Most Americans watching the Golden Globes on January 11 saw the bearded woman on the red carpet and probably wondered:

“Who the heck is Conchita Wurst?”

And then, if someone were to reply, “Conchita Wurst was the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.”, most Americans probably wondered:

“What the heck is Eurovision?”

Outside of Abba and Celine Dion fans and some Eurosavvy gays and European expats, most Americans have not heard of the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual televised show where as many as 43 countries send representative songs to compete for best song. Think of it as an Olympics for songs. Since its debut in 1956, Eurovision is one of the most watched television events in the world, with nearly 195 million people tuning in for the 2014 show, which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Rarely does Eurovision news make it to the United States, but even though most Americans have not heard of Eurovision, they certainly are no strangers to several of the participants and songs:

1958 Italy came in 3rd place with a song sung by Domenico Modugno called “Nel blu dipinto di blu”, which won Grammys for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.  It was later recorded by Dean Martin as “Volare”.
1963 Nana Mouskouri performed “À force de prier” for Luxembourg and came in 8th place.
1964 English singer Matt Munro, best known for singing the Oscar-winning title song from the movie “Born Free”, represented the United Kingdom with “I Love The Little Things” and came in 2nd place.
1967 Vicky Leandros sang “L’amour est bleu” for Luxembourg (4th place). An instrumental version was recorded by Paul Mauriat as “Love is Blue” which topped the American charts in early 1968. Leandros also sang for Luxembourg in 1972 and won with “Après toi”.
1968 Cliff Richard, best known to Americans for his 1976 hit “Devil Woman”, represented the United Kingdom with “Congratulations” (2nd place). He also participated in the 1973 contest.
1969 Scottish singer Lulu, who sang the title song from “To Sir, With Love”, won for the United Kingdom (in an unprecedented four way tie) with “Boom Bang-a-Bang”
1970 Spain was represented by Julio Iglesias, who came in 4th place with “Gwendolyne”. Iglesias duetted with Willie Nelson on “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” in 1984.
1972 The New Singers, known to Coke drinkers for their hit “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”, sang “Beg, Steal or Borrow” for the United Kingdom and came in 2nd place.
1973 “Eres tú”, performed by Mocedades for Spain (2nd place), became a top ten American hit in 1974.
1974 Abba won for Sweden with “Waterloo” and was rocketed to international superstardom. Other participants that year included Olivia Newton-John (UK, 4th) and Mouth & MacNeal (Netherlands, 3rd), who had a 1972 hit with “How Do You Do”; Maggie MacNeal also participated in the 1980 contest.
1976 The United Kingdom’s The Brotherhood of Man won with “Save Your Kisses For Me”; they scored a hit in the American charts with “United We Stand” in 1970.
1977 Silver Convention represented Germany (8th place); they hit #1 on the American charts with the Grammy-winning “Fly Robin Fly”.
1988 Celine Dion won for Luxembourg and was rocketed to international superstardom.
1996 Australian singer Ging G represented the United Kingdom with “”Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit” (8th place), which hit #12 on the American pop charts.
1997 Katrina and the Waves won Eurovision for the United Kingdom; their song “Walking On Sunshine” hit the American Top 10 in 1985.
2003 t.A.T.u. came in 3rd place for Russia; the year before they hit the American Top 20 with “All The Things She Said”.
2006 Spain’s representative Las Ketchup also sang “The Ketchup Song (Aserejé)” in 2002.
2012 Engelbert Humperdinck sang for the United Kingdom; his biggest hit in America was 1967’s “Release Me (And Let Me Love Again)”.
2013 Bonnie Tyler, who topped the American charts with “Total Eclipse of The Heart” in 1983, represented the United Kingdom.
2014 Conchita Wurst wins for Austria with her song “Rise Like A Phoenix”.

And now that Conchita Wurst has conquered America, will there be a few more Americans tuning in to watch Eurovision this year?  The semi-finals will be held May 19 and 21, with the big showdown to be held in the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria on May 23.  Those interested in watching the contest may do so at http://www.eurovision.tv/page/webtv, but remember the time difference: for the continental United States, the shows will take place in the early afternoon.  Follow this writer on Twitter @JogolandGroup for updates and coverage of the event.

 

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