The Netherlands has won the Eurovision Song Contest four times. Two times in the 1950s, one time in the 1970s and one time, shared with three other countries in 1969. After not qualifying for the Grand Final between 2005 and 2012, Anouk took The Netherlands to the Grand Final for the first time in nearly a decade. Dutch fortunes have changed since then. Let’s take a look at the history of The Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest.
The first song ever performed in the Eurovision Song Contest came from The Netherlands. That distinction goes to the song De Vogels Van Holland, performed by Jetty Paerl, but its final placing is unknown as only the winner was announced that year. As every country participated with two entries in 1956, they also entered that very first Contest with Voorgoed Voorbij, performed by Corry Brokken who would go on to win the contest one year after.
In 1957, the first year that the Eurovision voting was witnessed by the audience, Corry took Net Als Toen to first place in the scoreboard, making it the first winner of a voting sequence at Eurovision and also the first Dutch winner. You can read more about it in our recent 1957 special.
The year after winning the Eurovision Song Contest, Corry Brokken would try again but she came last on home ground in 1958 with Heel De Wereld which was her last attempt to enter the contest as a singer. However, she would return as a presenter in 1976 and in 1997 she presented the Dutch votes. Corry Brokken passed away in 2016, aged 83.
Setting early records
In 1959 The Netherlands won the Eurovision Song Contest again, setting an early record of two victories in the first four years. They did so with Teddy Scholten and the song Een Beetje. The tempo moved a little bit up compared to the previous winners while the lyrics of the song were written by Willy van Hemert, who also wrote the 1957 winner. Dutch TV declined to host the contest so soon again, and in 1960 Eurovision moved to London.
After a record-setting 1950s, the new decade didn’t bring much success to the Dutch entries and, in fact, they came last three times until Lenny Kuhr finished as one of the four winners of the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest. De Trobadour was a folk-inspired ballad about the impact the music has on the audiences in the Middle Ages.
By 1970, The Netherlands had won the competition three times and came last on four occasions, while not achieving any other placing in the Top Five. Besides their three winners, no other Dutch songs from this era make our Top 10. Dutch TV organised the contest in Amsterdam in 1970 and their song Waterman placed 7th in the voting and one place higher in 1971 when De Tijd finished 6th in Dublin.
Finding the right track
Seemingly having found a right track, their next entry finds a place in our Top 10. At #8 we find Sandra & Andres who took their clap-along song Als Het Om De Liefde Gaat to fourth place in the ranking in Edinburgh in 1972.
Two years after that they went one better, placing third with a Eurovision Song Contest classic: I See A Star. The song was performed by the duo Mouth & McNeal and their set of antics, including a barrel organ with some puppets on it. The song was met with success in some charts in 1974 besides placing in the top three in the Dutch charts, it hit the UK Top 10, and peaked in the top five in both Belgium and Norway. It even went to #1 in Ireland. In our Top 10 it gets the #6 position.
ABBA won that 1974 Eurovision Song Contest so we move to Stockholm where The Netherlands were drawn to open the competition with the up-tempo Ding-A-Dong and the group Teach-In. Surprisingly this jolly positive ode won the contest, the first time that the show’s opener became the winner and one that put The Netherlands again at the leaderboard with four victories, tying with France. It would be their last victory to date, though. Ding-A-Dong was a minor hit in Europe but reached the top of the charts in Switzerland, Norway and also tops our Top 10 list.
Bringing the contest home
In 1976 The Netherlands hosted Eurovision for the third time, this time in The Hague where they placed in the Top 10 with the participation of Sandra Reemer, coming back solo after her 1972 duet. Four years after, in 1980, they hosted again in the same setting, after Israel declined to host twice in a row. In this, the 25th Eurovision Song Contest, they placed fifth with Maggie McNeal, making a solo appearance after her 1974 duet. The song was called Amsterdam, even if the contest was taking place in The Hague. It was the last time The Netherlands has hosted the contest to date.
The fan favourites
The Netherlands had to wait until 1987 to get another top five finish and the country did so with another female solo singer, Marcha and her unforgettable 1980s trademark looks. Huge wavy hair, extreme shoulder pads, and a synth-pop melodic song, it had to be a fan favourite. Rechtop In De Wind ends up at #9 in our Top 10. Eurovision.tv met Marcha in 2009 on the occasion of the Dutch Final that year:
Entering the 1990s, we stop at Eurovision 1993 to find another fan favourite and the closing song in our Top 10 of The Netherlands. At #10 is that year’s Dutch entry, Vrede performed by Ruth Jacott, which finished 6th despite being hotly tipped to win by the fans attending the contest in Millstreet that year. Like Marcha in 1987, Ruth had performed all the songs in the Dutch national selection, and this contemporary number coupled with an eye-catching performance proved to be a popular choice.
Another big Dutch favourite from the 1990s is their 1998 entry which reached #7 in our Top 10. Songwriters Eric van Tijn & Jochem Fluitsma, the same team behind Vrede, entered Hemel En Aarde, which placed fourth in Birmingham after a great vocal performance by Edsilia and her backing group. This was The Netherlands' best result in Eurovision since they won in 1975 and would remain so for more than fifteen years.
Fifteen years of shade
In those fifteen years there was a little bit of everything, but mostly big disappointments. For example, the country was one of the favourites in 1999 with Marlayne’s One Good Reason and in 2000 with Linda’s No Goodbyes, but placing 8th and 13th respectively. Being relegated after placing 18th with Michelle’s Out On My Own in 2001 (after a tie-break with Latvia who went on to win in 2002) and finishing 13th in 2003, The Netherlands narrowly missed out on direct qualification for the 2004 Grand Final.
Despite this, The Netherlands managed to qualify on their own merits with Re-Union and Without You tin Istanbul, where they placed 20th out of 24. However, the nightmare was just beginning: from 2005 to 2012 The Netherlands didn’t qualify for a single Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest. They tried everything: from a Whitney Houston-inspired diva to a girl dress as a Native American. The Dutch even tried sending Edsilia once again as well as one of their most popular acts, The Toppers. They even sent a song sung in an imaginary language and one entry written by The Smurfs’ Father Abraham (Pierre Kartner): Sha-La-Lie!
The birds revolution
That’s until they tried Anouk, arguably one of the biggest recording acts in the country. In 2013 she gave a slick and professional rendition of her song Birds and took The Netherlands to the Grand Final for the first time in nine years, but her ninth place in Malmö is not enough to end up in our Top 10. The unique Birds, with lyrics dealing about the theme of suicide, is the 11th most successful Dutch entry.
One year later, in 2014, the Dutch entry managed something that never happened before: they finished in second place. The song was Calm After The Storm sung by two other megastars of the Dutch recording industry: Ilse DeLange and Waylon. Together they performed as The Common Linnets. The beautiful performance of their slow country-pop song became the biggest hit of the contest, entering the charts in nearly twenty countries, most notably the Top 10 in the UK, Finland and Turkey, the top five in Spain, Hungary and Ireland. It reached the top three in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland and hit the #1 spot in Belgium, Iceland and of course, The Netherlands! Calm After The Storm is at #5 in our Top 10, right behind the Dutch winners.
For the last two years The Netherlands have qualified for the Grand Final and finished in 11th place on both ocassions thanks to Douwe Bob and O’G3NE. It looks like the Dutch want to match the success of The Common Linnets. Especially Waylon, who is back in the Eurovision Song Contest representing The Netherlands in 2018, this time as a solo artist. Will he go one better and give his country its fifth Eurovision victory? We’ll soon find out!