Somebody notified me that although I am Scandinavian, most of my writings here have been about internationally well-known singers and performers. And “why don’t I write about any Scandinavian singers??”. Well, I hereby do exactly that – and I thought it a good opportunity to spotlight the fabulous career of the great Danish singer Gitte Haenning (spelled Hænning in Scandinavia, but I will stick to using the international label here…).

Gitte at sweet 16, and already eight years into her career...

Gitte at sweet 16, and already eight years into her career…

It is, incredible to believe – but true, it was 60 years ago this year since the then 8 year old Gitte first stepped into a recording studio and made her first record. A duet with her father, Otto – it was a cute little novelty called “Giftes med farmand” (“I wanna marry daddy” approximately). That was the start of an incredible career that has led to her being one of the absolute greatest of Danish stars, and also Denmark’s biggest export in the music field, especially in Germany where Gitte is a true superstar. She is first and foremost a singer, and does pop and jazz equally well. Added to that, she has acted in movies, been on numerous television shows, she has performed in the Eurovision Song Contest outtakes for no less than three different countries (Denmark, Germany and Luxemburg) and also participated in the 2012 season of the German edition of “Dancing with the stars”, pulling out of the competition due to her sister’s death.

A blond beauty and some mink... An eternally successful combination, and here used for Gitte in the late 60's

A blond beauty and some mink… An eternally successful combination, and here used for Gitte in the late 60’s

Gitte started out recording in Danish, and later on she also cut records singing in German, Italian, Swedish, Finnish and Dutch. Her first records were aimed squarely at young record buyers, and she did quite a lot of girl-group sounding singles. But still, even as early as 1968 she made her first great jazz album with the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band – showing off her talent for jazz and probably surprising a lot of listeners as she was just 21 when the record was made. Already a seasoned performer with a lot of experience, she proved herself very favourably on this album.

"My Kind Of World"; 1968 saw Gitte move from pop to jazz

“My Kind Of World”; 1968 saw Gitte move from pop to jazz

For a complete list of all of Gitte’s recordings – check out the great website – which contains most of what you would need to know about the lady…..  By the time she had reached the age of 20, she had achieved 5 number one records in three different countries (1 in Denmark, 2 in Sweden and 2 in Germany). She had also teamed up with German schlagerstar Rex Gildo, and as “Gitte & Rex” the duo also racked up several more hits, some of them taken from the films Gitte acted in.

"Gitte & Rex", a photo from the mid-60's

“Gitte & Rex”, a photo from the mid-60’s

Gitte in the Eurovision Song Contest: In 1962 Gitte was chosen as Denmark’s entry in the ESC, with the song “Jeg snakker med mig selv” (“Talking to myself”). The rules stated that none of the competing songs were to be publicly performed before the competition. Then it turned out that the song’s composer had actually whistled the tune in a restaurant (considered public), and so the song was disqualified and Gitte had to withdraw from the stakes that year! In 1973 she was chosen as Germany’s representative, and performed “Junger Tag” on their behalf – ending in 8th Place in the compettion. The song turned into a big hit in Germany, and Gitte performs it in her concerts to this very day. She was also the third Scandinavian singer to represent Germany in the ESC, after Norway’s Wencke Myhre sang “Ein Hoch der Liebe” in 1968 and Sweden’s Siw Malmkvist did “Primaballerina” in 1969 (and tied for the 9th place with….. Sweden’s Tommy Körberg!) In 1978 she competed in the stakes for Luxembourg with the song “Rien Qu’une Femme” but was beaten by Spanish disco duo Baccara and their song “Parlez-vous francais”.

Gitte on stage in the late 1970's

Gitte on stage in the late 1970’s

The Gitte Haenning voice: Making your first record at age 8, you naturally sound like a child. This child however, was rhythmicly secure, had spot on vocals and was obviously very musical and talented even that early. She quickly developed into a young girl singer with a flexible and warm voice, that sounded equally at home singing up-tempo novelties or ballads. As an adult, Gitte has found her own, unique style: her voice has the honeyed tones that convey a lot of feeling without making great efforts to put the emotions across – she never makes it sound like she’s working up a sweat to get the message through. Her voice is very strong, but as she has learned the great art of understatement, she only occasionally will raise her voice in a song – at just the right moment – as to underline the lyrics. She can indeed “belt-it-out”, but rarely does…. She also has great breath control, and can hold very long notes if needed, and thank God; she never fell for that awful trick of audibly breathing on record (which some young singers today do, thinking it sounds “sexy” – it is not!!) The Gitte Haennning discography is vast and varied, and singling out a favorite album might be difficult, as she has recorded in several different languages and different styles. Her entire output 1958-65 was boxed up some years ago and “Gitte – Den Komplette Popboks” is obviously the best place to start if you want to listen to this singer during her formative years. You get 93 songs, mostly sung in Danish or German but also containing recordings done in English, Finnish and Dutch.

"Den Komplette Popboks 1958-65", a great collection of early Gitte Haenning

“Den Komplette Popboks 1958-65”, a great collection of early Gitte Haenning

In 1980, Gitte recorded a complete version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Tell Me On A Sunday” in German, and “Bleib Noch Bis Zum Sonntag” is certainly a highlight in Gitte’s recorded output! It was also included in its entirety in the Box Set “Die Grossen Erfolge der 80er“, along with two of her other fabulous albums of the 80’s; “Ungeschminkt” (1982) and “Behrürungen” (1983). Together, these three albums show her off as one of the best adult pop singers of the 1980’s – and you’ll find a lot of her biggest German hits on them too! And one of the bonus tracks is her stunning version of “Mac Arthur Park”.

3 of her best albums of the 80's was also boxed...

3 of her best albums of the 80’s was also boxed…

In the early 2000’s, Gitte teamed up with her Scandinavian colleauges Wenche Myhre and Siw Malmkvist for a series of shows, and went on tour. It was a great success, and the shows were sold out wherever they went. Combining the talents of three different “divas” who all have their own unique style, hits and voices might prove a challenge to any arranger – but this time the combination clicked very well. Their performance was put out on an album, titled “Gitte, Wencke, Siw – Die Show” came out 2005.

Left to right: Siw, Gitte, Wencke - pictured in 2005

Left to right: Siw, Gitte, Wencke – pictured in 2005

As mentioned earlier, check out Gitte’s web site for a complete list of all her records, as they are too many to go into detail about. And by all means – get some of her records, they are all worth searching out! The little girl who started out 60 years ago, has used these 60 years to develop her unique talent and claiming her position as one of Europe’s most versatile and finest singers. Gitte Haenning is one very good reason to be proud of being a Scandinavian – kinda makes me wanna shout out  “Look what we can do up here!”.

A fairly recent photo of the great Gitte Haenning

A fairly recent photo of the great Gitte Haenning