Udo Jürgens

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Udo Jürgens
Udo Jürgens photographed by Oliver Mark in his dressing room in the Westfalenhalle, 2009
Udo Jürgens photographed by Oliver Mark in his dressing room in the Westfalenhalle, 2009
Background information
Birth nameJürgen Udo Bockelmann
Born(1934-09-30)30 September 1934
Klagenfurt, Austria
Died21 December 2014(2014-12-21) (aged 80)
Münsterlingen, Switzerland
GenresPop, schlager, soft rock
Occupation(s)Singer, musician, composer
Instrument(s)Vocals, piano
Years active1950–2014

Jürgen Udo Bockelmann (30 September 1934  – 21 December 2014), better known as Udo Jürgens, was an Austrian-born composer and singer of popular music whose career spanned over 50 years. He won the Eurovision Song Contest 1966 for Austria, composed close to 1,000 songs, and sold over 104 million records.[1] In 2007, he additionally obtained Swiss citizenship.[2] In 2010, he legally changed his name to Udo Jürgens Bockelmann.

He is credited with broadening German-language pop music beyond the traditional post-war "Schlager" (hit song) in the 1950s by infusing it with a modern pop appeal and French chanson style. His compositions and arrangements attracted fans of all ages, and he continued to fill venues in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland until his death at age 80.[3]


In 1952, Udo Bolan, as he was called then, formed the Udo Bolan Quartet in Klagenfurt, Austria, appearing regularly at the Café Obelisk in Klagenfurt with Englishman Johnny Richards on drums, Klaus Behmel on guitar, and Bruno Geiger on Bass. The quartet played regularly at various dance and jazz venues and also broadcast on Radio Alpenland and the British Forces Radio network produced by Mike Fior.[4]

In 1950, he won a composer contest organized by Austria's public broadcasting channel ORF with the song "Je t'aime". He wrote the 1961 worldwide hit "Reach for the Stars", sung by Shirley Bassey.[5]

In 1964, Jürgens represented Austria for the first time at the Eurovision Song Contest 1964 with the song "Warum nur, warum?", finishing sixth. The UK participant, Matt Monro, was impressed with the melody and covered the song (with English lyrics by his manager Don Black) as "Walk Away", which reached number four in the UK Singles Chart and number 23 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Jürgens after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 1966, with France Gall

Jürgens' song "Sag ihr, ich lass sie grüßen" came fourth in 1965's contest, and on his third try, he won the Eurovision Song Contest 1966 in Luxembourg with "Merci, Chérie", which became an English-language hit for Vince Hill, another cover by Monro, and one of Jürgens' most recognized compositions. Jürgens' version alone sold over one million copies, and he was awarded a gold disc by Deutsche Vogue in 1966.[6]

In the following years, Jürgens wrote songs like "Griechischer Wein", "Aber bitte mit Sahne", "Mit 66 Jahren", and—one of his biggest successes—"Buenos Días, Argentina", which he performed together with the Germany national football team in 1978 in Argentina.[7]

Few people know that Jürgens' hit song "Griechischer Wein" should have been named "Türkischer Wein" (Turkish Wine). As an act of protest and solidarity after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, which happened in 1974, the year of the release of his song, he renamed it (the versmeter of griechisch and türkisch fit perfectly).[8]

In 1977, he invited The Supremes to appear as guests on his televised and recorded gala concert. The Supremes (Mary Wilson, Scherrie Payne, and Susaye Greene), who were on a brief farewell tour of Europe at the time, performed two of their own hits, "You Are the Heart of Me" and "You're My Driving Wheel", as well as a duet with Jürgens' "Walk Away" in English.[9]

Jürgens in 1987

In 1979, he released a disco album entitled Udo '80, which spawned the hit single "Ich weiß was ich will". This song was also released as a 12" disco single in an extended remix for nightclubs.

