What were some of the most memorable Eurovision songs of the last 60 years?

For European music artists, winning the annual spring Eurovision contest is akin to a gambler winning free casino chips. Winning the Eurovision is a jump start to a new career for the artists and for the winner’s country, it’s a morale-booster and prestige-maker. What were some of the most memorable Eurovision songs of the last 60 years?

 

History of Eurovision

In the years following the devastation of World War II, efforts were made on all levels to unite Europe. In 1956 a cross-border television broadcast was initiated that aimed to draw the European nations together in an international song competition.

The first competition, dubbed “Eurovision,” featured the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, France and Italy. Austria, Denmark and the UK joined the following year followed by Monaco, Norway, Spain, Finland, Yugoslavia, Portugal, and Ireland in the following years.

By the ‘70s the Eurovision contest was including farther-flung countries, some not technically in Europe including Malta, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Iceland and Morocco.

When the Iron Curtain fell on the Soviet Union Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungry, Slovakia, Poland, Romania Latvia, the Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus Albania and Russia joined.

Eurovision made another political statement when it let Serbia and Montenegro – countries of the former Yugoslavia – compete separately in 2004 and again when the Czech Republic and Slovakia – formerly Czechoslovakia -- sent separate contestants in 2007. The latest countries to join Eurovision are Azerbaijan, San Marino and Australia.

Over the years Eurovision has hosted representatives of 52 countries singing over 1600 songs. The decision about which country will host Eurovision is made based on the winner of the previous year’s contest.

Eurovision can get political at times. In 1976 Turkey withdrew from the contest to protest Greece's entry which, Turkey claimed, was political and anti-Turkey. Belarus was removed from the 2021 Eurovision because their entry, "Ya nauchu tebya (I'll Teach You)", was deemed to be politically-motivated and thus, ineligible to compete.

Hungary left Eurovision of their own volition when their leadership protested against LGBTQ+ sentiments. For the 2022 Eurovision, the European Broadcasting Union determined that no Russian act could participate to protest Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

Eurovision Songs

The Eurovision contest rules are fairly relaxed. Songs can be up to 3 minutes in length and must be original. The lead vocals are to be performed live and up to 6 performers can be on stage during any one performance.

Presenters can sing in any language that they wish but most choose to sing in English in order to make their songs more universally appealing.

The winners are chosen by votes submitted by each country based on points that represent the votes of either the country’s public, jury or both combined.

Best Songs

Some of the Eurovision-winning songs have been forgettable but others have launched careers and inspired entire nations as they cheer for “their” reps. Some of the most memorable Eurovision winners include:

Waterloo

Waterloo was the Swedish pop group ABBA’s first single. It won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden and launched Abba on its path to worldwide fame.

The song refers to the 1815 Battle of Waterloo when Napoleon Bonaparte of France was defeated by the British which ended the French campaign for worldwide domination. The song was a metaphor for romantic relationships.

The song became one of the best selling singles of all times and at the Eurovision Song Contest’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2006, Waterloo was named as the best song of all Eurovision contests to that point. It also launched ABBA on the worldwide stage.

Fairytale

Alexander Ryback’s Fairytale has the unique distinction of pulling together Russia and Finland, both of which recorded record-sales (gold in Finland, platinum in Russia) after it was performed in the 2009 Eurovision.

Ryback of Norway wrote the composition of the song which, he said, was inspired by the Hulder, a beautiful female creature of Scandinavian folklore. According to tradition, the Hulder lures young men and then curses them.

Ryback performed his song at Eurovision with a Norwegian dance company that backed up his song with halling, a traditional rural Norwegian folk dance.

Hallelujah

The Israeli group “Milk and Honey” won the 1978 Eurovision with Hallelujah¸ a traditional Hebrew expression of praise, thanks and enthusiasm.

The song was performed by a number of artists in Israel with Milk and Honey being formed specifically to sing at Eurovision.

Hallelujah is regarded as a classic of the contest because Gali Atari, the lead singer, and her backing singers entered the stage one by one rather than all together as was customary. Hallelujah was trailing Spain when the final vote came in and its victory marked the first time in Eurovision history that a winning song came from behind to achieve victory on the final vote.

Boom Bang-A-Bang

The 1969 Eurovision produced four winners and in the end, the judges went with Boom Bang-A-Bang by Lulu of the UK. The Scottish Lulu’s song didn’t have elaborate lyrics but its pop sync energized listeners, taking it to a subsequent No. 2 spot on the UK Singles Chart.

 

Post-Eurovision Boom Bang-A-Bang became a major hit throughout Europe. In 1991 Boom Bang-A-Bang made news when it was temporarily blacklisted and banned during the 1991 Gulf War because authorities worried that its potentially controversial title could energize the wrong sentiments.

Popnable /Popnable Media