Despite coming at the charts from many different angles and in no less than five different languages, major success eluded German-based popster Daniela. Even an appearance at the 1969 Schlager-Wettbewerb couldn’t propel the young singer into the German charts.
Danica Daniela Milatovic was born on 13 December 1949 in Munich. Her family originates from Montenegro, then part of Yugoslavia.
As a child, young Daniela learned to play the piano and guitar. She entered several amateur music contests, had a bit part in a Romy Schneider movie and even recorded a nursery rhyme single for an obscure Yugoslavian label.
Her German recording career started in 1965, when the ambitious teenager was signed to Philips. Like most major German labels, Philips had a well-oiled Schlager machinery and constantly hired young talent to sing on its productions, often with little or no input in the material.
Over the next three years, Daniela – who was still just a schoolgirl at the time – would cut three singles for the company, none of which set the world on fire.
Her first attempt, the pleasant Rudi Bauer production Denk noch mal darüber nach wasn’t really suited to the soft-voiced singer.
Bauer also produced the lovelorn ballad Ein wunderbarer Sommer, perhaps her finest moment at Philips, but unfortunately this track ended up as a B-side on her second single, with the run-of-the-mill Schlager ditty Das ist wie ein Paukenschlag on the A-side.
After a third single of similarly light Schlager material, 1967’s Schmück dich nicht mit fremden Federn, her contract with the company ran out.
Daniela returned briefly to her roots and recorded two four-track EPs in Yugoslavia with local beat band Plamenih Pet. Highly sought after by garage fans, these EPs are the direct opposite of her polished German productions.
Highlights include rough cover versions of Nancy Sinatra’s These boots are made for walkin’ and The Beatles’ Things we said today, plus a translated version of Sylvie Vartan’s Ce jour-là, retitled Danas je divan dan.
Back in Germany, Daniela found a new mentor in respected composer, conductor and fellow ex-Yugoslavian Boris Jojic. He saw her potential and went to work on an album for the young singer.
Jojic created a more sophisticated soundscape for Daniela: part beat, part French chanson. The finished album saw her singing in three languages (English, French and German). Songwriters included Eric Charden, Miki Dallon and Daniela herself also wrote (or co-wrote) some numbers. A version of Eric Charden’s ballad Le monde est gris is among the best cuts, along with the jazzy The dreaming room and an upbeat German number, Ich bin wie Wachs in deiner Hand.
However, with Daniela not being signed to any major company at that moment, the LP ended up on the obscure Vibraton label, with an Italian based distribution. Needless to say, her masterpiece sank without a trace.
But if that LP did anything for her career, it was to help her land a contract with Ariola. Her first release for the company was a German version of her Vibraton LP track Le monde est gris, now dubbed Die Welt ist leer, die Welt ist grau. Sadly, die Welt also didn’t care.
Schlager composer Hans Blum was brought in to write some more commercial material, but her next single, the sentimental Die Tränen der ersten Liebe sank like its predecessor.
By 1969 Ariola was desperate for a hit and entered Daniela as a performer for the infamous German Schlager-Wettbewerb, a chance for the singer to gain major TV exposure. Hans Blum, who had won the contest in the previous years with Wencke Myhre’s Beiss nicht gleich in jeden Apfel and Siw Malmkvist’s Harlekin, wrote her entry. However, the song, the rather schlocky oompah Schlager Warum denn gleich auf’s Ganze geh’n?, might have worked for the lively Wencke Myhre, but was less suited for the limited vocal ability of Daniela. Her performance on the night looked insecure and revealed her lack of experience as a live performer. She made an unforgiving last place in the contest and Ariola said thanks, but no thanks, and did not renew her contract.
Daniela, who was still just 18 at the time, was now asked by German film composer Erich Ferstl to lend her vocals to an album of Latin-flavoured songs he had prepared with his orchestra. (Ferstel had adopted the more international moniker Carlos Fendeira for this project.) Ferstel/Fendeira teamed her up black American singer Ann Helstone to form the duo Daniela und Ann.
The result was a truly timeless album of Latin lounge pop, the self-explanatory-titled Samba-soul-beat in black & white. Sung in English and some Spanish, this LP revealed Daniela’s strength as a gentle, Astrud Gilberto-style vocalist.
Standout tracks are the wistful Life is nothing but a dream and the subtle bossa nova of A man and his girlfriend with its gay twist.
But in a case of history repeating itself, Ferstel had difficulties in finding a label for his project. The LP was finally released on the ultra-obscure German Orange label and was hardly distributed or promoted. Over the years the LP became a sought-after rarity amongst lounge music aficionados and fetched a lot of money on auction sites, until it was finally re-released in 2008.
Around the time the Daniela und Ann project folded, Daniela finished school and began to study medicine – perhaps not the worst idea given her no-hit track record in the music industry.
Still, in 1970, BASF gave the singer another chance, a make-over that contained short hair and several multi-coloured dresses and signed her up for three singles produced by future German Eurovision hit maker Ralph Siegel, the man behind Nicole’s 1982 winner, Ein Bißchen Frieden. With Siegel taking over, Daniela found herself back in muddy Schlager territory, but her second single, Im Jahre 2002 (not, sadly, a German version of In the year 2525), actually gained some attention and remains her best-known song. But with little time to do promotion alongside her studies, the single still missed the charts.
Ariola used the opportunity and released the three singles she did for the label two years earlier paired with some German tracks from her flopped Vibraton LP as the ‘new’ LP Meine Melodie ist die Liebe on its budget Somerset label.
Daniela gave Schlager another try with an LP and several singles for RCA in 1972 and 1973 under the direction of German producer/singer Peter Orloff. After a lukewarm response, Daniela finished her studies in medicine and left the music business altogether. She received a doctor’s degree and PhD and now works in medical science.
With thanks to Jens Keller for contributing this profile.