On 2 December 2007, the jukebox musical Ich war noch niemals in New York ("I've never been to New York") opened in Hamburg's Operettenhaus. It weaves songs by Jürgens into a familial storyline, similar to the treatment of ABBA songs in Mamma Mia!, the musical succeeded at the venue.

Like Keith Richards, Jürgens is very famous in Argentina, where he has one of the biggest fan bases outside of German speaking countries.[10]

Since 2015, Jürgens holds the worldwide-record as the artist with the longest presence in the charts ever—more than 57 years from his first entry 1958 till 2015. On 16 December 2022, a new album consisting of his legacies was released by his children. This reached #1 on the German charts on 24 December. Thus, Jürgens has been in the German charts for more than eight decades.[11]

Cover versions[edit]

"Merci, Chérie", whose original German lyrics were written by Thomas Hörbiger, has been translated or adapted into several languages and covered by dozens of artists in both vocal and instrumental recordings. These versions include:

  • "Merci Chérie" by Claude Carrère and André Salvet (French)
  • "Merci" by Vito Pallavicini (Italian)
  • "Merci Cherie" by Baker Cavendish (English)
  • "Merci Cherie" by Fred Bekky (Dutch)
  • "Merci Chérie" by Al Sandström (Swedish)
  • "Merci Chérie" by Gina Trandafirescu (Romanian)
  • "Merci Cheri" by Andrzej Ozga (Polish)

Jürgens himself recorded many of the translations for international release, including a version in Japanese. More recent covers include Belinda Carlisle's 2007 recording of the French version.[12]

Jürgens in 2010

In addition to recording Cavendish's "Merci, Chérie" lyric, Matt Monro covered five more Jürgens compositions, all with English lyrics (unrelated to the German ones), written by his manager Don Black. Four of these became closely associated with Monro (and were subsequently covered by Jürgens himself):

  • "Warum nur warum?" became "Walk Away" (a 1964 Top 40 hit in both the U.S. and UK)
  • "Du sollst die Welt für mich sein" became "Without You" (a 1965 UK Top 40 hit)
  • "Was ich dir sagen will" became "The Music Played" (1968)
  • "Illusionen" became "If I Never Sing Another Song" (1977), which was later performed by Frankie Laine, Shirley Bassey, Sammy Davis Jr., and other entertainers.

A fifth Jürgens song, "In dieser Welt", became "Lovin' You Again", and in 1969, Matt Monro recorded both Spanish and English versions, the latter not released until August 2012.[13] (Monro also recorded Spanish versions of "Walk Away" and "The Music Played"; all three Spanish lyrics were adapted for Monro from Don Black's versions by Leonardo Schultz, who also produced the Spanish recordings.)

In one of his last recording sessions, Bing Crosby covered an English version of Jürgens' "Griechischer Wein" called "Come Share the Wine", which also was written by Black.[14] The song was released after Crosby's death in 1977 as the title track of a compilation album and was later recorded by Al Martino.

In 1979, Marty Robbins released an English version of "Buenos Dias Argentina" that became a latter-day standard for Robbins.[15]

In the early 1990s, German thrash metal band Sodom released a 'metalized' cover of the boogie "Aber bitte mit Sahne".

In 2009, the German band Sportfreunde Stiller covered "Ich war noch niemals in New York" together with Jürgens on their MTV Unplugged concert in Munich.


Jürgens' grave at the Vienna Central Cemetery

On 21 December 2014, Jürgens died of cardiac arrest[16] in Münsterlingen, Switzerland, at the age of 80. In a cardiac arrest the heart is in fibrillation (disorderly, unsynchronized contraction of the heart muscle cells). Notably, in one of his later songs "Am Ufer" he sings about "having finally arrived" and in that song there is a line that says: "Am Ufer aus beschwingter Zeit liegt flimmern in der Luft; und voller Grenzenlosigkeit hör ich wie mich das Leben ruft" or in English: "At a shoreline of inspired time, there's trembling (fibrillation) in the air and with utter boundlessness I hear how life is calling me". Udo apparently had a foreshadowing of his death caused by heart fibrillation, which occurred while he was walking in the nature with his dog.

