Commentators often cite Abba and Celine Dion when attempting to associate Eurovision with global superstars. Sometimes also mentioned is Julio Iglesias, the best selling Latin artist in history and Spain’s representative in 1970 with Gwendolyne. Rarely, though, does the name Nana Mouskouri crop up, yet with an estimated 250 million record sales the instantly recognisable Greek singer is up there with Madonna, Mariah, Whitney and Celine as one of the most successful female artists of all time.
Ioanna Mouskouri (Ioanna is the name from which the English ‘Joanna’ is derived) was born on 13th October, 1934 in Chania on the island of Crete. When she was three years old her family moved to Athens where she attended the prestigious Conservatoire and on graduation signed a deal with the Odeon record label and released her debut single, Fascination in 1957.
In 1960 she signed to the French Philips label and relocated to Paris but it was in Germany where she achieved her first major success with The White Rose Of Athens, the theme to a German documentary about Greece, which sold more than a million copies. Having established a reputation in both countries Mouskouri was the ideal Eurovision choice for Luxembourg, a trilingual country that borders both France and Germany, and indeed those two nations were her biggest benefactors on the night. For the unique scoring system of 1963 each jury awarded points to their Top 5 songs – from 5 points for their favourite down to 1 point. Germany placed her 3rd, after Françoise Hardy’s L’amour S’en Va (see No. 429) and Esther Ofarim’s T’en Vas Pas, while France put her 2nd just behind Hardy.
The United Kingdom gave Esther Ofarim top marks, Françoise Hardy one point and Nana Mouskouri nothing at all. Ofarim would go on to top the charts in 1968 with Cinderella Rockafella and Hardy, too, scored a few UK hit singles and EPs in the mid-1960s, but it was Mouskouri who would eventually have the most successful career in Britain, largely thanks to her 1963 Eurovision appearance, more specifically her meeting the show’s producer Yvonne Littlewood.
Littlewood was the BBC’s first female light entertainment producer. She was responsible for 1963’s contest from the BBC Television Centre in London’s White City and is most famous for the long running Val Doonican Music Show. In 1968 she commissioned Nana Mouskouri Presents… which was a staple of prime time TV in Britain until the mid-1970s, during which time Mouskouri became a household name and racked up eight hit albums including Passport, which climbed as high as No. 3. Her biggest singles success came in 1986 with Only Love, the theme to the TV series Mistral’s Daughter, which reached No. 2, kept off the top of the chart by A-Ha’s The Sun Always Shines On TV.
À Force De Prier (By Persistently Praying) was written by Pierre Delanoë. Delanoë had Eurovision form as writer of 1958’s winning song Dors, Mon Amour for André Claveau (see No. 388) and would return in 1975 with Et Bonjour À Toi L’artiste for Nicole Rieu.