Germany's post-war economic boom encouraged an influx of immigrants from southern Europe. Leading the march northward was Vicky Leandros, born Vassiliki Papathanassiou on the Greek island of Corfu in 1952. At age six, she moved to the German port of Hamburg to join her father—Greek star Leo Leandros, who had major plans for the German market. Through his industry connections, Vicky scored a record deal at age 14 and topped the charts almost immediately. Her punchy debut single "Messer, Gabel, Schere, Licht" cracked the top twenty, and two years later she represented Luxembourg at the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest with French-language ballad "L'Amour Est Bleu." Her disappointment at losing the competition was compounded when the song—not one of the seven foreign-language versions recorded by Vicky, but an instrumental version by Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra—went on to top the US charts and sell millions. But there would be plenty of hits—in Germany with singles "Morgen sehen wir uns wieder" and "Bunter Luftballon" as well as in Japan, Canada, France, and Greece. Vicky has sold over 40 million records worldwide.
Italian diva Mina recorded close to 800 songs before she retired from the spotlight in 1978. It was the Moroccan-themed, "Heißer Sand" (Hot Sand) that spent nine weeks at number one on the German charts in 1962. Germans went equally gaga for similarly exotic follow-ups "Fiester Brasiliana" and "Capitano," but the hits soon dried up soon after. Turin's vocal powerhouse Rita Pavone, the Italian Gigliola Cinquetti, Greece's Nana Mouskouri, Spanish Eurovision winner Massiel, Egyptian-born Dalida, and Israel's Esther Ofarim also charmed the German charts with songs at the lighter end of the musical spectrum.
Girls who came in from the cold
Pity the Scandi-pop girls who were always handed the cheesy end of the Schlager stick, although this didn't hinder their success in Germany. Quite the reverse, in fact. Sweden's Siw Malmkvist was an established star in her homeland before she launched herself onto the German market in 1960, age 24. She enjoyed a run of hits before winning the 1964 Schlagerfestspielen with "Liebeskummer lohnt sich nicht," which spent ten weeks at number one. Further hits like "Küsse nie nach Mitternacht" and the highly hummable "Frech geküßt ist halb gewonnen" followed, but by 1967 her career had run out of steam and she opted instead to work as an office secretary. In 1968 she was lured back into the music biz and received yet another top prize at Schlagerfestspielen with "Harlekin," her final hit.
Dutch-born, Stockholm-based Suzie could count a number of hits in Germany, including 1964's million-selling "Du, du gehst vorbei." However, the former circus entertainer is best remembered for her 1966 beat gem "Ich will immer nur dich."
Norway's Wenche Myhre, or Wencke Myhre as she was christened in Germany to ease the pronunciation of her name, received a recording contract as her 13th birthday present. In the mid-'60s she began cutting records in German and made the top five with "Sprich nicht drüber." In 1966 she won the Schlagerfestspielen with "Beiß nicht gleich in jeden Apfel," a classic fusion of beat and Schlager. From then on, she could do no wrong, racking up more hits with "Komm allein" and her 1968 German Eurovision entry, "Ein Hoch der Liebe."