With Austria's success at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, the first since Jürgens' success in 1966, Jürgens expressed his interest in performing in the interval of the next contest. With his death, the organisers of the 2015 contest in Vienna paid tribute to him with a tribute day in the "Eurovision Village" on 20 May and at the beginning of the Austrian national final broadcast live on ORF 1.[17][18] At the contest's final, violinist Lidia Baich performed an excerpt of his winning song live on stage during the opening act.[19]


  • His brother, Manfred Bockelmann (born 1 July 1943), is a painter.
  • His son by his first marriage, John Jürgens (born 20 February 1964), is a singer, actor and DJ.
  • His daughter by his first marriage, Jenny Jürgens (born 22 January 1967), is an actress.
  • His uncle, Werner Bockelmann (23 September 1907 – 7 April 1968), was mayor of Frankfurt am Main.

Udo Jürgens was related to neither the singer Andrea Jürgens nor the actor Curd Jürgens.


  • "Portrait in Musik" (1965)
  • "Merci, Chérie" (1966, Eurovision Song Contest)
  • "Chansons" (1967)
  • "Portrait in Musik – 2. Folge" (1967)
  • "Was ich dir sagen will" (1967)
  • "Mein Lied für dich" (1968)
  • "Udo" (1968)
  • "Wünsche zur Weihnachtszeit" (1968)
  • "Udo Live" (1969)
  • "Portrait International" (1969)
  • "Udo '70" (1969)
  • "Udo '71" (1970)
  • "Zeig mir den Platz an der Sonne" (1971)
  • "Helden, Helden" (musical) (1972)
  • "Ich bin wieder da" (1972)
  • "Udo in Concert – Europatournee '72/'73" (1973)
  • "International 2" (1973)
  • "Live in Japan" (1973)
  • "Udo heute" (1974)
  • "Meine Lieder" (1974)
  • "Udo '75" (1975)
  • "Meine Lieder 2" (1976)
  • "Udo Live '77" (1977)
  • "Meine Lieder '77" (1977)
  • "Lieder, die auf Reisen gehen" (1978)
  • "Buenos Días Argentina" (football world championship) (1978)
  • "Ein Mann und seine Lieder – Live" (1978)
  • "Nur ein Lächeln" (1979)
  • "Udo '80" (1979)
  • "Meine Lieder sind wie Hände – Live" (1980)
  • "Leave a Little Love" (1981)
  • "Willkommen in meinem Leben" (1981)
  • "Silberstreifen" (1982)
  • "Udo Live – Lust am Leben" (1982)
  • "Traumtänzer" (1983)
  • "Hautnah" (1984)
  • "Udo live und hautnah" (1985)
  • "Treibjagd" (1985)
  • "Deinetwegen" (1986)
  • "Udo Live '87" (1987)
  • "Das blaue Album" (1988)
  • "Sogar Engel brauchen Glück" (best-of compilation including five remakes) (1989)
  • "Ohne Maske" (1989)
  • "Live ohne Maske" (1990)
  • "Sempre Roma" (football world championship) (1990)
  • "Das Traumschiff" (instrumental soundtrack) (1990)
  • "Geradeaus" (1991)
  • "Open Air Symphony" (1992)
  • "Café Größenwahn" (1993)
  • "Aber bitte mit Sahne" (hits compilation including a new song and two remakes) (1994)
  • "140 Tage Café Größenwahn Tour 94/95" (1995)
  • "Zärtlicher Chaot" (1995)
  • "Gestern-Heute-Morgen" (1996)
  • "Gestern-Heute-Morgen – Live '97" (1997)
  • "Aber bitte mit Sahne 2" (hits compilation including eight remakes) (1998)
  • "Ich werde da sein" (1999)
  • "Mit 66 Jahren (Was wichtig ist)" (2000)
  • "Mit 66 Jahren – Live 2001" (2001)
  • "Es lebe das Laster" (2002)
  • "Es werde Licht" (2003)
  • "Es Lebe das Laster – Udo Live" (2004)
  • "Jetzt oder nie" (2005)
  • "Der Solo-Abend – Live am Gendarmenmarkt" (2005)
  • "Jetzt oder nie – Live 2006" (2006)
  • "Einfach ich" (2008)
  • "Einfach ich – Live 2009" (2009)
  • "Best Of" (including a remake live by MTV Unplugged) (2009)
  • "Der ganz normale Wahnsinn" (2011)
  • "Der Mann mit dem Fagott" (soundtrack to his own film) (2011)
  • "Der ganz normale Wahnsinn – Live" (2012)
  • "Mitten im Leben" (2014)
  • "Udo Jürgens Live – Das letzte Konzert Zürich 2014 mit dem Orchester Pepe Lienhard" (new live album recorded at his last concert of his last tour, 7 December 2014, only two weeks before he died) (2015)
  • "Merci, Udo!" (2016)
  • "Merci, Udo! 2" (2017)
  • "Da Capo - 3 CD Box" (2022)
  • "Die schönsten Lieder zur Weihnachtszeit" (2023)

