There was definitely something about Mary – German singer Mary Roos, that is. Practically every record label recognised her talent and gave her a chance, but despite recording in a range of styles, she failed to live up to her sales potential. In 1970, however, she made her real breakthrough to become one of Germany’s top stars.
She was born Rosemarie Schwab in Bingen on 9 January 1949, and grew up entertaining guests in her parents’ hotel. In 1958, at the age of just nine, she released her first record, Ja die Dicken sind ja so gemütlich, on the Metronome label, and appeared in her first film, Die Straße, as Rosemarie.
She switched to Polydor and then to the Bella Musica label in 1961, where she took the stage name Mary Roos by inverting her first name. Over the following years, she was signed to a variety of small labels, including Starlet, Victoria and Weltmelodie.
She took part in the 1963 Knokke festival in Belgium, and in 1964, she issued a couple of songs from the soundtrack of the film Nebelmörder. That year, she also took a one-record deal at Intercord, where she released Tausend und ein paar Meilen, before switching to Vogue for another one-off deal, issuing Ich sag ‘no’, Boy.
In 1965, she switched labels – again – this time to CBS. Mama verzeih’ mir, a version of Pardon pour notre amour, became her first release, though the 45 is perhaps more noteworthy for its B-side, the excellent US girl group-styled Geh’
nicht den Weg, arguably one of her best
recordings of the decade.
Just one further release for CBS followed, Money Boy, issued the following year.
A move to the Ariola label in 1966 saw the release of Junge Liebe, before she was invited to take part in that year’s Deutsche Schlager-Festpiele contest, where she found herself competing against the likes of Marion, Brigitt Petry and Lill Lindfors. Norwegian singer Wencke Myhre went on to the win the contest, while Mary finished sixth with Wie der Wind.
She issued just one further release for Ariola, 1967’s Aus dunkelrot wird rosa (the B-side of which was 1000 Worte Liebe, a version of Petula Clark’s The thirty first of June) before, yes, switching labels again. Liebe mit Garantie became her first 45 for EMI Electrola, and was swiftly followed by Fortsetzung folgt, later that same year. She also issued her first LP.
Liebe became her first release of 1968 before she returned to the newly renamed Deutsche Schlager-Wettbewerb to perform Die Welt von morgen. The song had been composed by the future German Mr Eurovision, Ralf Siegel, and remains their only collaboration. However, it didn’t make it through to the final round. (Swedish singer Siw Malmkvist won that year.)
Zwischen heute und morgen and an LP, Die kleine Stadt will schlafen geh’n, followed later in 1968, but neither troubled chart compilers.
A new year came and with it a new record contract. The move to CBS marked the beginning of a new, more successful period for Mary. Her first single for the new label, the Schlager-by-numbers Das hat die Welt noch nicht erlebt, gave the singer her first top 20 hit, reaching number 19 in the spring of 1969.
However, any optimism was nipped in the bud when the follow up, Ich bin glücklich, a cover of British singer Lulu’s Are you ready for love, which had finished fifth in the UK national final to select a Eurovision song contest entry in 1969 and which Mary also recorded in English, failed to score. Even another appearance at the Deutsche Schlager-Wettbewerb, with Alles rutscht mir aus den Händen, didn’t help matters. The song finished equal tenth, behind entries by France Gall, Pat Simon and Bonny St Claire.
On a personal level, things were going well for Mary. She had just married Frenchman Pierre Scardin, who went on to became her manager, but professionally things were looking pretty dire. Further flops – Verliebt in dich and Die Legende der Liebe (her entry to the Grand prix RTL international song festival), both issued in 1969 – began to cast a shadow over her future with CBS.
She was granted a reprieve when Das ist das Beste an dir made the top 40 – albeit for just two weeks – in February 1970. And as a last-minute replacement for singer Edina Pop in the German national final for the 1970 Eurovision song contest, her excellent performance of the so-so Bei jedem Kuss managed to earn her second place, behind Katja Ebstein, and succeeded in maintaining her profile with record buyers.
Then things really began to look up for Mary. Her big breakthrough came in the summer of 1970 with the Giorgio Moroder-penned Moog-fest Arizona Man, which she took into the top ten in the German charts. An album was quickly issued, which included Sing nochmal dieses Lied (a cover of Mama Cass’s Make your own kind of music) and Blauer Montag (a version of Jorge Ben’s Más que nada, and now something of a must-have for German lounge fans), amongst others.
Within a year, she was given her first TV show, Mary’s music, and in 1972 she represented Germany at the Eurovision song contest with Nur die Liebe lässt uns leben. She wasn’t convinced of the song’s chances of winning, but another sterling performance secured her a respectable third place. (Vicky Leandros won that year.) Interestingly, the flip, Die Liebe kommt leis’, is a version of The Supremes’ You can’t hurry love.
In the early 1970s, Mary became almost as popular in France as she was in her homeland. She recorded several albums in French and became the only German to play at Paris’ Olympia, which she sold out for several weeks on end.
She also became the only German ever to guest on the Muppet show.
In the mid-1970s, she divorced Pierre Scardin and married singer-songwriter Werner Böhm. And when her record sales began to falter, she switched labels again, first to Polydor and then in 1979 to Hansa, where she scored a big hit with Ich werde geh’n heute Nacht, a cover of Cliff Richard’s We don’t talk anymore.
In 1984, she enjoyed something a comeback with Aufrecht geh’n, a tale of a woman coming out strong after the break up of a relationship, which was chosen as the German entry to the Eurovision song contest. Though it finished a disappointing 13th, the song had taken on an extra resonance for Mary, who had recently split from Böhm after discovering that another woman was expecting his child.
It proved her last significant German hit until, in 1998, she covered Cher’s worldwide smash Believe (as Leider lieb’ ich dich immer noch), and enjoyed a return to the German charts.
She continues to perform and record to this day.
With thanks to Jens Keller for additional sound files.