As the 2016 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest is approaching, I sometimes feel like a last Mohican: still naïvely impressed by the brotherhood of European cultures presenting themselves, smiling and waving flags. But in this era of closing borders and nationalist populism, I am not the only one still out there. And in one man I have to recognize my superior: the 70-year-old German composer and producer Ralph Siegel, responsible for 24 entries and even more failed attempts to get in since 1974.1
I can’t help wondering: what motivates this man?
A man of music
Unfortunately, it is a mystery to me why Ralph Siegel is so keen on the Eurovision. Is it idealism or longing for personal fame? Interviews, and even his autobiography don’t give a direct clue; the man talks about himself, his successes, and occasionally slanders other contestants. So I will leave it to you to draw conclusions.
Fact is that Ralph Siegel is a man of music. He was born the son of a composer of popular German songs called “schlager” and an opera-singer. At the age of 19, Ralph, while volunteering at an American record company, wrote the song “It’s a Long, Long Way to Georgia” for the singer Don Gibson. The song reached number nine on the American country charts in 1966. From then on, a steady flow of songs poured from his pen. Many a treat or a pain for Germans for years to come. Whatever the quality of songs like “Papa Pingouin” or “Fiesta Mexicana”, fact is that every German has an opinion about them.
Bye, Bye I Love You
In 1974, Ralph Siegel made his first appearance as a composer at the Eurovision Song Contest for Luxemburg. The song “Bye, Bye I Love You” sung by Ireen Sheer ended at the respectable fourth place. I don’t want to keep the song from you, so here it is:
Sing Sang Song
The success seemingly gave Ralph Siegel a taste for the Eurovision. Two years later he entered the contest again. This time for Germany with the rabid nonsensical “Sing Sang Song” performed by the even more rabid nonsensical Les Humphries Singers. It halted at the fifteenth place that year. Watch and behold!
But the height of nonsense wasn’t reached with “Sing Sang Song”. In 1979, Siegel considered it a good idea to dress up four people like members of the Golden Horde and let them perform a Mongolian-inspired binge drinking song under the name of Dschingis Kahn. It hit a taste seemingly, as it reached the fourth place and the formation had a successful career after this.
From there on Siegel left the concept of absurdity, though. In 1980, the singer Katja Ebstein, who was regarded as a serious one, entered the contest with Siegel’s song “Theater” and reached second place. I have a feeling that this was a test for Siegel, as he also entered for Luxemburg with the earworm “Papa Pingouin” that exact same year. “Papa Pingouin” ended ninth and thus swung the balance towards the ballad. And that would pay off in 1982…
Ein bißchen Frieden
The year 1982 still sounds magical to Ralph Siegel. It was the year of his greatest success, winning the Eurovision Song Contest with the 17-year-old Nicole. An interview with Nicole, looking back at the event thirty years later, gives an insight in the fanaticism of Mister Siegel. Before the broadcast of the National Contest, he took a close look at the television studio, and after that, poor Nicole had to sit still for hours as her dress was being modified to fit the studio perfectly.2 The scenery had to be perfect for the innocent looking Nicole, performing Siegel’s song about a longing for a bit of peace and a bit of love.
It became Siegel’s greatest triumph. First winning the National Decision and then also the Eurovision Contest in Harrogate. Many more attempts to match this success followed, but honestly most of them are too outdated now (if they weren’t already back then) to share them with you here. At a certain point, Germany got a bit tired of Ralph Siegel and preferred entries like the wildly swinging music therapist Guildo Horn and his “Guildo hat euch Lieb”. It provoked Siegel to state it would undoubtedly impoverish the quality of the contest.3 The man probably hadn’t watched “sing sang song” again before making that statement.
Anyway, Siegel keeps trying to this day. His candidate for 2016 didn’t get further than the National finals, though. Siegel stated it would be his last entry ever…..if he would win. I am not the only one who thinks we haven’t heard the last of Ralph Siegel just yet.4
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You may also like:
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Siegel#Eurovision-Song-Contest-Teilnahmen, last seen May 3rd, 2016 ↩
http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/archiv/1998/erste7066.html, last seen May 3rd, 2016 ↩
http://web.de/magazine/unterhaltung/musik/esc/esc-2016-ralph-siegel-versagt-31377774, last seen May 3rd, 2016 ↩