"99 Luftballons" by the German band Nena was translated into English as "99 Red Balloons" even though a literal translation would have been "99 Air Balloons". The song was written in German by the band's lead guitarist Carlo Karges after he had seen a large group of balloons blowing towards the Berlin Wall during a 1982 Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin. The notion of what might conceivably have resulted sparked his imagination.
Upon hearing the song for the first time, the band's distinctive singer Nena (Gabriele Susanne Kerner) said to the writer, "Oh Carlo, that's the best song you have ever written". She claims she "got really big goosebumps" too.
You might say that "99 Luftballons" is an anti-war song. It considers how a nuclear war might be caused by human error on the basis of something as innocuous as a bunch of party balloons.
A literal translation of the very last verse finds the narrator discovering the lost balloon -the one that would have made up a hundred - but it is too late, the damage has been done:-
Ninety-nine years of war
Left no place for victors
There are no longer any ministers of war
And also no jet fighters
Today I'm making my rounds
I see the world lying in ruins
I have found a balloon
I think of you and let it fly
It is interesting that the band never really approved of the English version - "99 Red Balloons" and refused to perform it during their active gigging years. As they say, things can often get lost in translation - but somehow, ever since I first heard this song it has haunted me somewhat. The simple message within it didn't get lost.