Boudewijn De Groot

Antiwar songs by Boudewijn De Groot
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Boudewijn De Groot
Boudewijn de Groot, nato in Indonesia nel 1944, è forse il più noto cantautore olandese. Inserisco qui di seguito una sua biografia in inglese ripresa dal suo sito (http://www.boudewijndegroot.nl), sicuramente più accessibile di quella in olandese e in tedesco.

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Boudewijn de Groot was born May 20 1944, in a Japanese prison camp at Batavia, Java, Dutch East Indies (present day Djakarta, Indonesia). His mother died there in June 1945, a year later the remaining family moved to the Netherlands. Boudewijn moved in with his aunt in Haarlem. His brother and sister were located elsewhere as his father had to return to the Dutch East Indies to secure his retirement. In 1951 the family was re-united and, after his father remarried, moved to Heemstede in '52.
The family settled in a road where a friend of Boudewijn's stepbrother lived, a boy named Lennaert Nijgh. Lennaert and Boudewijn did see quite a lot of each other in those years, but never got together. That happened only much later, in the autumn of 1961. Boudewijn played guitar accompanying himself while singing songs of Jaap Fischer and Jacques Brel. It gave him a lot of success on his school, the Coornhert Lyceum in Haarlem, and through a group of boys and girls he came in contact with Lennaert Nijgh, who went to a different school, but belonged to this group of friends going to the Coornhert Lyceum.

After his graduation in 1962 Boudewijn subscribed to the Dutch Film Academy in Amsterdam. Lennaert was also interested in cinematography and together they decided to produce an 8 mm film starring the group of friends just mentioned. In this film Boudewijn sings two songs written by himself, 'Pubertair' (later called 'De kater') and 'Bij het raam', that acquired its title because it was sung underneath a window and Boudewijn had written the song without giving it a title. This 'piece of art' was recorded in the spring and summer of 1962 and was supplied with dialogues, sound effects and music at a later stage, which is remarkable for an 8 mm film. The official first show took place on December 29, 1962. During a later projection, early 1964, at the home of a friend, the newsreader Ed Lautenslager was present, the latter being more impressed by the musical- and writing-talent of the duo than by the movie. He advised them to write more songs, which he, through his relations, would present to the record company Phonogram. A few months later, on May 14 1964, Boudewijn recorded the songs 'Élégie prenatale', 'Strand', 'Sexuele voorlichting' and 'Referein voor...' accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar.

The songs were not very successful, but did not pass unnoticed. During Boudewijn's first public television appearance, in the talent seeking programme 'Nieuwe Oogst', the jury composed of the public was mainly offended by the scandalous text of 'Élégie....', whereas the jury composed of professionals recognised he talent of the duo and rewarded Boudewijn with the first place. The television appearance led to Boudewijn's first appearance before an audience: in a church (The Coal-scuttle) for the Reformed Youth Movement in West Amsterdam for a wage of 25 guilders including travel expenses. It was a rainy night, but without a doubt the start of a brilliant career. Since Wim Ibo asked Boudewijn to perform in his 'Cabaretkroniek' it demonstrates that he was seen as a cabaret performer, and Cobi Schrijer's 'Waagtaverne' in Haarlem became the musical home base for Boudewijn and Lennaert. It is here that the last mentioned would meet his forever unreachable love for whom he would soon write the lyrics of the record "Voor de overlevenden".

Lacking a hit song, being the head of a family, rejected as a camera operator for television, relieved of the obligation of compulsory military service due to being the jobholder: enough reasons to ensure a family income. The income was earned as a warehouse employee at the 'Bijenkorf' in Amsterdam, between October '64 and the summer of '66.
'In between' he could be heard as a disc jockey on the Dutch offshore station Veronica, where he presented, amongst others, a jazz-programme as Marcel Oversteege. The first three financial failures made the record company more or less oblige Boudewijn and Lennaert to head in a more commercial direction. Producer Tony Vos, who unconditionally believed in the talent of the two artists, proposed to translate the English version of Aznavour's song 'Un enfant de seize ans', transformed into the English hit 'A young girl of sixteen' by Noel Harrison. His song arrangement was copied note for note resulting in the song 'Een meisje van zestien'. And with success, although not wholeheartedly as far as Boudewijn was concerned. He and Lennaert were still hooked on chansons, folk and 'being artistic'. Electric guitars, bass guitars and drums were for beat music and that was something totally different. But in October '65 the young girl settled herself for 13 weeks in the hit parade, the big audience discovered Boudewijn de Groot, and along with him Lennaert Nijgh, the two making the dividing line between 'cultural acceptable music' and 'music acceptable to mainstream audiences' disappear.

