United Kingdom: Countdown to Eurovision’s Greatest Hits – Part 3

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This is the third part of a series of articles on the artists performing at the 60th Anniversary show in London, to celebrate the Eurovision Song Contest.
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Dana International sang Diva in 1998.

Sharon Cohen is better known to everybody by her stage name of Dana International. She was born Yaron in 1972 and has courted controversy throughout her female life.

When she was 13 she realised that she was transgender but is quoted as saying that she had a happy childhood. At 18 years old she earned a living mimicking well known female singers and it was this which lead to her being spotted and making her first single. She had gender reassignment surgery in 1993.

Her first album was released in the same year and was called Danna International. She abbreviated the first word and assumed this as her title. In 1994 her second album was entitled Umpatampa and another called Maganuna followed in 1996. Both were successful and she had established herself.

She had tried to perform for Israel at Eurovision in 1995 but fell short by one place, coming second in their National Final with the song Laila tov Eropa. After having successfully followed her dream and winning Eurovision in 1998 her fame spread across Europe.

Her return to the contest in 2011 with the song Ding dong wasn’t so lucky and she didn’t qualify for the final.

Dana International is in constant demand and has been a judge on an Israeli music talent contest amongst many other things.

The Eurovision Song Contest 1998 was the forty third edition of the event.

It was held in the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

This was the eighth time that the BBC had hosted the event and was the same venue that the G8 summit used the following week. The show’s male host, Terry Wogan, said that he would be giving up his room to Bill Clinton, the President of the United States.

Twenty five countries took part in what was to be the last contest with a live orchestra. Backing tracks were also used due to a new ruling in 1997 and eight countries took this option either partially or fully. It was also a year when all but three of the participating countries televoted. The exceptions were Turkey, Romania and Hungary. FYR Macedonia participated for the first time as they were unsuccessful in the 1996 pre-selection.

This was also the last time that countries had to perform in their official language. The Norwegians rewrote their song in their own language as it had been won at their National Final in English.

Various reasons, including the voting average system, meant that six countries withdrew and five returned. This included the start of a long absence for Italy who had decided not to participate. They did not return until 2011.

The voting was dramatic and towards the end it looked like Malta would be the victorious country. The United Kingdom and Israel were also serious contenders. It all hung on the final douze points from Macedonia. In the end they did not give any to Malta but, instead, to their Balkan neighbours of Croatia. So it was Israel’s turn to shine again.

Dana International returned to the stage wearing the Jean Paul Gaultier dress which she had decided not to use for the first performance. And the contest headed to Israel for 1999.

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