Selected filmography[edit]

As himself


Film adaptations


  1. ^ Jan Meyer-Veden (29 July 2004). "Philosophische Hilfestellungen (159. Folge). Diesmal für: Udo Jürgens, Selbstdarsteller". Lebensart (in German). Zeit Online. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  2. ^ Udo Jürgens ist jetzt Schweizer, blick.ch. 28 February 2007. (in German)
  3. ^ Dave Thompson. "Udo Jürgens Biography". All Music Guide. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  4. ^ "1950 - 1959". Udo Jürgens Fan-Site (in German). Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  5. ^ "German Music: Udo Jurgens". World Languages and Cultures - Germans. Vistawide.com. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 206. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  7. ^ "Spiel mir das Lied von der Schmach". stern.de (in German). 10 June 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  8. ^ "Udo Jürgens (1934-2014) über das Leben, Eheuntauglichkeit und politische Scharlatane". www.profil.at (in German). 22 December 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2024.
  9. ^ "THE SUPREMES LIVE WITH UDO JURGENS 1977 - Mp3 Download (3.65 MB)". stafaband.info. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  10. ^ Sinay, Javier. "Los Rolling Stones en Argentina: cómo fue su primera visita en 1995". La Nacion. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  11. ^ "German Chartblog: 2nd of Jan 2015: First List of the Year". Germanchartblog.blogspot.de. 25 September 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  12. ^ "Merci Cherie". SecondHandSongs.com. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  13. ^ Richard Moore. "Matt Uncovered - The Rarer Monro". MintAudioRestoration.com. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  14. ^ William Ruhlmann. "Come Share The Wine". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  15. ^ Joe Marchese (7 July 2016). "Try A Little Tenderness: Morello Reissues Four From Marty Robbins". TheSecondDisc.com. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  16. ^ "Wie Udo Jürgens starb und warum sein Herz versagte".
  17. ^ "Finale: Tribute für Udo Jürgens". Eurovision Song Contest Vienna 2015. ORF. Archived from the original on 26 March 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  18. ^ "Eurovision Village zollt Udo Jürgens Tribut". Vienna Online. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Conchita Wurst & a magical bridge to open the Eurovision Final". eurovision.tv. 29 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2020.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Winner of the Eurovision Song Contest
Succeeded by
Preceded by Austria in the Eurovision Song Contest
"Warum nur warum?"(1964)
and "Sag ihr, ich lass sie grüßen"(1965)
with "Merci, Chérie"(1966)
Succeeded by