Nena was also the name of the band with whom she released the song. With the re-recording and subsequent release of some of her old songs, her career re-emerged in 2002. In 2007, she co-founded the school "Neue Schule Hamburg".
Gabriele Susanne Kerner was born on 24 March 1960 in Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany, while her family lived in the nearby town of Breckerfeld. She spent the earliest part of her childhood in Breckerfeld and later lived in Hagen. She acquired her nickname, based on the Spanish word "nena" (colloquial for "niña"), or "little girl", at the age of three, while on a vacation to Spain with her parents. In 1977 she left high school before graduation, and in the three following years she was trained as a goldsmith.
Her musical career began in the summer of 1979 when guitarist Rainer Kitzmann offered her a position as the lead singer in his band, The Stripes. The group had a minor hit with the song "Ecstasy", but never achieved mainstream success, and soon disbanded.
In 1981 Nena and her then-boyfriend Rolf Brendel moved to West Berlin, where they met future band members, guitarist Carlo Karges, keyboard player Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen, and bass player Jürgen Dehmel. Together they formed the band "Nena". In 1982 "Nena" released their first single, "Nur geträumt" ("Only dreamt"), which became an instant hit in Germany after the band appeared on the German television show Musikladen. The single reportedly sold 40,000 copies the day after the song appeared on the show and reached number two in the German charts.
In 1983 the band released its first album Nena, which contained the singles "Leuchtturm" ("Lighthouse") and "99 Luftballons" (the English version is called "99 Red Balloons."). "99 Luftballons" became a number-one hit in West Germany in 1983 and went on to major international chart success the following year, an English version hitting number one in the UK and the original German version hitting number two in the United States, behind Van Halen's Jump. In 1984, Casey Kasem's radio show "American Top 40" introduced a "mixed" version of the song, "splicing" the German and American versions together. It was also a huge hit in many other countries, and to this day it is one of the best-known German rock songs in many parts of the world. Although "99 Luftballons" was Nena's only hit in the English-speaking world, the band continued to enjoy success in several European countries in the following years. The band split in 1987, and Nena went solo thereafter. Nena follow up single "Just a Dream", reached number 70 in the UK charts in 1984, the B side being called "Indianer". A dance version of the A side totally re-written in the 90s was released to an unsuspecting audience and became a classic anthem in clubs. Youngsters were unaware of the song's origins.
Nena started dating Swiss actor Benedict Freitag shortly after the band separated in 1987. Benedict is the son of the German actress Maria Becker and Austrian-Swiss actor Robert Freitag. The couple had three children together, the first being Christopher Daniel, who was born disabled allegedly due to medical mistakes made during the birth that caused Nena to go into cardiac arrest. He died at the age of 11 months. In 1990 they had twins, Larissa Marie and Sakias Manuel. After splitting with Freitag, Nena started a relationship with drummer and music producer Philipp Palm from Stuttgart, with whom she had two children, Samuel Vincent (1995), and Simeon Joel (1997). The couple and the four children currently live in Hamburg. On Christmas Day 2009, Nena became a grandmother when Larissa gave birth to a girl, Carla Maria.Only two days later, Nena's son Sakias became a father to a boy named Noah.
Throughout the 1990s, Nena released a wide range of solo albums, a number of them consisting of songs for children. Simultaneously, she hosted several TV shows, including Metro and Countdown Grand Prix, the German preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest, in 1998.
In 2002 Nena celebrated her 20th anniversary on stage with the album Nena feat. Nena, a disc consisting of newly arranged recordings of her hits from the 1980s. This album marked a "comeback" for Nena, and spawned a number of successful chart entries. The remake of "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime" as an English-German duet with Kim Wilde was a hit in various European countries, reaching the Number 1 spot in the Netherlands and Austria, and Number 3 in Germany, in 2003. A DVD followed: the 2005 album Willst du mit mir gehn ("Do You Wanna Go with Me?") which quickly achieved platinum status. The first single from the album, "Liebe ist" ("Love Is"), reached number 1 on the German charts in early 2005, and was the theme song for a German telenovela, Verliebt in Berlin. Nena's 2005 tour in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in November and December 2005 had several sold-out concerts. In 2004, Nena took the stage during the Howard Jones 20th Anniversary concert at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. Nena sang "99 Luftballons", with both German and English lyrics. In 2004, Nena went on stage at the Mayday Music Festival, in Dortmund, accompagned by the techno duo Toktok. She sang the song "Bang Bang", and was later joined on stage by DJ Westbam to sing the song "Oldschool Baby". In October 2007, Nena released a new album entitled Cover Me, made up entirely of cover songs. David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Rammstein are three of the bands covered. She also released the single, "Ich Kann nix Dafür" ("It's not my Fault") in April 2007 for the film, Vollidiot (Complete Idiot). Nena also released a single for her cover of "She's a Rainbow" by the Rolling Stones. It was released in the US and the UK and made No. 42 in the British Charts.
Nena also recorded and released a new version of her hit song "99 Luftballons" in 2009, which more closely follows the 1980s original, in contrast to her 2002 version. This song was first performed in Germany on September 6, 2009. Some parts of the new version are in French.
Nena released a new single on 4 September 2009, called "Wir sind wahr", and a new album on the 23rd: Made in Germany. She has developed an interest in the teachings of Indian mystic Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) in recent years, and practises his meditation methods, an impression of which is featured in the "Wir sind wahr" video. Most recently, she collaborated with the popular techno-rap artists Die Atzen to produce a new single, "Strobo Pop". In 2011 she contributed vocals to the track "Let Go Tonight" by Kevin Costner and Modern West.