Today, the lucky ones had the chance to buy their tickets for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. An interesting fact of the new venue B&W Halls, is that DR, the Danish broadcaster, has decided to name the seatting after Nordic Eurovision winners and representatives.
There’s a stand named after Loreen from Sweden, Alexander Rybak from Norway and Lordi from Finland. And of course, the remaining three stands are named after Denmark’s three winners: Emmelie de Forest, the Olsen Brothers and Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann.
We’ve named (the seating stands) to honour the three Danish Eurovision winners we’ve had so far, explains Søren Therkildsen, Head of Danish TV events. And the most recent winners from the other Nordic countries.
While most of these names are immediately familiar, the name of Ingmann is less so.
Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann met in 1955 and married a year later. Jørgen was a guitarist who had a string of hits across Denmark and Germany and even in the US during the late 50s and early 60s. His guitar re-working of March on the Drina, a patriotic Serbian song that had been popular during the First World War, even managed top chart positions in the UK and in France.
Fifty years ago, in 1963, the couple joined forces to participate in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. They had been asked to take part the year before, but hadn’t been interested. The following year, however, a song came along that they couldn’t resist. That song was Dansevise, composed by Otto Francker who had previously written an entry for Birthe Wilker in the first ever Dansk Melodi Grand Prix in 1957. Jørgen would play the guitar, and Grethe would provide vocals. We were both so fond of that song, Grethe would say in an interview years later.
Dansevise went on to win the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 1963 and to compete as one of 16 entries in that year’s Eurovision Song Contest, broadcast from London’s BBC Television Centre. That year saw three entries finish the competition with no points, but also competing were two women who’d go on to become superstars: Françoise Hardy, representing Monaco with her self-penned L’amour s’en va, and Nana Mouskouri, whose song, A force de prier, had been chosen to represent Luxembourg. They finished in fifth and eighth positions respectively. But Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann took victory, albeit a narrow one over Switzerland’s Esther Ofarim and her song Tu t’en vas. Dansevise was the first Scandinavian win in Eurovision’s eight-year history, and it was also the first time the contest had been won by a duo.
When the couple returned to Copenhagen from London following their win, they were given a hero’s welcome at the city’s airport. It was like the time the football team returned after winning the European Championship, Jørgen would reminisce in an interview later.
The couple toured Scandinavia extensively after their Eurovision triumph and continued to record music together. A daughter, Marie, came along in 1964, and eight years on, a son, Lars.
In 1974, the couple released the album Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann. It contained Danish-language cover versions of Mr. Bojangles, It might as well be spring from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State fair and even one of Joni Mitchell’s 1969 hit, Both sides, now. It would be their last album together.
On 7 January 1976, Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann announced their separation to the Danish press.
The separation affected them both deeply. In 1977, a year after her marriage to Jørgen ended, Grethe recorded a heartfelt song called Hvor Går Jeg Hen? Which in English means something close to Where do I go?. And in the same year, Jørgen released a solo album called Summer of Love. One of the pieces on it was called If I had to do it all over again. Another was called Loneliness.
Jørgen stopped playing the guitar after a bout of illness in 1984. After that, he shied away from media and press attention and settled in rural north Denmark. The world has changed in the years since Jørgen was part of the duo that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1963. The competition itself has changed. So has music. And that winning duo will never make music together again. Grethe Ingmann lost her battle with liver cancer in 1990.
So if you’re lucky enough to have a seat in the Ingmann stand next May, spare a thought for those two broken hearts.