Eurovision Song of the Week: Straatdeuntje (Belgium, 1957)

Eurovision 1957 had several “songs about songs.” In Austria’s Wohin, kleines Pony (Where to, Little Pony), the singer rides out with both a pony and a song (Link). And in France’s La Belle Amour (The Beautiful Love), the singer daringly declares that her own song will be in every heart forever (Link). But Belgium’s Straatdeuntje (Street Tune) is the best of this set.

Langs de straten danst er een deuntje . . .

Along the streets a tune is dancing . . . Before Bobbejaan Schoepen starts singing, he whistles. We hear the dancing deuntje before we hear about it. This is a very good start to the song — and the song is a good start to the contest. For the second year in a row, the ESC opening song is in Dutch; but I think it’s just a coincidence.

Straatdeuntje is so simple that it’s almost childlike. We have fun imagery, like the tune dancing in the street, playing in the trees, and darting in the wind. The melody doesn’t develop much, but there is a story with a beginning and end. At the start, Schoepen meets the tune for the first time; by the end, he hopes they will always be friends. And the song on the stage is as eager to make friends as the song in the story.

“Het klopt op de ruiten/ Fraagt: ‘Laat mij erin’ . . .”

It knocks on the windows/ Asks: “Let me in” . . . The aardige deuntje is very active little character. Twice in the song we hear that it doesn’t want to remain simply a Straatdeuntje, but also wants to enter people’s homes. We don’t know if anyone opens a window for it, but we do know that millions of people all over Europe turned on their televisions for it. The humble street tune was really a grand Eurovision song in disguise! But when the composers wrote the line, “‘t Is of een zonnestraal/ Doordringt met dat aardige deuntje/ Tot in het kleinst portaal” — It’s as if a sunbeam penetrates with the pretty tune into the smallest portal — were they consciously making a metaphor for television?

This lyric, whether it was truly clever or just accidental, is the reason I chose to review Staatdeuntje over the actual winner of ESC 1957. It changes the Belgian entry from merely another “song about a song” into a song about all Eurovision songs.

1957 Voting and Results

It was only the second year of the Eurovision Song Competition, and already the voting system was different. Each country had ten jury members, who could each give one point to his favorite song. For instance, two members of the German jury really liked Straatdeuntje, though the majority voted for France’s La Belle Amour (Source).

Straatdeuntje isn’t my favorite from 1957. I prefer the other Dutch song, Net Als Toen (Just Like Then) from the Netherlands (Link). And the jury members mostly agreed with me: At the end of the night, Net Als Toen was the winner, while Straatdeuntje was in eighth place. Perhaps I will review the former song in the future, when this series circles back to 1957. Over sixty years later, its theme of longing for a sweeter past reflects Eurovision as much as the “songs about songs” do.

In the meantime, please share your own thoughts on Straatdeuntje in a comment. I’d love to read your opinion!

Would you have voted for Straatdeuntje in Eurovision 1957?

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