Around about now, last-minute checks are taking place ahead of tonight’s 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. Let’s take a minute or three to look back at those who once graced the Eurovision world, but sadly left us since the last Contest.
Croatian composer, producer and onetime member of Novi fosili Rajko Dujmić passed aged 65 on 4 August 2020. He’d spent just under a week in hospital following a road traffic accident. As well as representing Yugoslavia at the 1987 Eurovision Song Contest with the fourth-placed song “Ja sam za ples”, Dujmić co-wrote the 1989 Yugoslav winning song ‘Rock me’.
On 5 August 2020, we lost Agathonas Iakovidis, a Greek folk singer who represented his homeland in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest as part of Koza Mostra with the song “Alcohol Is Free”. Iakovidis was found dead in bed from a heart attack, aged 65, bringing to an end a long and successful career.
Ulla Pia Nielsen, known simply as Ulla Pia died on 22 August 2020 following an extended period of ill health. The Danish singer was best known internationally for her participation in the 1966 Eurovision Song Contest with “Stop mens legen er god”. She struggled into 14th place (in an 18-song Contest), despite being joined on stage by two dancers – unusual at the time. After the show, Danish broadcaster DR withdrew from Eurovision until 1978.
Esteban Santos of Spanish Eurovision hopefuls Bravo died on 1 November 2020 at the age of 69. Bravo represented their country in the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest ending third with “Lady, Lady” before charting in Spain and Latin America.
Joseph Reynaerts, who represented Belgium at the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest fell victim to COVID-19 this year and died on 5 November, aged 65. Performing under his stage name of Reynaert, he took “Laissez briller le soleil” (Let The Sun Shine) to Dublin, though failed to excite the juries, ending 18th out of 21 acts, with the only points coming from France.
On 5 November 2020, Finnish conductor Ossi Runne died, aged 93. He had a long association with the Eurovision Song Contest, having conducted 22 entries. As well as looking after the orchestra, Runne composed the 1966 entry ‘Playboy’ and commentated for YLE in 1981 and 1990.
Turkish conductor and composer Timur Selçuk passed away on 6 November 2020, aged 74. After conducting the first Turkish Eurovision entry in 1975, he returned in 1989 as the composer, lyricist, and arranger of ‘Bana bana’ by Pan, a group featuring his daughter Hazal.
Krunoslav “Kićo” Slabinac died, aged 76, on 13 November 2020. He represented Yugoslavia at the Eurovision Song Contest 1971 with “Tvoj dječak je tužan”, placing 14th. His specialties were the songs nowadays inspired by folk music of Slavonia region of Croatia, and the uses of traditional instruments such as the tamburica
Slovenian pop singer, composer, producer and arranger Tadej Hrusovar died December 5, aged 74. He performed with his group Pepel in kri in 1975 representing Yugoslavia,ending in 13th place. Hrušovar and his bandmates returned to the Eurovision stage in 1990, to sing backing vocals for Italian winner Toto Cutugno.
British songwriter Michael Julien died of COVID complications in hospital (aged 93) on 29 December 2020. His Eurovision credentials remain strong. Julien wrote the English words for the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest winning song “La, la, la” – avoiding the obvious lyrical temptation – and in 1969 was behind the winning song, “Boom Bang-a-Bang”
Irish singer Liam Reilly “passed away suddenly but peacefully at his home” on 1 January, aged 65. He came joint second at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1990 with the song ‘Somewhere in Europe‘. He also composed Ireland’s Eurovision entry for the contest in Rome in 1991, when Kim Jackson performed his song ‘Could It Be That I’m In Love’, which was placed 10th.
Portuguese fado singer, Carlos Manuel de Ascenção do Carmo de Almeida died on 1 January at the age of 81. Better known to Eurovision as Carlos do Carmo, he performed in the very first Festival da Canção in 1976, performing a selection of songs, the winner being ‘Uma flor de verde pinho’. At that year’s Contest, Carlos placed 12th.
Pekka Juhani Maijanen, better known to many as Pave passed away on 12 January, aged 70. In September 2020 Maijanen revealed he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in autumn 2018, and that the disease had progressed to the point that he had to give up playing and singing. He came to Eurovision during a ‘down period’ in his career, not helped when ‘Yamma Yamma’ came last in the 1992 contest.
The lead singer of AWS, Örs Siklósi, died on 5 February at age 29 after being diagnosed with leukaemia last June. AWS, short for Ants With Slippers, represented Hungary at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018. Örs Siklósi had been preparing his first solo record for release in the spring.
Aleksandar “Sanja” Ilić, founder of Balkanika died of complications caused by COVID-19 on 7 March in Belgrade. The group represented Serbia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal, with the song “Nova deca”. It was his second bite of the Eurovision cherry, having previously composed the song “Halo, Halo” which represented Yugoslavia in the Eurovision Song Contest 1982, performed by Aska.
Jean Baudlot (better known to Eurovision as Laurent Vaguener) died aged 74 on 24 March 2021. Baudlot was a French music composer, most notable for composing music for video games in the 1980s and 1990s and collaborations with Richard Clayderman, Nicolas de Angelis, Michèle Torr and Joe Dassin. He represented Monaco in the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem, finishing in 16th place.
Patrick Juvet was found dead at his home in Barcelona on 1 April. He was 70. Juvet was a Swiss model and singer-songwriter with a string of hit records to his name. He performed on the Eurovision stage in 1973 representing Switzerland and placing twelfth. In 1977, Juvet worked with Jean-Michel Jarre on an album called “Paris by Night” spawning his biggest hit: ”Où sont les femmes?”.
Fredi (born Matti Kalevi Siitonen) passed on 23 April aged 78. Fredi represented Finland twice at Eurovision. In 1967, he was in Vienna with “Varjoon – suojaan” (“Into the shadow–into shelter”), which received three points and finished 12th out of 17. Fredi returned to Eurovision in 1976 in The Hague with the group Fredi & Friends. “Pump-Pump” received 44 points, finishing 11th out of 18.
Svante Thuresson died on 10 May 2021. He was a Swedish jazz musician who started his career as a drummer before joining the band Gals and Pals in 1963. Svante won the Swedish Eurovision national selection in 1966 with “Nygammal vals” and came second performing with Lill Lindfors. In 2007, Thuresson and Anne-Lie Rydé performed at Melodifestivalen as a duo, but failed to make it to the final.
Italian singer-songwriter, composer and filmmaker, Franco Battiato died on 18 May 2021 in Sicily aged 76. He had been ill for some time. Over the decades Il Maestro collaborated with Italian and international musicians and pop singers, notably Alice for the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest with the song I treni di Tozeur.