The winner of the inaugural Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, Swiss-born vocalist Lys Assia was born March 3, 1926, in Rupperswil, Aargau, Switzerland.
She originally worked as a dancer but, at a show in 1940, she was asked to stand in for a missing singer. She agreed and performed so well that she promptly abandoned her first love for a career in front of the microphone. Establishing herself as a star throughout Central Europe, she also moved into movies, starring in such efforts as Palace Hotel in 1952 and Ein Mann Vergißt die Liebe in 1955. Hit singles during this period included "Moulin Rouge (Ein Lied aus Paris)" in 1953, "O Mein Papa" and "Schwedenmädel" in 1954, and "Jolie Jacqueline" in 1955. In 1956, Assia was invited to represent two different nations, Germany and Switzerland, at the first Eurovision event. Her German entry, "Ein Kleiner Goldner Ring," unfortunately never made it past the country's own qualifying competition. "Refrain," however, was successful at both the Swiss qualifiers (where she also performed "Das Alte Karrussel"), and at the final event itself.
Assia returned to the Eurovision stage in both succeeding years, finishing eighth in 1957 with "L'Enfant Que J'Etais" and second in 1958 with "Giorgio." Both were also major European hits, alongside further smashes "Arrivederci Roma" (1956), "Was Kann Schöner Sein" (1957), "Come Prima" (1958), and "Wenn die Glocken Hell Erklingen" (1959). Assia's other hits included a version of "Moon River," "Für Immer" in 1961, "Schwarze Perlen" in 1962, and 1964's "Fühl' Dich Bei Mir Wie Zuhause." Although she appeared to drop out of sight on a regular basis in subsequent years, Assia continued performing, while remaining in demand at various Eurovision-themed events. In 2007, at age 83, she appeared at the annual German-language television song contest Grand Prix der Volksmusic, performing "Sag Mir Wo Wohnen die Engel" (Tell Me Where the Angels Live) with her 18-year-old duet partner, Beatrice Egli. That same year, she also posed nude for the Swiss magazine Annabelle, for a feature titled "Beauty with Age." Lys Assia died on March 24, 2018, in Zollikerberg, Zürich, Switzerland, at the age of 94. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi