“Wiederseh’n” (Bert Kaempfert/Herbert Rehbein/Milt Gabler)

Perhaps one of the lesser known of all Bert Kaempfert’s “hits” is the melodically dour, yet lyrically ambiguous “Wiederseh’n.” The Germanic title, which translates as “see you again,” obviously recalls Kaempfert’s earlier “Danke Schoen,” which, like “Wiederseh’n,” gets its English-language lyrics from Milt Gabler.

This one, though, harks back even further to an early-fifties composition, “Auf Wiedershen,” written by German composer Eberhard Storch (for his dying wife), and made popular in Germany by singer Rudi Schuricke. In 1952, that song became “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart,” a number-one hit for British vocalist Vera Lynn, remarkably, the first foreign artist to reach the top of the American charts.

There is a sense here that Kaempfert’s American publisher, Hal Fein, was not particularly enamored of the song. He was certainly no fan of Gabler’s lyric-writing capabilities and these lyrics underscore the point. They are really rather heartless: Wiederseh’n, ah wiederseh’n / We’ll meet again…someday / Wiederseh’n, it’s time again / I must go on…my way.” And so on…

Fein did not try particularly hard with this one. But, somehow, he landed “Wiederseh’n” in 1966 with “Spanish Eyes” hitmaker Al Martino. Arranger Belford Hendricks gave the song a groovy spin that H.B. Barnum often brought to so many David Axelrod productions of the time. It seems to have worked. Martino scored a surprise hit with it. “Wiederseh’n” managed to reach number 57 on the Hot 100 and number three on the Easy Listening chart.

Bert Kaempfert, who is credited along with Herbert Rehbein for the “Wiederseh’n” melody, recorded the song as an instrumental for his 1966 album Bye Bye Blues. And while that version of the song was never issued as a single, it is, however remarkably, included on the Gold-selling album Bert Kaempfert’s Greatest Hits (also issued in 1966).

Few others picked up on “Wiederseh’n,” but the song was covered by Billy Vaughn, Wayne Newton, Guy Lombardo and Vic Dana. None of these were ever issued as singles, but “Danke Shoen” hitmaker Wayne Newton’s version of “Wiederseh’n” landed on the singer’s The Best of Wayne Newton (1967), likely due to Martino’s success with the tune.

The German singer Ivo Robić also covered the song, along with the Kaempfert orchestra, this time with German lyrics by Kurt Schwabach and Willi Carsten, as the flip-side to his single of Kaempfert’s “Strangers in the Night,” (“Fremde in der Nacht”).