Lys Assia (born 3 March 1924) is a Swiss singer, actress and is the grande dame of the German schlager. She was the winner of the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, and also appeared as a singer in several films of the 1950’s.
Lys was born as Rosa Mina Schärer in Rupperswil in the canton Aargau, Switzerland, in 1924 (some sources she was born in Berne in 1926). She studied at a conservatory and at the art academy of Zurich. At 16 she started her career as a dancer at the Corso-Palast in Zurich. In 1940, she appeared with the Riva-Ballett for the French army and in Nice she stood in for a female singer. People who heard her singing liked it so much that she decided for a career in front of the microphone. In 1942 she had her first record contract with His Master’s Voice.
She had her breakthrough in Germany in 1950 with the hit song O mein Papa from the Operetta Feuerwerk by Paul Burkhard. Other well known songs of her were Moulin Rouge (1953), Schwedenmädel (1954), Jolie Jacqueline (1955), Arrivederci Roma (1956), Was kann schöner sein (1956), Deine Liebe (1957) and Mi casa su casa (1957). She sang in such legendary venues as the Tivoli in Copenhagen, the Olympia in Paris, the Plaza in New York and the Tropicana in Cuba.
On screen she appeared as a schlager singer in German films like Palace Hotel (1952), Illusion in a Minor Key (1952), Hit Parade (1953), A Man Forgets Love (1955) and many more.
Lys Assia was the winner of the very first Grand Prix d'Eurovision de la chanson/Eurovision Song Contest in 1956. She sang the songs Das alte Karussell and Refrain for Switzerland. She had also been in the German national final of that year. For Switzerland she returned to the contest in 1957, finishing eighth with L'enfant que j'étais, and in 1958, finishing second with Giorgio.
She was married twice, from 1953 till 1957 to the Swiss businessman Henry Kunz, and from 1963 till 1995 to the Danish general-consul and hotel mogul Oskar Pedersen. In 1964 she retired from show
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. Her most recent cd is Refrain des Lebens (2008) on which she sings new songs and new versions of old hits like Oh mein Papa and Refrain. At the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow she handed Alexander Rybak the winner’s trophy.
Today, Lys remains an invaluable ambassador for the Eurovision Song Contest, still travelling to the host city every year to lend her support to all those taking part. Recently, she has also tried her luck again at taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest by sending songs to the Swiss National Selection, Die grosse Entscheidungs Show in 2012 and 2013 with the songs C'était ma vie and All In Your Head respectively. Lys Assia lives on her estates in Cannes, France and Switzerland and still regularly performs on tv and at galas.
Sources: Dave Thompson (All Music Guide), Lysassia.de, Schulla.com, Wikipedia, and IMDb.