"I had many artistic crushes and for a long time couldn't separate the man from his art" … Ute Lemper.
Singer, 50, married
I was very much in love with my father, Joseph, as a child. He was affectionate, authoritative and masculine and made me feel safe. When I became a teenager, I found this sort of masculinity a bit too dominant and rigid. It forced me to rebel. I was raised by conservative Catholic parents in Munster [Germany] and felt imprisoned by that way of thinking.
Dad worked as a banker. He is retired now. He can play the piano, guitar, cello and violin. He can improvise music and loves jazz. He has a great musical creativity but he chose a very conservative career. I felt he was always at odds with himself – like he had two personalities – torn between desire and necessity.
I have an older brother, Martin, who toughened me up. He certainly made me learn how to stand up for myself. He was authoritarian, too – but then again, so was I. As a kid, he tried to fool me into thinking I was crazy and he was the reasonable one.
My first crush was at six. It was with the Adam Cartwright character from the TV show Bonanza. I loved his beautiful brown hair. He was very sexy.
Later, I fell in love with Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. I had many artistic crushes and for a long time couldn't separate the man from his art. I often fell for men because of their craft, and realised they were more complicated because of it.
My first kiss was at 12, but my first in-love kiss was at 14. It was a universe of emotions. I still feel connected to that youthful time when I experienced passion, adrenalin and nervousness. I still remember those feelings very strongly and have wanted to re-create them many times later in life. I learned early on that the opposite sex is intoxicating.
I've fallen in love a lot of times, especially during my 20s. I had lots of brief and passionate love affairs on movie sets and through my collaborations in music. I enjoy being around men and working with them. Men are easier to get along with. Women are deeper, more complicated in their thoughts.
I refer to my 20s as my wander years. I never committed to a serious relationship until I had children at 30. I chased freedom, enjoyed my independence and didn't want to be held back by a man. I knew I could enjoy male company without being in a serious relationship.
I was a bit hallucinatory [figuratively, not literally] both times I got married because I was nine months pregnant each time. I do blame my hormones for lusting after this romantic notion of wanting to nest and have a family life and be married.
My first husband [David Tabatsky] and I were together for six years. We have two children. I wanted us to stay together because I wanted a family life. It didn't work out. I met my second husband [Todd Turkisher] at the time of that breakup in 2004 and he became a wonderful father to two more children. We got married after 10 years together. Our love is based on friendship and trust and we run this ship – our family – together. I know a good father wants the same for his children as a mother.
I have three sons and raising boys is like being around wild little puppies. They don't sit still. My eldest [Max Emanuel] is 19; he is very together. We are very close and he is a great supporter of mine. My sons all have a raging temperament and are inexhaustible.
In 2000, I released an album, Punishing Kiss. Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and Philip Glass all wrote songs for me. They are complicated men but unbelievable in the legacy they have created. The shadowy universe Tom Waits represents through his music, the wordy intellect of Elvis Costello and the imaginative cinematic life of Nick Cave are powerful and attractive to women. It was inspiring to be around such interesting men, who pushed me to write my own music after this experience.
I collaborated with Argentinian composer and arranger Marcelo Nisinman to re-create the love poems of Pablo Neruda – a passionate man who loved life and fought political oppression in his country, Chile. He was the kind of guy who drunk life, a hedonist, yet dedicated to his third and last wife, Matilde. She was his companion during his exile. The love songs he wrote her are simple, full of rage and anger, suffering, implosion and explosions. It shows love can be unreasonable and intoxicating and that men, like women, can feel the same irrationality when it comes to love.
Ute Lemper performs in Melbourne on September 18 and in Sydney on September 23.