German Sängerin and Eurovision contestant Joy Fleming passed away this week. Möge sie im Frieden ruhen. In her honor, I feature her entry for Eurovision 1975: Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein. It also happens to be one of my favorite Eurovision songs — Schlager with soul!
In English, it means: “A Song Can Be a Bridge”. But the official English version has a different title, as we will see below.
By 1975, many Eurovision participants had preselection contests to choose the song that would represent them. Germany’s Vorentschied followed the ESC model by having juries from its different regions vote on each song. I’ve tried to set the video so it begins right before Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein — but if it doesn’t work for you, just skip ahead to @19:27.
This isn’t my first impression of the song, but it’s the first time I’ve watched the preselection performance. And my focus was on Fleming’s outfit, which she had most likely chosen herself. If she had had more control over her Eurovision appearance, she would have worn something like it. But whoever made the decisions back in 1975 said that a woman in pants would never represent Germany! (I remember this every time I see a woman in pants at Eurovision.)
A costume doesn’t make a song, but what Fleming is wearing here tells us more about Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein than what she had to put on for Eurovision.
Now let’s watch the live version. Here is a clip from the Spanish broadcast that includes the “postcard” at the beginning. The announcer translates the title as La Canción Puede Ser un Puente and tells us that the “morenita” backup singer is Madeline Bell (Link), but doesn’t say anything else about the song. I wish he had, though. There are a few English lyrics at the end, but not every Eurovision viewer understands English.
Like Norway’s Voi Voi from last week (Link), the live version of Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein sounds so familiar. It’s already an old favorite, but the very first time I heard it, I felt I known it for years. Now I think it’s because the arrangement reminded me of Jimmy Ruffin’s What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (Link) — another song I love. But the similarity ends there. Lyrically, they are very different.
Schau auf dein leben
Was hat es gegeben?
Jahre, die drehen sich nur im Kreis
Du möchtest dich ändern
Doch niemand zerbricht das Eis
Dann sprichst du mit Leuten
Die dir nichts bedeuten
Schau ihnen geht es so wie dir
Dabei gibt es noch Wege
Die führen genau zu mir
Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein
Und jeder ton ist wie ein Stein
Er macht dich stark und fest
Du kannst darüber gehen, andere verstehen
Ein lied kann eine Brücke sein
Hab’ etwas mut und stimm’ mit ein
Und ist dein herz bereit?
Komm’ über diese Brücke, her aus deiner Einsamkeit
Hör auf zu spielen und lerne zu fühlen
Wie viele menschen freunde sind
Lerne zu singen
Vertrauen so wie ein kind
Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein . . .
“A song can be a bridge . . .” What a theme for the Eurovision Song Contest!
If you know a little German — or a little of another Germanic language — how much more can you understand from the lyrics?
Lost (and Found) in Translation
Today I listen to the English version — A Bridge of Love — for the first time. Please join me!
Was it what you were expecting? Like many “international versions” from the 1970s, it’s a very liberal translation. The idea was to keep the main meaning of the song, but use more natural-sounding expressions in the other language. So instead of saying that someone’s “Jahre . . . drehen sich nur im Kreis” (years only go around in circles), the first English verse says he is “wheeling and dealing/ Without really knowing why.” The German subject mopes around more than his English counterpart, but they’re more or less the same subject.
Where I think the English version fails is the chorus. The German original explains exactly how a song can be a bridge. For instance: “Du kannst darüber gehen, andere verstehen” — You can cross it (and) understand someone else. In contrast, the English version focuses on the imagery of a “bridge of love.” It stretches “across the sea” and “from land to land . . . like a friendly outstretched hand.” I don’t mind that it’s so corny, but I’m sad that it loses the original meaning. The bridge isn’t love; the bridge is a song. And as we all know, a song can make you strong, give you courage, and help you get along with others. If there is a bridge of love somewhere, that’s probably because someone first wrote a song to build it!
Again, it’s too early for the televote, so let’s pretend we’re all jury members. You already know that I love Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein. Now tell me what you think!