Christiane Kempers and Daniel Kovac were brought together by Germany’s Mr Eurovision, Ralph Siegel, specifically for the 1990 contest, which was held in Zagreb in Croatia, after Yugoslavia’s first and only win the year before with Rock Me by Riva.
With Croatia still a constituent part of Yugoslavia and independence a year away, Kovac was technically on native soil having been born in Črna na Koroškem in Slovenia, near the border with Austria. His family had emigrated to Germany in 1968 when Kovac was 12 years old. In the late 1970s he worked as a session singer before landing a job as presenter for the Munich-based TV channel Musicbox.
Mönchengladbach-born Kempers was nine years younger than her duet partner. She had made an unsuccessful Eurovision bid in 1988 with the four-piece band Rendezvous and subsequently appeared on TV impersonating Jennifer Rush in the German version of Stars In Their Eyes where she was spotted by Ralph Siegel.
Frei Zu Leben (Free To Live) is Siegel’s fourth entry in the countdown so far (see Nos. 470, 445, 420) and there are a further four to come. The song was a collaboration with lyricist Michael Kunze, a fellow Eurovision veteran who had been responsible for Germany’s entries in 1977 (Telegram by Silver Convention) and 1984 (Aufrecht Geh’n by Mary Roos). Kunze, under the pseudonym Stephan Prager, was the producer and brains behind Silver Convention, a disco oufit comprising various female session singers. Before their Eurovision appearance the group had scored a handful of hits in the UK, but were more successful in the US with two huge smashes: Fly Robin Fly, a No. 1 in 1975 and Get Up And Boogie, a No. 2 the following year.
1990 marked the end of an era for Germany in Eurovision. Up to that point they had only come first in the contest once – with Ein Bißchen Frieden in 1982, the poorest record of any of the “Big 5” nations. Yet this paucity of wins disguises a consistent run of high quality entries throughout the 1970s and 1980s – four 2nd place finishes in the 1980s, and a series of three consecutive 3rd place finishes from 1970-1972. Indeed, Germany’s early 1970s entries from Katja Ebstein, Mary Roos and Joy Fleming are as fine examples of schlager as that period’s more well known winning French language songs – Un Banc Un Arbre Une Rue, Après Toi and Tu Tu Te Reconnaîtras.
The drop-off in quality of German entries post 1990 can be seen quite markedly in our countdown: there are no fewer than ten songs in the Top 500 from the 15 year period from 1976 to 1990 compared to just two in the 15 years from 1991 to 2005.