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A decade of song: Eurovision winners through the years (1956-1959)

04 November 2017 at 08:00 CET
Corry Brokken won the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest HR/ARD
We have reached the final part of our series 'A Decade of Song' and today it's all about the 1950s. Join us on one final trip down memory lane as we dive into the archives one more time with the very first Eurovision winners.

Inspired by the Italian Sanremo Festival, the idea to organise a pan-European musicial competition was born at a meeting of the European Broadcasting Union in Monaco in 1955. It was decided that the first ever Eurovision Song Contest would be hosted the following year in the Swiss resort of Lugano. Before we take one last trip down memory lane, don't forget to watch our video with all Eurovision winners between 1956 and 2017:

1956 -  Lyss Assia (Switzerland)

The first ever Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland, at the Teatro Kursaal, on 24th of May 1956. It was primarily a radio show, although some cameras were taping the contest for the few Europeans who had a television set at that time.

Lohengrin Filipello hosted the programme, which only lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes. The seven participating countries each submitted two entries. The songs of the contest were not to exceed three and a half minutes, and the performers were accompanied by an orchestra of 24 musicians, led by Fernando Paggi.

The winning song, as announced by the head of the jury, was Refrain, performed by Lys Assia from Switzerland. Lys Assia is the only Swiss contestant to have ever won the Eurovision Song Contest, as Switzerland's other winner, Céline Dion, is French-Canadian. Lys still attends the Eurovision Song Contest and at 93, she has not ruled out a return to the competition as a performer!

1957 - Corry Brokken (The Netherlands)

Switzerland declined to host the contest for a second time, and therefore the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest was held in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The 1957 Eurovision Song Contest was hosted by the Hessischer Rundfunk on behalf of Deutsches Fernsehen ARD. Austria, Denmark and the United Kingdom entered the contest for the first time, joining the other seven participating countries from the previous year.

For the first time The Netherlands won the contest with the song Net Als Toen, performed by Corry Brokken who also represented her country in Lugano the year before. Corry went on to present the contest in 1976 and delivered the Dutch votes at the 1997 contest. She passed away in 2016 at the age of 83.

1958 - André Claveau (France)

Dutch artist Corry Brokken brought the Eurovision Song Contest to the Netherlands in 1959 and to the Dutch 'media capital' Hilversum. For the occasion, the venue was decorated with thousands of tulips.

Ten countries participated in 1958, with Sweden making its debut that year. André Claveau was the winner of that year, with his song Dors Mon Amour, receiving only three points more than runner-up Switzerland. Even though André Claveau won the third Eurovision Song Contest; the Italian entry El Blu Dipinto Di Blu, better known under the title Volare, performed by Domenico Modugno, became a worldwide hit.

1959 - Teddy Scholten (The Netherlands)

The Eurovision Song Contest travelled to Cannes, France in 1959 and it welcomed the small principality of Monaco. The United Kingdom returned to the contest after one year of absence, and Luxembourg decided not to participate.

The Netherlands won the contest for the second time with the song Een Beetje performed by Teddy Scholten. The lyrics of the song were written by Willy van Hemert, who also wrote the winning song of 1957. 

For the first and the last time in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest, the top three songs were reprised at the end of the show. Teddy Scholten, Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson (United Kingdom) and Jean Philippe (France) took the stage one more time to sing their songs. 

The early editions of the Eurovision Song Contest reflected simpler times in broadcasting but those shows laid the foundations for the mega event that is has become today. 

The 1959 Eurovision Song Contest concludes the series A decade of song. Don't forget, you can also read previous editions: