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Luxembourg: Small in size, big in Eurovision

19 November 2017 at 09:30 CET
Anne Marie David won the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg BBC
"How did the tiny Duchy of Luxembourg do so well at the Eurovision Song Contest? They’ve won five times so it’s a lot to live up to…" This is the way that the 1988 presenters introduced the entry from Luxembourg. Despite impressive results, the country stopped taking part in Eurovision in 1993. Today we look back at their biggest successes in the competition.

Luxembourg was one of the original seven participants in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 and over the years they achieved five victories. The journey was not always smooth though as the country finished last in 1958. Having previously sent French language entries, they opted for  an entry in Luxembourgish in 1960 only to finish last again. Luxembourg's fortunes changed in 1961 when they returned to French and achieved their first victory.

The breakthrough

The 6th Eurovision Song Contest was won by Parisian artist Jean-Claude Pascal, who had been a soldier in WWII, a fashion designer and model for both Hermès and Christian Dior before becoming a successful actor and, eventually, a singer. His sense of style made him win the “most elegant French man” title on several occasions. Jean-Claude reversed Luxembourg’s fortunes in the contest, giving a charming performance of the ballad in chanson style and slow jazz influences, Nous Les Amoureux, which is at #5 in our Top 10.

The lyrics of the song are about the fight of two lovers against the prejudices of the society at the time, secretly denouncing the repression of homosexual love while predicting a future positive evolution towards it, as Pascal himself recognized later. Written by Maurice Vidalin and Jacques Datin, Nous Les Amoureux was a big hit in the Francophone world, hitting #1 in the French charts for five weeks in July. Jean-Claude Pascal came back to the contest twenty years later to represent Luxembourg again, finishing 11th with C’est Peut-Etre Pas L’Amerique

The 1962 Eurovision Song Contest was the first of four contests held in Luxembourg and took place at the Villa Louvigny. Luxembourg called again their local performer, Camillo Felgen, who had placed last only two years before but, singing in French this time, he placed third with Pétit Bonhomme, #7 in our Top 10. In 1963 Luxembourg entered the singer Nana Mouskouri, who became the first Greek artist to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, even if she represented the Grand Duchy. She placed eighth with À Force De Prier further cementing her international career.

Eurovision goes pop

Luxembourg entered Eurovision’s Hall of fame with their second victory achieved in 1965. Another French team was commissioned by RTL: composer Serge Gainsbourg and artist France Gall, from Paris. Even if it’s inspired by one Beethoven’s piano sonatas, Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son was the first pop song to win the contest. According to Gall herself, the song was bashed by the orchestra in Naples during the first rehearsal but it was appreciated by the juries and public when it went on to become a big hit. In our Top 10 it sits at #3. 

Despite being a hit, Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son is mostly remembered for the controversy surrounding its word play, something common in Gainsbourg’s songs who was renowned for the innuendo in his lyrics. The controversy was boosted by the fact that France Gall was only 17 at the time. She sang about a being a musical doll whose songs have been engraved on her heart but longs to live them for real. For the second time Luxembourg won the contest with hidden meanings in French lyrics. 

Love is blue

In 1967, one year after hosting the Eurovision Song Contest for the second time, Luxembourg continued its run of success with another young Greek singer, Vicky Leandros. Her song, L’amour Est Bleu, was a catchy number with a beautiful melody written by André Popp which is at #9 in our Top 10. Serge Gainsbourg returned to the contest that same year, writing the entry of Monaco.

An instrumental version of the song was recorded by Paul Mauriat, released as Love Is Blue, it was a massive hit around the world, even reaching the top of the US singles chart in 1968. Vicky Leandros returned to represent Luxembourg in the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest. In five years she had lost her naive appearance and turned into an experienced performer who belted out the stirring ballad Après Toi in Edinburgh. The song became a huge hit all over Europe and remains one of the most popular winners ever, and has been covered several times. Vicky recorded the song in seven languages herself hitting the top of the French and Belgian charts, and #2 in the UK, Ireland and in our own Top 10 of Luxembourg. Watch the video below to see Vicky performing the song alongside Greek Eurovision winner Helena Paparizou.

