Danish singer Gitte was the most successful of the Scandinavian girls in Germany in the 1960s. She enjoyed hit after hit throughout the decade and became the mistress of reinvention in later years, including with the addition of a surname, Hænning.
She was born in Århus, Denmark’s second city, on 29 June 1946. Her first record was a duet with her father, Otto Johansson, in 1954. By 1958 she was the most popular child star in Scandinavia and had appeared on television, in films and on stage.
She began recording in German a year later but it wasn’t until 1963 that her career took off when she won the Deutsche Schlager-Festspiele contest with Ich will ‘nen Cowboy als Mann. The song topped the charts and sold over 800,000 copies.
Girls across the country mimicked her hair and clothes and she was taken to the nation’s bosom.
When she was paired with established star Rex Gildo the duo was deemed Germany’s dream couple (though, in reality, she provided the closeted gay star with little more than a ‘beard’).
Vom Stadtpark die Laternen, released in September 1963, went to number one in the German charts.
The song set the saccharine tone for the couple’s releases over the coming years, including 1964’s Zwei auf einer Bank, Jetzt dreht die Welt sich nur um dich and Hokuspokus and 1965’s Dein Glück ist mein Glück and Süß wie Schokolade.
Such was Gitte’s popularity that she was whisked off to London’s famous Abbey Road Studios to record with top British producer Ivor Raymonde, the man behind many of Dusty Springfield’s hits. However, the release in Britain of The heart that you break (may be your own) in 1965 fell flat.
By 1966 her coupling with Rex Gildo had lost some of its lustre and Gitte struck out in favour of a solo career and a more contemporary sound.
The move saw her back in the top 20 with songs such as Man muß schließlich auch mal ‘nein’ sagen könn’n and Ich mach’ Protest. In 1967 she released one of the first concept albums. Each song on Jeder Boy ist anders told the story of a different suitor.
Weiße Rosen, issued in the autumn of 1969, was her last hit of the decade.
She continued to reinvent herself throughout the 1970s and 1980s, each time enjoying another batch of hits.
In 1973 she represented Germany at the Eurovision song contest with Junger Tag and in the late 1970s she dabbled with disco. In the early 1980s and with the addition of a surname – Hænning – she took on the role of emancipated woman with hits such as Freu dich bloß nicht zu früh (a cover of Marti Webb’s Take that look off your face), Die Frau, die dich liebt (Barbra Streisand’s Woman in love) and Lampenfieber.
She continues to perform today, and often appears with fellow Scandinavian 1960s stars Siw Malmkvist and Wenche Myhre.