“I cried because of the flute” – Nico
Because of her beauty, Christa Paffgen was always a muse to others. All her life, people tried to mold her to fit their fantasies. Her mother sewed her dresses so she could look pretty in school. She was discovered by a photographer who gave her the name of his dead lover, Nico. Frederico Fellini, Andrew Oldham, Andy Warhol, all tried to make her a movie star or a pop star or a ‘superstar’. When she went in to record her first full solo album Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and Tim Hardin lined up to write songs for her. The wistfull record, bathed in woodwinds and strings, is a thing of beauty. She hated it. Nico did not want to be a muse. She hated beauty – she saw it as a liability. Who could blame her? The legend goes that after the war, she witnessed the execution of the American GI who had raped her, and the experience turned her forever. It’s little wonder then that she believed being a woman, and especially a beautiful one, was a weakness. “You know, Jimmy” she mused “women really are inferior.” So, purposefully and bravely, she destroyed the beautiful image that made her famous. She henna’d her hair, wore only black, made the records she wanted – records about desolation -and she poisoned herself. She kept the man’s name she had been given. There’s something heroic in the choices she made. Rejecting the pretty image instead of riding it to the top, turning away from powerful lovers, away from the safe path. Not many have the courage to shed the pretty face – the image approved and enforced by society – and become as strung out, ugly, antisocial, and asexual as it takes to feed their own muse.