In 1984, he signed to EMI and issued Bochum, which went on to become the biggest-selling German-language LP in music history to date. A gravel-voiced, blue-collar stadium rocker best likened to American acts such as Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, Grönemeyer also favored topical lyrics that mirrored his growing influence as an activist. In the mid-'80s, he led protests against ozone-depleting CFC gases, and in 1992 founded the anti-racism group Ich Bin ein Ausländer (I Am a Foreigner). Albums including 1986's Sprünge and 1988's Ö kept Grönemeyer atop the German charts, and in 1991 he recorded his first English-language effort, Luxus, which failed to accurately translate the intricacies and nuances of his original lyrics. He became the first German act to appear on MTV Unplugged in 1995, and a year later again tried to crack the English-language market, with Chaos.
In the wake of 1998's Bleibt Alles Anders, Grönemeyer suffered extraordinary personal tragedy when his wife Anna and his brother Wilhelm both died of cancer within the same week; he dropped from sight in the weeks and months to follow, although in 1999 he co-founded his own label, Grönland, which boasted a vast and eclectic catalog including the complete output of the pioneering Krautrock outfit Neu! Grönemeyer finally resurfaced in 2002 with a new LP, Mensch, a deeply personal effort informed by his recent losses. The title track went on to become his first-ever number one single, and the album sold in excess of 3.2 million copies at home, making it Germany's highest-selling album of all time. Time Magazine awarded Grönemeyer the title of "European Hero" in 2005 on behalf of his humanitarian efforts, which by this time included his work leading the Deine Stimme Gegen Armut (Your Voice Against Poverty) campaign. The following summer he recorded "Zeit Dass Sich Was Dreht" (Celebrate the Day), the official anthem of World Cup 2006. In 2007, Grönemeyer re-recorded What's all this, Luxus and Chaos for an English audience, although the venture wouldn't prove as successful as his domestic career, which continued to blossom with the release of his twelfth album, aptly titled 12, that same year.
12's follow-up came four years later in the shape of Schiffsverkehr, which included a powerful title track that proved the singer had lost none of his musical passion. Herbert Grönemeyer played in front of over half a million people while touring the album throughout 2011. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi