Monday 25 March 2013, 20:59
Every year the eyes of Europe are fixed on the star performer(s) on the Eurovision stage whilst the backing singers are often left in the shadows. Backing singers are the hidden heroes of Eurovision, often saving the songs (and singers) from fall flat, quite literally! Some backing singers go on to actually sing in their own right in the contest itself, whereas others, who have previously been the star, return to the Eurovision stage, somewhat out of the spotlight. Then of course there are others who seem to be quite happy that way and take up their supportive roles in year, year out.
The role of the backing singer is to enhance the performance, not to overshadow the singer like Al Bano did in 2000. He was supposed to support the Swiss entry Jane but appeared to try and out-sing her. Perhaps he missed his days in the Eurovision spotlight for Italy. Speaking of the Swiss, their backing singers did Gunvor no favours in 1998 where she finished last with nil points. Look out for the violinist too – he represented Switzerland in 1990!
One country which appears to have backing singers on rotation is Iceland. In 2006 Silvia Night was supported by Sigga, Icelandic entrant from the 1994 contest (not that you can tell as she’s wearing a mask!) One of Silvia’s dancers was also the husband of Selma who came second for Iceland in 1999! Remember Iceland’s Hera Bjork in 2010? She was a backing singer for Euroband in 2008. In 2009 she joined Fredrik Omar (who made up one half of Euroband) and they both sang backing vocals for Yohanna, the Icelandic Eurovision entry in 2009. One of Hera’s backing singers in 2010 sang for Iceland in 2001 as part of the duo 'Two Tricky' and one of her other backing singers, Erna Hronn, also supported Yohanna in 2009, has tried to represent her country on several occasions as a solo artist. If she does make it in future, who will she choose to support her on stage?Slovenia's backing singers from 2012
Estonia’s Ines carried the hopes and dreams of her country in 2000 but it was her backing singer and then boyfriend Tanel Padar who would go into score the first victory for the country the following year. Maarja who sang for Estonia twice was supported by Evelin Samuel in 1997. Evelin went on to sing for her country in 1999 and going full circle, was supported by Maian-Anna Kärmas who wrote the winning for Estonia in 2001!
Alex Panayi performed backing vocals for Cyprus in 1989 and 1991 before going on to represent the country in both 1995 and 2000 before becoming a backing vocalist for Greece in 2005 and 2009 and then perhaps more randomly, Belarus in 2012!
Let’s hear it for plucky Portugal, they first started entering the contest in 1964 and have never finished in the top five in the final. Yet they still remained loyal to Eurovision (until this year when they withdrew!) In the 1990s they scored their best placing to date 6th in 1996 and worst, 25th with nil points in 1997. One figure who remained a constant was the lovely blonde backing singer who supported the Portuguese songs in 1990, 1993, 1996 and 1999 (did we miss any?)
In 1991 Samantha Janus sang for the UK and was supported by 80s star Hazell Dean, who tried to represent the UK at Eurovision in both 1976 and 1984. Janus was also backed by UK entrant from 1984, Kit Rolfe. The UK’s Miram Stockley wins the award for most Eurovision appearances though and was kind enough to reply to an email I wrote to her for this blog:
"I started doing the Eurovision as a backing singer in 1984 and I continued for many years after that. I was sometimes a part of the act and sometimes I just sang in the wings. I do remember (besides Katrina & the Waves in 1997) doing Belle & the Devotions in 1984, Samantha Janus in 1991 & Emma in 1990. I was also part of the Portuguese entry in Ireland in 1988".
In the former Soviet Union they seem to like sharing backing singers. One singer, Marina, stands out in a crowd and has performed backing vocals for Russia in 2006, Belarus in 2007, Ukraine in 2008 and Armenia in 2010! Possibly the most famous evergreen backing singers are of course the two Danish sisters, Lei and Lupe Moe who appeared ten times for Denmark over the decades. Their persistence was rewarded though and they were part of the winning team in 2000.
Slovenia’s entrant in 2009 was Martina Majerle but she first appeared as a backing singer for Croatia in 2003. She then went on to support Montenegro in 2008 and appeared for Slovenia in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Her colleague Sandra Feketija has also appeared several times in Eurovision. She first supported Rebeka in 2008 before going on to the contests in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Andrej Babić went even further, not content with being a backing singer and songwriter for Croatia in 2003, and Slovenia in 2007 he also wrote entries for Bosnia Herzegovina in 2005, Slovenia in 2009 and Portugal in 2008 and 2012!
Even Eurovision winners themselves are not averse to returning to the contest in a reduced capacity. Remember Paul Harrington who was part of the duo who won for Ireland in 1994? He travelled to Birmingham in 1998 to support Dawn Martin’s Eurovision entry. Unfortunately for them the previous Irish success was not repeated. Speaking of winners, the Maltese backing singers in 2000 were Swedish and provided backing vocals for the winning entry in 1999. One of the singers from this group formed part of the group Blond who sang for Sweden in 1997 and another was Sahlene who sang for Estonia in 2002!
I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted! I’ve not even started on those hidden backing singers who actually carry the song whilst the lead vocalist mimes along (ahem, Romania 2009!)
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