Joachim Neander was the grandson of a musician and son of a teacher. He studied theology at Bremen University from 1666 to 1670. His family name was Neumann (“new man”), but, as was popular at the time, his grandfather (also a preacher, and also named Joachim!), changed it to a foreign equivalent, in this case Greek. In 1671, Neander moved his studies to Heidelberg (locale of The Student Prince musical). In 1673, he moved to Frankfurt, where he met Pietistic scholars Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705) and Johann Schütz (1640-1690).
From 1674 to 1679, Neander was principal of the Reformed Lateinschule (grammar school) in Düsseldorf. During these years, he used to wander the secluded Düssel River valley, which was, until the 19th Century, a deep ravine between rock faces and forests, with numerous caves, grottos and waterfalls. Probably, Neander wrote and sang many of his poems there, but also held gatherings and services. In the early 19th Century, a large cave was named Neanderhöhle after him. In the mid-19th Century, the cement industry started to quarry the limestone, and the narrow ravine became a wide valley, which was now named the Neander Valley (in German, Neanderthal). The “Neanderthal Man” was found there in the summer of 1856, giving Joachim the distinction of being the only hymnist with a fossil hominid named after him!
In 1679, Neander moved to Bremen and worked as assistant preacher at St. Martini church. The next year he became seriously ill and died, presumably of the plague.