Editorials & Opinion

Xtra’s Pick of the 50s & 60s

Welcome to a brand new week, and a new selection of songs from Eurovision in years gone by. Today, Peter brings you one of his favourites from the early days of the contest.

Switzerland 1963: Esther Ofarim – T’en Vas Pas

There’s no doubt that in the quaint black and white era at the start of Eurovision’s history, the dominant sound was that of the French chanson. Most modern-day listeners would argue that most of the songs that came in this style in the early days blended into one, and I can’t help but agree. However I do have a soft spot for this one, which I think is a cut above the rest.
Esther Ofarim is an Israeli singer who went on to have international success later in the decade with her husband Abi, but for now she was drafted in to perform the Swiss entry at Eurovision, ‘T’en Vas Pas’.
Hosted in the shiny new Television Centre, the 1963 contest was a bit of a showing off exercise by the BBC; with each song looking like a mini music video, it was arguably the first Eurovision made primarily for the TV audience, and this perhaps contributes to how striking ‘T’en Vas Pas’ is compared to other songs of its type.
However I’d not undersell the part Esther herself played. In a performance consisting entirely of extreme close-ups, she is believable throughout, begging her love not to leave. Esther’s captivating eyes and her ability to sell a song put me in mind slightly of a young Barbra Streisand, and I love the melody and orchestration of this too.
Of course this will be remembered by some fans for being robbed of the title after technical problems led to some very suspect voting from Norway giving Denmark the last minute edge over this. Both this and ‘Dansevise’ would have been worthy winners and we’ll never know the whole truth about what happened, but where would Eurovision fandom be without its share of folklore, conspiracies and “what might have been?”
Anything that draws more attention to this gem from the early days is fine by me.

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