Two years ago a former record shop assistant became a sensation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, selling more than a million albums seemingly overnight. Bernd Graf, just called "Der Graf" (The Earl) by his fans, sold over 2 million albums with his band Unheilig, helping label Universal post Q1 gains of more than 9 percent.
Unheilig's album 2010 album Große Freiheit went seven times platinum in Germany and sold 1.6 million units, and new album Lichter der Stadt, released in March 2012, has already gone platinum in Germany and has sold over 400,000 units. The new album has spent 8 weeks on the charts in Austria and Switzerland. Gro ß e Freiheit has spent 118 weeks in the German charts (23 weeks at No. 1), 89 weeks in Austria and 99 weeks in Switzerland at No. 1 in the album charts. The single "Geboren um zu leben"has spent 105 weeks on the German charts, 85 weeks on the Austrian charts, and 84 weeks on the Swiss charts. It sold more than 700,000 units alone in Germany. The first Unheilig album was also released in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Holland, Russia, Sweden and Norway. Further countries are to follow.
Unheilig have toppled German rock singer Herbert Grönemeyer from his throne as holder of the longest chart-topping German-language album of all time, as Große Freiheit unseated his 1988 album Ö. Ö was number 1 for 14 weeks.
According to research conducted by German undertakers, the track "Geboren um zu leben" (Born To Live) is the second-most chosen songs for funerals since 2010. Number 1 has been "Time To Say Goodbye" by Andrea Bocelli for years.
The Unheilig tour in 2010-2011 sold more than 1 million tickets.
Frank Briegmann, president of Universal Music Germany, Austria and Switzerland and Deutsche Grammophon, explained the Unheilig phenomenon: "The charismatic Graf had already been successful in the Gothic niche for nine years. We then convinced him that with Unheilig he could reach a far wider group of people with his music. His lyrics are so authentic and honest and his voice so outstanding that we did not only sell over 3.5 million units within just three years but Graf also became a national superstar."
"I always want that all people understand each other," said Graf. "At a concert I want to embrace everybody, want to be close to the people. I am very much addicted to harmony."
Since 2006 Graf has worked together with producer Henning Verlage. The other members of Unheilig are Christoph Thermühlen (guitar) and Martin Potthoff (drums).
There is hardly a prize in the German language countries that Unheilig has not received for its record sales. In 2011 the band received German ECHO awards in three categories: "Best Album," "Best Group Rock/Alternative National" and "Producer Team of the year." Switzerland awarded the band the Music Award 2011 for "Best breaking Act International." They also received the German Authors Award for the most succesful work "Geboren um zu Leben."
"Unheilig is the epitome of emotional, epic pop songs with German lyrics that move people's hearts. Honest, authentic, easily comprehensible and despite the extraordinary success with both feet firmly on the ground," said Briegmann. That is why today, millions of people love him."