BERLIN — After Angela Merkel’s 16 years as chancellor, Germans are starting to wonder how well they knew her after all.

On Thursday, among the three songs played by a military band at her request was a 1974 hit from East Germany by a singer who fled to the West and went on to become a flamboyantly coifed leader of the punk scene before German reunification.

Du Hast den Farbfilm Vergessen,” or “You Forgot the Color Film,” was made famous by Nina Hagen as it recounts her frustration after returning from vacation at Hiddensee — a popular tourist spot in the former East — only to realize that her boyfriend, Michi, had taken black-and-white film for the camera.

The song has long been interpreted as a criticism of the gray and dreary German Democratic Republic, where color film was hard to come by. Over the years, one line in particular has remained ingrained in the memory of former East Germans: “No one will believe how beautiful it was here.”

That Merkel chose a song from the former East caught many Germans by surprise. Merkel seldom made reference to her East German upbringing.

“Merkel outs herself in the end as an East German,” said a headline in Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper after the announcement of the song choices by Merkel, who formally leaves office next week as her successor, Olaf Scholz, takes over.

The unexpected song choice left some people speculating whether Merkel had interpreted the song’s lament about forgetting color film as a jab at the male-dominated old guard of German politics that still holds sway.

Hours before Thursday‘s ceremony, Merkel said Hagen‘s hit was a “a highlight of her youth” in East Germany. The song, she said, is also coincidentally set “in a region that used to be my constituency.”

“So everything fits together,” she said.

In a Facebook post, Hagen said she was “just as amazed by the surprising music news from the chancellery as probably all other bon vivants in this country.” The singer said she initially thought the reports were fake as the lyrics were written by Kurt Demmler, who was charged with child sexual abuse and hanged himself in prison in 2009 the night before his trial.

Like chancellors before her, she could request three songs to be played by the Bundeswehr marching band. Besides the Hagen tune, her others were an 18th-century Christian hymn and Hildegard Knef’s “Für Mich Soll’s Rote Rosen Regen,” or “It Should Rain Red Roses for Me,” a melancholic song from 1968 about teenage hopes and dreams.

In 1992, Merkel and Hagen famously crossed paths. Merkel — who headed the Women and Youth Ministry at the time — sat next to the singer on a televised talk show about drug addiction. In a heated moment, Hagen shouted at Merkel: “I’m fed up with your lying, with your hypocrisy.”

Known as much for her eccentric hair and makeup as for her hits, Hagen was already a pop star in the former East Germany before leaving for the West in the mid-1970s. She rose through the pop ranks to become a punk icon in the 1980s.

For decades, the singer also has been part of animal and human rights campaigns. In 2010 she performed at a Christmas dinner for the homeless.

Merkel’s military send-off fell exactly 31 years since the first elections in united Germany on Dec. 2, 1990.