Around about now, we should be getting excited about tonight’s 2020 Eurovision Song Contest, but that was not to be. Instead, let’s take a minute or three to look back at those who once trod the Eurovision boards, but sadly left us since the last Contest.
Inger Berggren represented Sweden in 1962 with ‘Sol och vår‘ placing seventh. She passed away at aged 85 on 19 July 2019. Berggren was born in Stockholm and began her career with Thore Swanerud’s orchestra, going on to sing with Thore Ehrling, Simon Brehm, and Göte Wilhelmsson.
Mamuka Ghaganidze, lead singer of Georgian band The Shin passed away on 12 August 2019. The group represented Georgia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 along with singer Mariko Ebralidze with the song ‘Three minutes to earth‘, ending last in their semi-final.
Sandie Jones, Ireland’s Eurovision entrant from 1972 performed the only entry sung in Gaelic – ‘Ceoil an Grá‘. She died on 19 September 2019 after a long illness at the age of 68. She was in hospice care in the United States, where she had moved later in her life.
Karel Gott, the king of Czech pop music, died of leukemia on 1 October 2019. He was 80. He released almost 300 albums, starting in the mid-1960s, selling tens of millions of copies around the world and was voted the best male singer in the annual Český slavík (Czech Nightingale) music award 41 times, most recently in 2017. Gott represented Austria in the Eurovision Song Contest 1968 with the song ‘Tausend Fenster’, finishing in 13th place.
Described as a “Eurovision superstar” when she took to the stage in Baku 2012 as part of the Russian super-gran-group Buranovskiye Babushki, Natalia Pugacheva died on 26 October 2019.
Eduardo Nascimento who sang for Portugal in 1967 died aged 76 on 22 November 2019, after a long illness. He was the first black male performer at the Contest, placing 12th with “O vento mudou“. Last year, he perfomed with the Cais Sodré Funk Connection as the interval act in one of the Festival da Canção shows.
Alain Barrière is best remembered for representing France at the Eurovision Song Contest 1963 in London with the song ‘Elle était si jolie‘, finishing in fifth place. He passed away on 18 December 2019, aged 84.
Serbian singer Ljiljana Petrovic was the first Yugoslav representative at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1961 with the song ‘Neke davne zvezde‘ (some ancient stars), finishing in eighth place. Her Eurovision performance transformed her into a household name in Yugoslavia. Ljiljana passed away on 4 February 2020 in Novi Sad, Serbia aged 81.
On 16 February, UK singer Pearl Carr died aged 98. In 1959, together with her husband Teddy Johnson, she was invited by the BBC to look at songs for the fourth Eurovision song contest. They settled on a cheerful novelty song, ‘Sing, little birdie’ and developed it into a routine with solo lines, harmonies and sideways glances. They came second, losing to Teddy Scholten singing for the Netherlands. Their song topped the Dutch charts, having also made No 12 in the UK.
Jahn Teigen represented Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest three times, in 1978, 1982 and 1983. He passed away aged 70 on 24 February. With his song ‘Mil etter mil’ (Mile after mile), Jahn became the first contestant to win the modern Contest’s ‘nul points’. The achievement made him famous throughout Europe and a hero in Scandinavia. He later wrote a film script and sold millions of records.
Dries (Andres) Holten who (alongside Sandra Reemer) represented the Netherlands in 1972 with ‘Als het om de liefde gaat‘, passed away (aged 84) on 15 April. The Indonesian-born singer-songwriter was better known as Andres and came to live in the Netherlands in 1942. He performed with Sandra Reemer from 1966 until 1975. Their biggest hit came with ‘Storybook children’, spending 13 weeks in the Dutch top 40 in 1968.