She was born as Christa Päffgen in Cologne, grew up in West-Berlin, worked as a model in the 50ies all over the world with the centre of her life in Paris. She appeared in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita in 1960, gave birth to a child (Ari Boulogne, son of Alain Delon) and met Robert Zimmermann (probably better known as Bob Dylan). Still modelling, she moved to New York. There she met the Factory people around Andy Warhol. In the late 60ies, she starred in several of his films and joined the band Velvet Underground and recorded with them the Velvet Underground & Nico album (the one with the banana cover).
This was the beginning of her career as a singer (mostly she is called chanteuse; this expression is simply there to emphasize her being an artist. Pretenders! I'd say. She is indeed an artist, but for an artist, I think, there is no need to stress that). Inspired by all drugs that existed at that time, she recorded her first solo album The Chelsea Girl after splitting from the Velvet Underground in 1967. Jim Morrison was the one to persuade her to write the lyrics of the songs by herself and so she did on her following solo album called The Marble Index.
Later on she moved back to Europe, she lived in Paris and Ibiza, she recorded further albums, starred in more films (mostly by a friend of her, Philippe Garrel). Her life began focussing on getting money for smack to satisfy her heroin addiction. In the 70ies and even more in the 80ies, she endlessly toured Europe, Australia and Japan. During these tours she even had some appearances behind the iron curtain, what was absolutely unusual for the early 80ies.
In the later 80ies, she was kind of rediscovered and was beginning to guide her life in safer waters. It is said that she started a methadon programme to get rid of her addiction. In 1988 she died of a cerebral hemorrhage after a bike accident on the isle of Ibiza. In August, she was buried in the tomb of her mother on a cemetary in the Grunewald near the Wannsee of Berlin.
I think she is one of the founders of Gothic music. Her unbelievable deep voice, with that strong Teutonic (not to say German) accent, the rhythmic of her music makes her recordings sound like something completely different.
Reading her biography (Nico - The Life & Lies of an Icon by Richard Witts) is a who-is-who of the 60ies providing many mysteries, but also giving some clues about a couple of the stars of that time.
If you want to find a complete discography and the lyrics of Nico's songs, then I've got a good suggestion for you:
Check out the web site of Serge Mironneau !!
Go to another
Nico Page, I spotted in Belgium. It contains many informations about Nico's life, her albums, her films, etc.
PS: Perhaps you have seen the documentary of Susanne Ofteringer on TV and you liked very much Nico's first tune called "I'm not sayin'", but you can not find the song on any regular Nico-CD. Here is a hint for you: Look out for a "Very Best"-album of Jimmy Page. I found a Japan-released Best of early years-album of Jimmy Page in my local loserland record store (aka MediaMarkt) with "I'm not sayin' " as well as the B-side of the former 7-inch called "The last Mile" on it.