Lys Assia, the first winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, has passed away aged 94, confirmed by Swiss broadcaster SRF.
She won the Eurovision Song Contest over six decades ago for the host nation of Switzerland in Lugano on May 24th 1956 with the song “Refrain”. On March 24th 2018, aged 94, Lys Assia passed away.
Lys Assia performing ‘Refrain’, the first entry to win the Eurovision Song Contest
Lys Assia in the Eurovision Song Contest
Lys Assia is known as the winner of the first Eurovision Song Contest held in 1956, but has in fact entered on three occasions for Switzerland, and attempted even more.
Following her victory, Lys Assia returned to represent Switzerland in the second Eurovision Song Contest with the song “L’enfant que j’étais”, finishing eighth. The Netherlands won the contest in 1957 and proceeded to hold the contest in Hilversum the following year, where Lys Assia entered for a third consecutive time with the song ‘Giorgio’, finishing back at the top of the leaderboard in claiming second place.
For five decades Lys continued to follow the contest, attending endless Eurovision Song Contest events and appearing in anniversary concerts as a guest along the way.
In 2011, aged 87, Lys tried her luck once again with a song penned by close friend Ralph Siegel – the composer of twenty-four Eurovision entries and the 1982 winning song “Ein bißchen Frieden” (A Little Peace). Her first attempt at returning in almost fifty years, the song “C’était ma vie” came eighth in the national selection.
The following year Lys Assia returned one final time, entering the Swiss selection with the song “All in Your Head”, featuring hip-hop band ‘New Jack’ – this time missing out on a place in the final.
Lys Assia performing ‘C’était ma vie’, or in English ‘That was my life’.
Lys Assia’s health had deteriorated over the past few years, resulting in her absence from key events. Despite this, Lys made it to Kyiv in May last year to attend the Eurovision Song Contest grand final.
In recent years, through her friendship with Ralph Siegel, Lys became close friends with San Marino’s Valentina Monetta, an artist that Lys greatly respected. Since 2012, Lys has released her list ‘top twenty’ favourite competing artists each year – a list that never failed to feature Valentina Monetta. In 2014, Valentina made history by becoming only the fourth artist to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest on three consecutive occasions – the first time since Lys Assia matched the record in 1958.
Making a presence online, Lys frequently interacted with fans and took part in events such as Eurovoix’s ‘Eurojury’ – taking an interest in the most recent participants of the contest.
Frequently, Lys spoke of the contest as though it was a different event to the one she participated in. On many occasions Lys would comment how today’s contest was so much better than in the early days, describing it as a spectacle she loved to be a part of.