The wonderful dream

Luxembourg hosted the contest again in 1973 in the Nouveau Théâtre where they were represented again by an all-French team, led by singer Anne-Marie David, who managed to win the competition for the Grand Duchy for the fourth time. Anne-Marie’s powerful performance of Tu Te Reconnaîtras, was the highest scoring Eurovision entry based on the number of points available (80.63%), a record still unmatched. It sits at #4 in our Top 10. Anne-Marie returned to the competition in 1979 finishing third for France. She recently performed at Eurovision's Greatest Hits, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Spain had already won back-to-back contests in 1968 and in 1969 when they shared first place with three other countries, but 1973 was the first time that the same country won on home ground exclusively. Of course that made it a popular winner in the venue, but Tu Te Reconnaîtras was a success with the general public too, making it to the Top 10 in several countries. Luxembourg declined to host the contest for the second year in succession at the United Kingdom stepped in. 

In 1974 British-born Ireen Sheer represented Luxembourg with a song penned by prolific German songwriter Ralph Siegel, Bye Bye, I Love You, which finished fourth in Brighton. The song was performed directly after ABBA's Waterloo and tells the story of a farewell between and English and French couple. It was performed in French with a heavy English accent, adding to the charm and it sits at #10 in our Top 10. 

Parlez-Vous Français?

Often looking for the trend, Luxembourg’s broadcaster invited the hip female duo of the time, Baccara, to represent the country in 1978. Despite being favourites with their disco number, Parlez-Vous Français? which bore a strong resemblance to their international hit from the year before, Yes Sir I Can Boogie, the Spanish duo only managed seventh place. It did provide them with another hit though.

The gift of winning

By the turn of the 1980s France had five Eurovision victories to Luxembourg's four but that all changed in 1983 when Parisian singer Corinne Hermès lifted the trophy. Corinne gave a powerful performance of Si La Vie Est Cadeau which was also performed last in the running order in Munich. The song peaked at #2 in the French charts and was also a minor hit in several other European charts whilst it is the #1 song in our Top 10 of Luxembourg.

Luxembourg hosted the Eurovision Song Contest for the fourth and last time in 1984, but it wasn’t until 1986 that they troubled the scoreboard again. That year the contest was staged in Bergen, Norway and the top three songs were all performed in French, something that had happened only once before, in 1962. Behind Belgium and Switzerland we find Luxembourg’s L’amour De Ma Vie. The song was backed by an international team; performer Sherisse Laurence was a Canadian anglophone artist, and writers Rolf Soja and Frank Dostal came from Germany whilst Alain Garcia hailed from France. García was the lyricist of Si La Vie Est Cadeau three years before. L’amour De Ma Vie is the highest ranked non-winner in our Top 10, at #6.

The beginning of the end

One year later, in 1987, Luxembourg was represented by Belgian former punk star Plastic Bertrand, famous for his 1978 hit Ça Plane Pour Moi, a success that didn’t help him getting lots of points for Amour, Amour, as it finished second last with only 4 points, one of Luxembourg’s worst results in Eurovision. Rádio-Télé Luxembourg quickly worked to reverse fortunes and sent another Belgian talent, Lara Fabian, who later enjoyed international success singing in French, English, Italian and Spanish! At age 18 she finished fourth with the song Croire in 1988. The song was co-written by Alain Garcia and it sits at #8 in our Top 10.

We finish where we started, Eurovision 1988. That contest marks the last year Luxembourg appeared in the top five and top 10 at Eurovision. The country was relegated in 1993 following their low score that year. Despite 37 appearances and five victories, Luxembourg never returned to the Eurovision Song Contest.