The Eurovision Song Contest, though not really well known in America, has launched many local singers on the national and European stage. A few of them have been immortalised in music history by gaining superstardom status internationally because of their appearance in the contest. Yet very few people would have known of their origins, not even other Europeans, unless the song was in French or English and was marketed to countries with those two popular languages.
The first person to get a taste of what a song could do for him was Domenico Modugno who represented Italy in the third Eurovision contest in 1958 which was held in Hilversum, in the Netherlands. It did respectfully to come third out of 10 entries but who can recall the actual contest winner? No one. However, the big payoff for Modugno was to come later. His song would be made immortal by Dean Martin, who sang it in both English and Italian. This enormously popular song also won two Grammy awards for Modugno. Originally called Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu, Dean Martin adopted the easier lead word of the refrain, Volare, as his title and the rest is history.
Next was Udo Jurgens, a mellow voiced Austrian singer who represented his country three times until he won it with Merci Cheri in 1965. However, the year before, in 1964, when he sang in Copenhagen, the well known British singer, Matt Munro, was also there to contest the title. Though Matt came second and Jurgens came sixth, Matt liked the rhythm of Jurgens song so much, Warum Nur, Warum? (Why, Oh Why?), he asked his songwriter to put new words to it and it became a huge chart topper for Munro as Walk Away. One can see the similarity of the two songs but I prefer Jurgens' version. The song contest winner in that year was Gigliola Cinquetti, an Italian singer who would go on to make a big name for herself.
In 1970, Eurovison Song Contest fans were treated to a spectacular winning song, All Kinds of Everything by an 18 year old who was still doing her A Levels. Up to that point, Ireland had been trying every year and not had much success. Since then they have taken the lead in having the most winners (7). Dana (or Dana Rosemary brown) to give her her full name, changed Irish fortunes with a most beautiful song which became a worldwide million seller. Her life was changed dramatically because of her singing success. Her fresh, gentle looks also made her a very popular pantomime princess who played the role of Snow White for 14 years. She went into politics and went on to become Ulster's first European member of Parliament (MEP).
Four years later, in Brighton, England, the most successful Eurovision winners made their debut with the memorable Waterloo and gave the contest a much needed international boost. Who can ever forget ABBA? they were just amazing and took a whole lot of fans with them Today their reputation and following are undiminished despite countless imitators. One of my favourite songs of their is Winner Takes It All. Such a moving song with very poignant words.
Finally there is Celine Dion, the popular Canadian singer. She came to European attention in 1988 when, at 20 years old and representing Switzerland, she won the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, beating 20 other entries with her song, Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi. But the voting was very close. She barely beat off the British entry by Scott Fitzgerald (Go) by just ONE point (137 to 136). But that victory was enough to launch her on the European stage with an album two years later which gradually led to worldwide success and international celebrity status. My favourite song from Celine is the very beautiful Because You Loved Me.
The second semi-finalists have had their dress rehearsal which had a comedy theme. In this round there are 19 participants who will be reduced to just 10 on Thursday, so nearly half of them will be out of the competition within the next 24 hours.
My tips for Thursday's top 10 are:
* Norway (tipped to win this semi-final)
I predicted 70% of the selections accurately in the first semi-final, let's see if I can improve on that! :o)
Ms CYPRAH's All-Time Eurovision Top 5:
No. 3: Take Me To Your Heaven sung by the zany Charlotte Nilsson representing Sweden, 1999.
(Held in Jerusalem in Israel, the contest proved a sure winner for the preppy song, being voted well ahead of her nearest rival, Iceland, and is certainly at the top of my favourites.)
To follow the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), click on Meet the 42 Participants, then Click on PREVIEW VIDEOS, and you will be able to get a better flavour of potential winners and make your own choices.
To enjoy some of the old winners in excellent sound, visit the Eurovision Song Contest archives . The site has some really interesting information and great performances, as well as some old classics from Bob Dylan and such like.