If the name “Little Peggy March” sounds familiar at all, it is probably due to the one-hit wonder status she holds in the states. Her talent in singing was discovered at a very young age and found herself recording music at as young as thirteen years old. At the age of fourteen, she recorded and released “I Will Follow Him”, which gave her immediate smash success and peaked at #1 for three weeks in 1963. It also reached the top spot in a number of other countries around the world, which set her on a firm path to superstardom right away. Unfortunately, the song and its subsequent does demonstrate how closely March remained tied to her particular era of pop music. In other words, since the following year would usher in the British Invasion and a multitude of new sounds and styles from across the pond, upbeat teen pop anthems about young romance suddenly seemed antiquated and out of touch. This – along with financial problems involving her manager’s mishandling of her money – left Peggy March in a tight spot with nowhere to run in the increasingly changing atmosphere of American pop music.
As a result, she took her business over to the European market. Although her albums proved to be commercially unsuccessful in the US, she nonetheless built up a strong European following through a string of singles she recorded in German. This particular single, “Mit 17 hat man noch Träume”, peaked at #2 on the German pop charts and set off a consistent series of top 40 singles for the country. She continued to perform remarkably well throughout the rest of the 60s and even all the way through the entirety of the 70s. She found her knack in German schlager music, going as far as representing the country in the 1969 Eurovision contest and placing second. Finding out about her success post-“I Will Follow Him” is one of my favorite discoveries as of late. I’m so happy to learn that the success of this obviously talented young lady did not just begin and end with that single (which I don’t find all that great to begin with, to be honest).
On the contrary, if there were any song that I would want to best represent what March has to offer the world “Mit 17 hat man noch Träume” would be it. Upon first listen, it seems like little more than a gentle, straight-forward soft pop ballad, largely driven by a strumming guitar, swirling violins, and March’s own belting voice, of course. The translation of the song, however, elevates it to something a bit more special. The title alone translates to, “At seventeen, one still has dreams”, which should already note just how sad the rest of the song has the potential to be. The second stanza alone really hits to the core, translating to, “At seventeen, one can still hope / Because the paths are still open / In the sky of love”. Generally speaking, it’s a song about the fleeting motivations and enthusiasm of young people, who have the whole world ahead of them but whose paths inevitable get slimmer and slimmer the older they get. There are quite a few other great lines in this one, but to point them all out would essentially be discussing every line of this song. But I think that some of the most poignant lines are the ones that translate to, “With the years, one will find out / That many dreams fade / But when one is young… / Who thinks about that?”. The naivety and bright-eyed nature of youth is a very specific trait that many older adults spend the rest of their lives trying to chase down. As children, it was something that came by so easily, with little to no effort, and seemed so embedded to the experience that the person wouldn’t even acknowledge it as a factor until it has slipped from their grasp years later.
Overall, it’s quite a melancholic look at the disillusionment that comes with adulthood, from the perspective of an adult looking back on the innocence that was so taken for granted. It is especially noteworthy that March is, at this point, coming off the heels of a promising career as a child that ultimately went nowhere in the US market. As quiet as she is for the majority of this recording, she deliveries other parts with such fiery passion that seems to come completely naturally. I’m really happy that she found her footing with simple German pop hits like these, as its clear she sounds far more comfortable here than she ever did in the entirety of “I Will Follow Him”. This has me aching to seek out some more German pop recordings from the great Peggy March.