Under the wing of Zurich-based manager Willy Schmid, Israeli singer Carmela Corren became a star in the German-speaking countries. Though she is remembered mostly for her schmaltzy Schlager – notably Eine Rose aus Santa Monica and her 1963 Eurovision song contest entry for Austria, Vielleicht geschieht ein Wunder – she also recorded some cracking pop.
She was born Carmela Bizman on 13 February 1938 in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
She grew up with a passion for dance and began dancing professionally from the age of 15. However, an accident put paid to her hopes of a career as a dancer.
Disappointed, she looked for other options that would allow her to continue to perform, and at 17 she was taken on as a singer in a local theatre, performing as part of an ensemble.
A call to carry out her national service halted her career – though her spell in the army would, in fact, give her career a huge boost. A film crew for US variety show host Ed Sullivan spotted her and she was invited to New York to appear on the show.
Live appearances in London, Madrid, Paris and Rome soon followed, and Carmela Corren – as she was now known – also provided the support act for Cliff Richard on a tour of Africa.
She was spotted by Zurich-based singer-cum-music impresario Willy Schmid and taken under his wing. Through his contacts she was offered a recording contract with the Ariola label.
Sei nicht traurig, geliebte Mama became her first 45. Issued in the autumn of 1961, the song – a translation of a Jewish folk tune – soon made the German charts, reaching number 24.
Its success led to an invitation to take part in the 1962 Deutsche Schlager-Festspiele contest. Her entry, the schmaltzy Eine Rose aus Santa Monica, finished a disappointing eighth. However, German record buyers found her heavily accented delivery charming and the song proved a huge hit. It spent three months in the top ten, peaking at number three.
Further equally sentimental hits followed that year, including Die Nacht ist so schön and Surabaya. (These records also proved popular in neighbouring Holland.)
Her success also led to the offer of a film contract, and Carmela appeared in no less than five films over the following 18 months. Among them were Drei Liebesbriefe aus Tirol, Sein bester Freund and Sing, aber spiel nicht mit mir.
She sustained her recording career during this hectic period. However, an attempt to better her previous performance at the Schlager-Festspiele proved disastrous – Carmela’s Wer in deine Augen sieht was eliminated from the 1963 contest before the final round. A 45 of the song also sold poorly.
Nevertheless, Carmela’s notoriety had reached the ears of bosses at Austrian television station ORF. After a couple of poor placings at the Eurovision song contest, they were looking for an international singer who could improve the country’s fortunes in 1963. Carmela accepted their invitation and flew to host city London to perform Vielleicht geschieht ein Wunder. The song, another sentimental ballad, suited her voice and was in keeping with the kinds of songs that had done well in preceding years. Though not the miracle of the song’s title, Carmela finished a respectable seventh.
Back in Germany, after a chart miss with Drei weiße Segel, Carmela made a triumphant return to form with another rose-themed tune, Rosen haben Dornen. The song reached number eight and spent four months in the charts at the end of that year. It was to prove her last top-ten hit.
Einmal reicht uns das Glück die Hände and the catchy Es kommt alles einmal wieder
managed only to scrape into the German top 30 in 1964.
Abschiednehmen tut so weh returned the singer to the top 20 in 1965, though this proved a temporary blip. Its follow up, Einmal da kommst du wieder, stalled at number 34. (Its B-side, Komm schau mich an, a version of Helen Shapiro’s Look who it is, has remained popular with fans.)
An attempt to win a second appearance at Eurovision – this time for Switzerland – also failed, when neither Eines Tages nor Ay ay lachende Sonne was picked to represent the country.
The problem wasn’t that Carmela’s songs were bad – indeed many had impeccable pedigrees, having been penned by top songwriters such as Christian Bruhn, Georg Buschor and Kurt Hertha – it was just that they were a little outdated and a bit same-y.
Ironically, just as Carmela began to move with the times, Ariola lost interest in her. 1966’s Heut’ oder morgen, a version of Petula Clark’s Round every corner, was, arguably, her best release in a long time. However, it didn’t appeal to her traditional audience and also failed to interest the lucrative teen market.
When it flopped, Carmela’s contract wasn’t renewed. (Good fortune, however, came that year in the form of her wedding to producer Horst Geiger.)
Bosses at the trendier Vogue had spotted what Carmela had been trying to achieve with her last record and figured she still had potential. The excellent Verzeih mir, a version of Italian singer Caterina Caselli’s huge hit Perdono, was issued as Carmela’s debut 45 for the label in 1966.
The equally good Alles war ein Traum, her take on Claude François’ French hit Même si tu revenais, followed in 1967.
When neither Vogue release achieved the hoped-for levels of sales, Carmela was reunited with the roses of her past for Eine glutrote Rose, a version of Greensleeves (of all things).
She switched to Decca in 1968 for the release of Heiß wie die Sonne, a version of Italian singer Riccardo del Turco’s Luglio. However, she was thoroughly beaten by Herman’s Hermits’ version of the song, called Something’s happening, which gave the British group a top-ten hit in both Germany and the UK.
Further singles Ich breche alle Brücken and Im Land der Rosen (yes, roses again) for Decca fared no better.
After divorcing Geiger in 1970, Carmela spent much of the rest of the decade in America, before attempting a comeback in 1979. However, the project was somewhat half-hearted and only a few recordings emerged from the sessions.
Carmela currently lives in Florida.