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French Music Monday: Eurovision history 101

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Hello and welcome back to another French Music Monday! Because if you’re going to force yourself through a Monday, it might as well have theme music.

I’m going to begin today’s column with a sweeping statement: Everybody has heard of the Eurovision Song Contest.

You may not like it, you may have never watched it, but you’re aware of its existence. And if you aren’t then I’d like you to get in contact with me and take me on a tour of that rock you’ve been living under for the last fifty-odd years.

A quick detour

Here are 3 fun facts about France’s involvement with Eurovision:

  1. It’s been involved in the contest since 1956, Eurovision’s very first year, though they missed the 1974 and 1982 contests. Meaning that as of the next competition they will have participated in the contest fifty-five times.
  2. They are one of five countries that automatically qualify for the contest every year.
  3. France has won the competition five times, making it one of the more successful countries. It has never placed last, though it has placed second-to-last five times.

Eurovision in France – proudly brought to you by the number five. Now, on with the five winning French entries!

André Claveau – ‘Dors, mon amour’ (1958)

André Claveau, actor and singer with a deep, hypnotic voice. Very seductive. Born in Paris, 1915, he was a popular in France around the 1940s – 1960. This winning song was written by Hubert Giraud (lyrics) and Pierre Delanoë (music).

Jacqueline Boyer – ‘Tom Pillibi’ (1960)

Written by Pierre Cour (lyrics) and André Popp (music). The most interesting thing about this song, at least to me, is that Julie Andrews covers the English version (I absolutely adore that woman).

Isabelle Aubret – ‘Un premier amour’ (1962)

Wikipedia tells me that Isabelle won a French national gymnastics championship in 1952, and that this song was written by Roland Stephane Valade (lyrics) and Claude-Henri Vic (music).

I’d like to take a minute to enjoy the way she rolls her arrrs. Have you ever noticed that that kind of rolled ‘r’ in song dropped off sometime in the mid-to-late sixties?

Frida Boccara – ‘Un jour, un enfant’ (1969)

This is my favourite song of this list. It has wonderful lyrics (by Eddy Marnay) and grand, soaring music (by Emile Stern). It’s quite majestic really.

I also like that the singer was born in Casablanca (the city, not the film) and that this song had to share the limelight with three other countries when France, the Netherlands, the UK and Spain all tied for first place. It was the first time a tie had ever occured in the history of the competition and they had no way to resolve it but to declare all four countries the winner. Really, can you imagine how crowded the winner’s podium would have been? “Sorry fellas, we did not see a four-way tie comin’.”

Marie Myriam – ‘L’oiseau et l’enfant’ (1977)

Written by Joe Gracy (lyrics) Jean Paul Cara (music). I don’t really understand the significance of the bird, but I like the rhythm of this song and the 70s feel it has.

So: Eurovision, love it or hate it?

Image credit:
1. Eurovision, via Rob’s Satellite TV


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