Austrian music before 1966

The origins of Austrian popmusic can traced back to the 19th Century. It was a period when the first cracks appeared in the untill then so powerful Habsburg empire. By 1848 the huge Austrian empire stretched for the better part of Eastern Europe and to control that counsellor  Metternich and Emperor Ferdinand I installed a police state.  Emperor Franz Joseph. Was confronted with revolution and separatist tendencies (especially in Lombardy and Hungary) which he suppressed by military force. The upcoming industrialization made people flock to the newly industrialized cities. Social upheaval led to increased strife in ethnically mixed cities, leading to mass nationalist movements. In this situation satirical theater emerged around Vienna.

Pioneers were Johann Nestroy and Ferdinand Raimund who made songs with often politically and socially critical undertone. Around 1850 the so called ‘Wienerlied’ emerged. Usually telling tales of the new urban city live during the industrialisation wave. A well known song from that period is ‘Die Reblaus’. In the interbellum between the two wars the Austrian cabaret was kept alive by Swiss duo Pirron and Knapp. Their texts were written in Austrian dialect. But being at the centrepoint of two World Wars, a huge depression, the Austrian Civil War of 1934 and a socialist pro-German rule that did not take lightly to Austrian dialect it took until the end of the 1950’s when a new wave of dialect popular music emerged, commonly referred to as Austropop.

One of the first artist to gain big success was singer Udo Jürgens. Mixing French chanson, Napolitean styled music and schlager he had a golden formula for that time. In 1960 his composition ‘Reach for the Stars’ became Shirley Bassey’s first worldwide hit. He himself joined the Eurovision three times and gave Austria it’s only winning year in 1966 with ‘Mercie Cheri’. Later he turned more to the much more lucrative German schlager market.





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