Today Mr Häggkvist, our man in Panama, begins his series on Eurovision history. His first stop on Memory Lane has him asking whatever happened to Luxembourg’s last Eurovision winner.

Hello Euro-addicts! Twenty-nine years ago we witnessed the last victory by the Grand Duché de Luxembourg. Corinne Hermès sang last on that April night in Munich. By the time she had finished, it was clear that her electric stage presence, stunning voice and pink pantsuit had blown away the competition. But I’ve been wondering what happened to the beautiful singer who, in her winning song, asked millions of people, “What happens if life is a gift?” So I’m here to give you the answers!

The Early Years…

Hermès, who we suspect is a distant relative of the family that makes the expensive handbags, was born on November 16, 1961 in Lagny-sur-Marne in northern France. She demonstrated musical ability early in life. “I started singing when I started to talk,” she once said on a French TV show. But she wasn’t just working her mouth as a toddler. She soon started playing piano and guitar, too.

As we all know, she went on to represent the Duchy of Luxembourg at the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest in Munich, Germany. In a year that featured Eurovision legends like Israel’s Ofra Haza and Sweden’s Carola, the 22-year old Hermès wowed the judges with her entry “Si La Vie Est Cadeau” (If Life Is A Gift). She gave the Duchy its fifth victory (and the fifth from a foreigner).

Hermès’s winning performance at Eurovision 1983:

After The Contest…

Looking back on her career, she once said that winning the contest “was the realization of a dream [that] allowed me to expand my career internationally.” She ain’t lying. In 1989 she scored a big hit in francophone countries with the song “Dessine-moi.” The song won a trophy at France’s coveted “Les Victoires de la Musique” in 1990. And in 1997 she released “Ses plus grands succès”, which scored a few hits of its own. In 2000 the Estonians invited her to serve as a member of the expert jury for its Eurovision selection. In 2001 she announced France’s voting at Eurovision. Five years later, in 2006, she released “Vraie”—an album that smacks of both American Pop and French chanson.

Where Is Corinne Hermès Now?

In 2011 French television documented the Hermès of today. She now lives in Paris in a magnificent house on a beautiful street. She records her music in a little studio in her house. (Trekking to a studio, she would risk being mobbed by Eurovision fans). She says that she prefers rock music to ballads. But as the documentary shows, she still plays slow music every now and then—and she still sings her winning song from 1983. Compared to her Eurovision competitors, she have a very “calm” life in Paris, visitng writer friends and recording and singing in small studios. She’s not inclined to chase money or commercial success. She wants to keep exploring music and hopes to bring something new and intelligent to the industry.

She told the filmmakers that Eurovision remains close to her heart. “I don’t feel nostalgia or sadness,” she said. “I do feel love for it.” It’s no wonder that she wants a Eurovision memory etched on her tombstoned. When asked about dying, she said that she wants a line from her song written on her grave: “Cadeau donné, cadeau repris”  (Gift given, gift returned).

In the end, Hermès will be remembered as one of the most down to earth Eurovision winners ever. She never lost perspective never considered herself a celebrity. Eurovision opened so many doors for her, and she walked right through them. Now she wants others to share the magic. She remains one of the biggest activists calling for Luxembourg to return to the contest.

C’est aujourd’hui mon seul bonheur imaginaire,

Mr Häggkvist

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11 years ago

She was also president of the 2012 jury.