Jetty Paerl, the first ever performer at the Eurovision Song Contest, passes away

She represented the Netherlands in 1956 with the song De Vogels Van Holland and she was the first artist to perform at the first Eurovision Song Contest which was hosted in the Swiss resort of Lugano. She died yesterday in Amstelveen at the age of 92.

Jetty Paerl, whose real name was Henriette Nanette Paerl, was born in Amsterdam on the 27th of May of 1921. She was the daughter of the filmmaker Jo Paerl and she belonged to a Dutch Jewish family. When in 1940 the Netherlands was occupied by the Nazi troops, the Paerl family had to flee to London where Jetty, who was only 19, started working at Radio Oranje, a station which was broadcast clandestinely to the Netherlands from the British capital. She participated at the radio cabaret called De Watergeus where she used to sing songs whose lyrics were usually written by her father. When the battle rages, De Watergeus was suspended by the Dutch government in exile and Jetty started working as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary where she drove an armored truck.

When the war was over, she started singing accompanied by the most prestigious orchestras of the time and, in the 50s, while continuing singing solo, she was part of the trio called The Swinging Nightingales. In 1951 she married the famous painter Cees Bantzinger and soon after they had a daughter named Anne-Rose Bantzinger.

In 1956 she participated at the music competition arranged by Radio Hilversum to pick the first Duch representative at the Eurovision Song Contest where she performed three songs: De Vogels Van Holland, Mei In Parijs and De Telefoon which were ranked second, fourth and sixth respectively. That year, the seven participating countries were represented with two songs each so, despite the winner of the national selection was Corry Brokken with Voorgoed Voorbij, Jetty also had the chance to represent her country with De Vogels Van Holland and the order of performance determined that she would have the honor of being the first artist of the history to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Despite having had a very successful musical career she did not record many albums but we must highlight the one which was released in 1970 with some recordings of her performances at Radio Oranje. In recent years she has appeared in numerous documentaries programs talking about her experience at the war and, after the death of her husband, she and her daughter put all their efforts in working to manage his artistic legacy. Two years ago, on the occasion of her 90th birthday, Jetty was awarded by the mayor of Amsterdam with a medal for merit.

Lys Assia, who won the 1956 Eurovision, has made a statement on the social media where she says: "I am very sad to hear about Jetty Paerl’s passing. She was a great artist. We started our careers at the same time. She represented The Netherlands at the first Eurovision, where I won. May God bless Jetty, her family, friends and fans."

From EuroVisionary we send our deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to her family and friends at this sad time.

Below you can listen to Jetty Paerl singing her Eurovision entry De Vogels Van Holland:

Source:,,, Lys Assia official Facebook page, EuroVisionary
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