Eurovision Song Contest: A Musical Spectacle

ABBA performing "Waterloo" during the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest.
ABBA performing “Waterloo” during the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest.

On this date in 1974, ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with their song “Waterloo.”

Here are some things you might not known about the contest.

In the years following World War II, European broadcasting leaders were searching for a unifying entertainment icon that would bring the continent together. In 1955, the idea of an international song contest was brought up. It would involve a live broadcast with participating countries submitting and performing two songs. The first contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland and was known as the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Prix. Because satellite broadcasting did not yet exist, the program was transmitted though a terrestrial microwave network.

Seven countries participated in the first contest: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Since then, 52 countries have participated, however not all of them have been from Europe. Some of the non-European entrants include Israel and Cyprus, which are on the Asian continent; Morocco, which is in north Africa; and Australia, which is in Australia.

Germany has competed in 59 of the 60 song contests, winning in 1982 and 2010. Portugal is the country that has participated most often without winning; they have yet to win in 48 tries. The country with the most victories is Ireland, which has won the contest seven times. Sweden has won six times, including 1974, when ABBA won. In 2005, “Waterloo” was selected as the most popular song in the history of the contest.

Although the contest is immensely popular, with nearly 200 million television viewers, it is not much of a launching pad for performers. Of the 60 winners, only ABBA and Celine Dion went on to worldwide stardom. Of the 60 winning entries, 58 have included women, either performing solo or in a group.

Our question: What country won the Eurovision Song Contest in its first year as an independent nation?

Today is National Hostess Twinkie Day, National Siamese Cat Day and National Caramel Popcorn Day.

It’s the birthday of artist Raphael, the co-discoverer of DNA James Watson, and musician Merle Haggard.

This week in 1974, the top song in the U.S. was “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede.

The No. 1 movie was “The Great Gatsby,” while the novel “Burr” by Gore Vidal topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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