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Udo Jurgens and “Walk Away”

Udo_Jürgens_-_Der_Soloabend_2010_(10)

Udo Jürgens, born Udo Jürgen Bockelmann (September 30, 1934 –December 21, 2014) was an Austrian-Swiss composer and singer of popular music whose career spanned over fifty years; he won the Eurovision Song Contest 1966 for Austria, composed close to 1,000 songs, and sold over 100 million records.  Jürgens was born on September 30, 1934, at Klagenfurt in the Federal State of Austria (now the Republic of Austria).  In 1950, he won a composer contest organized by Austria’s public broadcasting channel ORF with the song “Je t’aime.” In 1952 Udo Bolan, as he was called then, formed the Udo Bolan Quartet In Klagenfurt, Austria, appearing regularly at the Café Obelisk in Klagenfurt with Englishman Johnny Richards on drums, Klaus Behmel on guitar, and Bruno Geiger on Bass. The quartet played regularly at various dance and jazz venues and also broadcast on Radio Alpenland and the British Forces Radio network produced by Mike Fior.  Jurgens wrote the 1961 worldwide hit “Reach for the Stars”, sung by Shirley Bassey.

In 1964, Jurgens represented Austria for the first time at the Eurovision Song Contest 1964 with the song “Warum nur, warum?”, finishing sixth. The UK participant, Matt Monro, was impressed with the melody and covered the song (with English lyrics by his manager Don Black) as “Walk Away,” which reached number four in the UK Singles Chart and number 23 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.  Jürgens’ song “Sag ihr, ich lass sie grüßen” came fourth in 1965’s contest, and on his third try he won the Eurovision Song Contest 1966 in Luxembourg with “Merci, Chérie”, which became an English-language hit for Vince Hill, another cover by Monro, and one of Jürgens’ most recognized compositions. Jürgens’ version alone sold over one million copies, and he was awarded a gold disc by Deutsche Vogue in 1966.  In the following years, he wrote the songs, like “Griechischer Wein”, “Aber bitte mit Sahne”, “Mit 66 Jahren”, and — one of his biggest successes — “Buenos Días, Argentina”, which he performed together with the Germany national football team in 1978.

In 1977, Jurgens invited The Supremes to appear as guests on his televised and recorded gala concert. The Supremes (Mary Wilson, Scherrie Payne, and Susaye Green), who were on a brief farewell tour of Europe at the time, performed two of their own hits, “You Are The Heart of Me” and “You’re My Driving Whee,l” as well as a duet with Jürgens’ “Walk Away” in English.  In 1979, he released a disco album entitled Udo ’80. It produced a hit song “Ich weiß was ich will.”  This song was also released as a 12 inch disco single in an extended remix for discothèques. In 2007 he obtained Swiss citizenship.  On  December 2, 2007, the jukebox musical Ich war noch niemals in New York (I’ve never been to New York) opened in Hamburg’s Operettenhaus. It weaves songs by Jürgens into a familial storyline, similar to the treatment of ABBA songs in Mamma Mia!, the musical it succeeded at the venue.

On December 21, 2014, Jürgens died of acute heart failure in Münsterlingen, Switzerland, at the age of 80. With Austria’s success at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, the first since Jürgens’ success in 1966, Jürgens expressed his interest in performing in the interval of the next contest. With his death, the organisers of the 2015 contest in Vienna paid tribute to him with a tribute day on May 20 and a tribute act at the beginning of the Grand Final.  Jurgens is credited with broadening German-language pop music beyond the traditional postwar “Schlager” (hit song) in the 1950s by infusing it with a modern pop appeal and French chanson style. His compositions and arrangements attracted fans of all ages. Until his death, he continued to fill venues in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  Since 2015, Udo Jürgens holds the worldwide-record as the artist with the longest presence in the charts ever – more than 57 years from his first entry 1958 till 2015.

My collection includes the following work by Udo Jurgens:

Walk Away (Warum nur, Warem; 1964).

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