himself. This is particularly evident at 1.40 where he slides down the bonnet of the car and then crawls across the smoke-filled stage, singing throughout. It’s spectacularly terrible and yet somehow he gets away with it, as if the sheer force of his Hoffness is enough to distract you from just how bad it actually is.

Looking For Freedom (live at the Berlin Wall), 1989

Released on the cusp of German reunification this song – actually a re-write of a German hit from the 1970’s called Auf Der Strasse Nach Suden – was a number 1 hit in that fateful summer, and with it’s lyrics and easily memorable chorus I guess it’s not hard to see why (or maybe it is). This performance, just as the wall was in the process of being torn down, was it seems quite a moment. And you know given the context I’m not going to knock it too much. I’ll let you watch and judge for yourself. Not sure about the flashing lights on the jacket though. although I guess they made up in some very small way for the lack of a conventional stage spotlight…

Hooked On A Feeling, 1996

Now this is where it all starts to get a bit ridiculous and this video would set the tone for much of his future videos (including the fabulous ‘Jump In My Car’ not included here because tragically it’s not available anywhere on Youtube in the UK) in that it sees our man indulging in some frankly ludicrous green-screen behaviour. He goes from snowy mountaintop to grassy pastures, flies through the air (flapping his arms, of course) and rides a motorcycle standing up. At some points it strays in to genuinely surreal terrotory. For example, who or what is the strange-faced being who pops up at 1.46 moving from right to left across the screen as the Hoff does his motorcycle acrobatics and then again at 3.14 this time going the other way? And what’s with the double Hoff moment at approx 2.21? It’s all very strange. Answers on a postcard please…

True Survivor (from the movie Kung Fury), 2015

Bringing you right up to date here is his latest release, taken from the soundtrack of a movie that was funded via a Kickstarter campaign and in which the Hoff doesn’t actually appear. I’ll probably never watch Kung Fury, despite it’s magnificent title, but I’m glad it exists simply so this slice of pure Hoff can exist also. We get to see him do kung-fu moves, the splits, and y’know just generally Hoff it up in a way that only the Hoff can. Because he’s the Hoff. It’s fabulous. Utter rubbish, yes, but fabulous all the same.

Which as I said near the start is basically the appeal. He’s fabulous at being rubbish. Truly. David Hasselhoff we salute you. We are never going to buy your records but we are so glad you make them. Don’t ever stop being The Hoff, the world would be a slightly duller place without you.

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