Netherlands at ESC

The Netherlands were one of seven countries who participated in the very first Eurovision in Lugano in 1956 (in fact they performed the very first entry).   Since then they’ve missed only four contests.  In 1985 and 1991 the contest coincided with Remembrance Day (May 4th) and in 1995 and 2002 they were “relegated” from the contest after a poor performance the previous year.  Duncan Laurence’s win in Tel Aviv with “Arcade” was their fifth triumph, slotting them into equal third on the ESC medal table alongside France, Luxembourg and the UK.    Here’s a look at some of their more interesting contributions …

1956  Jetty Paerl  “De vogels van Holland”

The very first Eurovision took place in Lugano in May 1956 and no recording exists other than the odd snippet.  Also, apart from Switzerland winning with Lys Assia’s “Refrain”, none of the other results are known.  What IS known is that there were fourteen songs comprising two songs from each of seven countries, and that the very first song to be performed on an ESC stage was from the Netherlands.   Jetty Paerl had already been more than noteable as during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands she lived in London as was part of the Radio Oranje broadcasts of the Dutch government in exile.

1957  Corry Brokken  “Net als toen”

The second contest saw the first Dutch victory as Corry Brokken swept to a landslide victory scoring almost twice as many points as the French runner-up.  She was accompanied by violinist Sem Nijveen who fiddled away in the background.  What’s extraordinary by todays standards is the song length.  These days Eurosongs must be no longer than three minutes but the 1957 champ lasted more than four and a half minutes3  Corry would go on to present the 1976 contest, the first winner to do so.

1966  Millie Scott  “Fernando En Filippo”

The Dutch won a second Grand Prix in 1959 courtesy of Teddy Scholten and “‘Een Beetje” however their fortunes waned in the early Sixties.  Having said that no look at their contest history would be complete without 1966.  Milly Scott became the first black artist to perform at Eurovision and also (I think) the first to perform with a hand-held mic.  Whilst the song trailed in in fifteenth place it was unarguably the most entertaining performance of the night. Milly rocks the staircase at both ends of the song.

1972  Sandra & Andres “Als het om de liefde gaat”

After a miserable decade the Dutch ended the Sixties on a high as Lenny Kuhr’s “De Troubadour” was one of the four winners in the 1969 contest.  This signalled a revival in fortunes as the Seventies started, climaxed by a fourth win in 1975 courtesy of Teach-In and “Ding A Dong”.   No look at the Netherlands at ESC would be complete without the late Sandra Reemer, who flew the Dutch flag three times in this decade.  Her most successful effort was this joyous 1972 collaboration with Andres Holten.

1987  Marcha  “Rechtop in de wind”

The Eighties were a mixed bag for the Netherlands.  Their best results were a couple of fifth places, each thanks to “Dutch Divas” Maggie MacNeal in 1980 and here,  Marga Bult aka Marcha, with an ode to weather that seems very appropriate from a 2020 perspective.

1998  Edsilia Rombley “Hemel en aarde”

On to the Nineties and Dutch fortunes didn’t improve.  The standout performance was 1998 and Edsilia Rombley, who is to be one of the hosts in Rotterdam in May, a strong fourth place.

2014  The Common Linnets  “Calm After The Storm”

The new century saw massive changes for Eurovision with the advent of first one and then two semi-finals.   The Netherlands suffered a disastrous period of EIGHT consecutive DNQs from 2005 to 2012.   2013 however saw them return to the top ten and just a year later Ilse DeLange and Waylon aka The Common Linnets took runners-up position behind Conchita in Copenhagen and scored a sizeable international hit post-contest.