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Sing Sang Song: Anita Traversi’s Eurovision Mix Of Jazz And Chanson Written by on August 30, 2018

Welcome to ‘Sing Sang Song’, an occasional series in which Marcus Keppel-Palmer continues his occasional series looking back at the life of some of the performers from the earlier days of the Eurovision Song Contest. Our destination today is the Swinging Sixties in Switzerland, and the music of Anita Traversi.

Anita Traversi sounds Italian, a name that calls up images of like an Italian mountaineer. Surely, she represented Italy?

You would think that is the case, but although she sung in Italian she represented the country of her birth, Switzerland. And she represented Switzerland on two occasions, in 1960 with ‘Cielo E Terra’ and then again in 1964 with ‘I Miel Pensieri.’

 In 1960 Anita delivered a jazzy chanson built around a piano motif belting out the title from time as a counterpoint to her more laidback verses. Looking elegant in a frock too tight to move in, Anita was rewarded with a measly five points and eighth place.

Mind you, four years later she would have killed for those five points. This time she received nul points and finished joint last with three other entries. ‘I Miel Pensieri‘ was another jazzy ballad, if anything more stately than ‘Cielo e terra‘, punctuated by a rather lovely trumpet solo and building to what might pass for a climax in Copenhagen (and 1964 is one of two Contests where the visual record is ‘lost’).

How Did She Get To Eurovision?

Both times Traversi had to win the Swiss National Final. In 1960, she performed two songs in a nine song final (her other song was called ‘Malcantonenisa’) One of the other contenders was Fud Leclerc, who had already won the Belgian pre-selection for 1960, and who had already been in the 1956 and 1958 Contests. A further contender was Jo Roland, who also performed two songs in 1960. Jo had also recorded under the name Yves Boyer, been voted the Best Schlager Singer in the World in 1962, and also had a song in the 1964 Swiss pre-selection. For her second victory, Anita also sung two songs, the second one being ‘Mandolino’.

Were Her National Final Wins A Surprise?

Not really!

She had been singing with orchestras from 1955 and had been releasing singles since 1958. She recorded mainly in Italian to start with but occasionally in English, for example a cover of Shirley Bassey’s ‘Kiss Me Honey Honey‘, but from 1960 she really hit the big time, recording duets with number one Italian rock ‘n’ roll star Adriano Celentano.

Although she was born and brought up in Ticino, she became famous across all Switzerland and accordingly from 1962 recorded in French and German as well. Her recording career lasted well through the sixties and in to the early seventies.

Any Other Eurovision Connections?

As well as appearing twice, Anita appeared in the Swiss National Final on several further occasions (1961, 1963, 1967, 1976). She also has an earlier appearance in 1956 ahead of the first Contest, hoping to appear at her hometown Lugano.

In that year, Anita performed ‘Bandella Ticinese’, singing about the music tradition of her home canton. She was up against Jo Roland and Lys Assia, both of whom sung five songs. Assia of course sung the two songs that represented the Swiss that year. In 1961, Anita performed two songs, ‘Finalmente’ and ‘L’ingresso nei sogni’, losing out to Franca di Rienzo, who came third at that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Long term contender Jo Roland joined Anita and Franca singing two songs as well.

Anita Traversi and Adriano Celentano (cc/Wikipedia.it)

Anita Traversi and Adriano Celentano (cc/Wikipedia.it)

In 1963, Jo Roland only sung one song in the Swiss final, whereas Anita went to town performing three songs, two of which were in Italian (‘Voglio Vivere’ and ‘La Più Bella Canzone Del Mondo’) and the third one was sung in German, “Komme Mit Mir”. Esther Ofarim, later to have a hit with ‘Cinderella Rockefella’, went on to represent Switzerland that year.

In 1967, when her success was diminishing Anita returned to the National Final singing ‘Non Pensiamoci Più’, losing out to Geraldine. It would be a further nine year before she returned once more to the Swiss Final. In this year, there was a record of the results, so we know that Anita finished seventh behind Peter, Sue and Marc with her song, ‘La Giostra Gira’.

Any Other Matters Of Note?

As well as Eurovision and her chart career, Anita was a veteran on the song festival circuit. She won the Sopot festival in Poland in 1962 and returned to that festival in 1968 coming second. In 1969 and 1970 she was a regular at festivals all over Europe, in Athens, Holland, Yugoslavia, and also at the famous Rio de Janeiro festival. Her career wound down in the Seventies, and she retired fully in 1980 to concentrate on her family. She died aged 54 from a tumour in 1991.

With two appearances at the Eurovision Song Contest and numerous songs in the Swiss pre-selections, Anita Traversi certainly is a prominent figure in the history of Switzerland at Eurovision.

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