Lena Valaitis was born in Memel, a port on the Baltic Sea in eastern Prussia. The former German city had been ceded to Lithuania at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, but was recaptured in WWII. Lena was born in 1943 while her father, a soldier in the Wehrmacht, was stationed in the city.
In 1970 Valaitis, aged 27 and now based in West Germany, put out her first single. It was to be the start of an enduring career, with regular releases right up until she was in her late 60s, as well as three Eurovision attempts spread across three decades.
The only time she managed to make it to Eurovision proper was with the Ralph Siegel-penned Johnny Blue in 1981. In 1976 her Du Machst Karriere lost out in the German national selection to another Siegel composition Sing Sang Song by the Les Humphries Singers, and her final attempt, Wir Sehen Uns Wieder, in 1992 also lost out to yet another Siegel song Träume Sind Für Alle Da by Wind.
In 1980 Germany had been competing for 25 years without a win when Katja Ebstein gave them their best-ever finish – 2nd place – 15 points behind winner Johnny Logan. A year later Lena came even closer to ending Germany’s long drought: with just two juries left to vote she was in a three-way tie for first place with Bucks Fizz of the United Kingdom and Peter, Sue & Marc of Switzerland. The Swiss were the penultimate country to vote and failed to give their German neighbours any points at all, so even a douze from the final Swedish jury was not enough to catch Making Your Mind Up, and she ended the night runner-up, a mere four points adrift of the title.
German disappointment turned to triumph the following year thanks to Nicole who romped home with A Little Peace, completing a hat-trick of consecutive Top 2 finishes – a feat only ever achieved before by the United Kingdom and since by Ireland. In fact, the period 1977 to 1987 was something of a purple patch for the Germans who – largely thanks to Ralph Siegel – hit the Top 10 every year bar 1984.