Nina Hagen was born in the Eastern section of Berlin on 11 March 1955 to actress Eva Marie Hagen and writer Hans Hagen. Her parents divorced when she was two, and at the age of six, she began school in East Germany.
In 1965 she joined the Thalmann Pioneers, a Communist youth organization, and a year later the dissident poet and songwriter Wold Biermann became her stepfather.
Hagen joined the FDJ (Freie Deutsche Jugend), another East German youth movement in 1968 but was thrown out in disgrace a year later because of her involvement with Biermann.
Foremost was her part in a Biermann protest of the participation of East German troops in the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Leaving school in 1977, Nina travelled to Poland where she sang for the first time with a band.
In 1978 she began at the Studio für Unterhaltungsmusik (Studio for popular music) and left with outstanding honours, and as part of her training toured East Germany for two months.
On the tour, she sang two songs, one English blues and Der Hahn (The Rooster) – an East German rock & roll song.
A few more years were spent touring East Germany with the Aldons Wonneberg Orchestra, but tiring of this Nina decided to start her own band – initially an outfit called Automobil, and then Fritzens Dampferband (Fred’s Steamboat Band).
When Wodl Biermann was expelled from East Germany in 1976, Hagen decided to exit as well. On 9 December she arrived in the Federal Republic of Germany and soon had a recording contract.
She flew to London, met up with The Slits and wrote some songs with Ari Up.
Meeting guitarist Bernhard Potschka in West Berlin, she formed The Nina Hagen Band (with Bernhard Potschka on guitar, Manfred Praeker on bass, Herwig Mitteregger on drums, and Reinhold Heil on piano) and released the single African Reggae.