The mystery of Eurovision 1985 artist Roger Bens solved?
The curious case of Roger Bens was something I first came across back in 2016.
I had just attended my first every Eurovision in Stockholm and through meeting other fans, I came to realise my depth of knowledge beyond this century was somewhat lacking.
I decided to revisit old editions of the Contest starting in the decade of my birth, the 1980s.
The decade perhaps doesn't get the love it deserves from fans, there are some absolute gems among the big hair and 80s fashion.
One such song that I immediately fell for was the 1985 entry from France: 'Femme Dans Ses Rêves Aussi' by Roger Bens.
The song finished in 10th place out of the 19 competitors.
I personally believe he was robbed and deserved much higher, but at least the Greek and Italian juries had taste giving him 12 points and 10 points respectively.
Back in 2016, I gave a cursory google search to try and find Roger Bens but without any lucky and gave it little thought.
However, over the years though, I fell more in love with the song. I bought the vinyl and it appears regularly in my ESC250 Top 10 songs of all time votes.
As my love for the song grew, so did my interest to find out what happened to Roger Bens.
The search for Roger Bens
A look through the comments of any Roger Bens video or article tends to always feature comments like this:
Great singer where is he today no info on him!
Roger Bens is missing and why isn't anyone looking for him?
Ou est Roger Bens?
Who knows what happened to roger?
There is just no online footprint of him anywhere and even French people don't know what became of him. Would love to know if there's any truth in that one
On top of these questions, there have been numerous and unsubstantiated claims that Roger Bens had sadly died.
I needed to find out the answer to where he was and if he was even alive?
First stop: his composer
We didn't know a lot about Roger but we did know who he worked with on his Eurovision entry.
The composer for his song was Didier Pascalis and this is confirmed on the back of his song's vinyl.
After some searching I tracked him down to ask him if he knew what happened to Roger. His response was:
"I don’t know what happened to Roger Bens. He left me after Eurovision. I know he was trying to make a career, but he obviously didn’t make it. This is the life."
This is the life indeed.... no luck there.
His career before Eurovision
Through more searching I found out that he had competed in the French national final in 1984 as part of a duo, Victoire. Their song 'On ne rock pas, On ne est pas jazz' finished in 6th place that year.
It was a promising lead if I could track down his duet partner. However, after much searching, I could not locate him or even his name, so that unfortunately led down another dead end.
A date of birth breakthrough?
The belief, through unsourced wikipedia articles, was that he was born in Paris in 1958 but we had no firm details.
However, that changed with the discovery of the newspaper clipping above.
Despite much searching I had not come across this article (that was posted online in 2018), until this week.
The French translation states that he was from Fontenay-sous-Bois (a district of Paris) and would be turning 27 on May 25 of that Eurovision year. This would have his date of birth of 27 May 1958.
So what could we do with this information? Well... without being too morbid, we could find out if the rumours were true and if he had indeed passed away.
The French death records are somewhat easy to access and search, and with an exact date of birth this would give us the answer we need.
Following numerous searches to his name and those similar we could find no death record of someone with that date of birth.
Of course, Roger Bens could be a stage name, but unless it was completely different, there was nothing we could find, so it was unlikely, but not impossible, that he has passed away.
So if Roger Bens is alive, where the bloody hell is he?
Other than some promising white pages leads to a Roger Bens in Paris, I still didn't have a firm understanding of where he was and what he was doing and still didn't even have 100% confirmation he was even alive.
That was until I stumbled across a Facebook post from a businessman from Sweden.
In all my searching of social media, posts, videos, articles and using a LOT of google translate, I had never seen the Facebook post from Carsten Billeschou.
But in the depth of a few hours of searching, I came across his post from October, 2017:
"My taxi driver in Paris this afternoon happens to be Roger Bens who performed the French contribution to Eurovision song contest in Gothenburg 1985, great guy, we are having a ball."
I couldn't quite believe my eyes, was it definitely true and had the answer been sitting there for five years??
I had to reach out to Carsten, I sent him a direct message and hoped he would see it and come back to me.
He responded within 24 hours and confirmed that he had indeed, met the mysterious missing Roger Bens.
He told me that:
"Yes some years ago on a business trip to France I took a taxi from the airport to the city and he was the taxi driver, he told me his story and his life, he seemed like a very nice guy, I think he was interested in flying and had a certificate to fly small airplanes."
"[The] Reason why we started talking about it was that when he participated it was in Gothenburg Sweden and I live there... he played the song and sang to it, no doubt whatsoever it was him."
So the mystery is somewhat solved!
Although we have not spoken to Roger, we feel confident in Carsten's account and that the French artist is (or at least was) alive and well and simply living a normal existence in Paris.
For a man who would now be 64 years old, it's not that unusual for him to not have an obvious online footprint.
And in a case like this it's only a chance encounter that has led to this discovery.
Thousands and thousands of artists have graced the Eurovision stage since the Contest first began in 1956.
Some go on to become global superstars like ABBA and Celine Dion while many others slip back into normal life despite being incredibly talented artists.
I do hope to one day interview or talk to Roger to find out more about his Eurovision story and beyond, but at least fans can be confident that he did not meet an untimely death!
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