The next hit song was 'Welterusten, meneer de president', and it marked the moment where Boudewijn could concentrate full-time on writing songs, recording albums and performing. The first album, containing the two previously mentioned songs, sold well above expectation. This album further contained some translated songs of Donovan and Bob Dylan, to which Lennaert added a few more protest songs; it would take Boudewijn an enormous effort for several years to get rid of the title 'protest singer' that he loathed so much. On the other hand it meant that during the same period he became the most popular singer in the Netherlands, which resulted in the carnavalesque number one hit record 'Het Land van Maas en Waal' in the spring of 1967. The lyrics by Lennaert were inspired by the work of Hieronymous Bosch whereas Boudewijn composed the music with the intention to give the song the atmosphere of Bob Dylan's 'Rainy day women #12 & 35'. However song arranger Bert Paige stayed in the European tradition and transformed it into a Dutch carnaval hit song.

The album "Voor de overlevenden" (1966; gold and platinum album, and the Edison award) was generally considered to be Boudewijn's first mature product. It is an album containing classic songs with themes like lost and unreachable loves, ending friendships and lost youth.
Especially the unreachability of that one true love, the grief and the lack of understanding of this grief, as well as the realisation that this phenomenon made all famous artists produce masterpieces, make the lyrics by Lennaert Nijgh on this album literary diamonds which have not been equalled by anyone in the Dutch-linguistic popmusic. This album was also the first album containing solely arrangements made by Bert Paige, who would demonstrate that he was the very best and most all-round in his profession on the next album. Under the influence of the upcoming hippie movement as well as being more or less challenged by the release of the revolutionary album 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', de Groot and Nijgh decided to launch into the phenomenon of psychedelic pop music.

This resulted in the album "Picknick" (1967; gold and platinum album, and the Edison award). The same team that worked on the previous two albums, namely producer Tony Vos, music arranger Bert Paige and sound technician Albert Kos supported the two artists, the budget was ample enough and the atmosphere breathed 'no limits'. This is clearly visible in the arrangements made by Bert Paige, who felt no constraints and tailored the lyrics full of colourful crystals, many-coloured flowers, bells on coats, Hieronymous Bosch once again, sun, honey, singing and dancing, with staggering arrangements. Boudewijn had another top ten hit with 'Meester Prikkebeen', the duet with Elly Nieman, and the underground magazine 'Hitweek' called the album the first real Dutch language pop album. Together with Lennaert, Boudewijn now also wrote songs for other artists, amongst others for Liesbeth List.

In the following year the partnership between Nijgh and de Groot dissolved as Boudewijn embarked on a project together with Lucien Duzee, a former fellow student from the Dutch Film Academy. Together they wrote the script for a kind of radio play entitled 'Heksensabbath'. This epic constitutes the major part of the album "Nacht en ontij", which further contains the song 'Babylon', as well as a short musical intermezzo. Lennaert had written the original lyrics for 'Babylon', but Boudewijn changed them so dramatically that he is mentioned as the lyric writer on the sleeve. The musical intermezzo originated spontaneously in the recording studio, as the studio had a new phenomenon on display: the Mellotron, a keyboard instrument using short tapes consisting of recordings of many instruments, such as strings, wind-instruments, guitar, bass, etc., which could all be evoked by striking the keyboard. This way one could compose a melody or even an accompaniment. In fact it can be regarded as the predecessor of the sampler.
As a marketing gimmick when the album was released it included a bonus single that contained the songs 'Aeneas nu' en 'Wie kan me nog vertellen', both with lyrics by Boudewijn, although for the first song mentioned the same is true as for 'Babylon', namely Lennaert wrote the original lyrics, but Boudewijn amended them so rigorously that he is mentioned as the lyric writer. The song 'Heksensabbath' is filled with symbolism, occult scenes, witches, devils, magicians, kobolds (consequently and wrongly pronounced as kobolts by Boudewijn on the record) and Satan worshippers. It was overloaded with mythical and mystic terms and the Dutch were not buying it. Sales were disappointing compared to the previous albums, although, up till today, a group of hard core fans still cherishes the album as one of their favourites.


The album did not appeal to the broad public, the co-operation with Lennaert ceased to exist, the performances across the country led to frustrations as the public expected the album versions of the songs of Boudewijn's repertoire, but was given a simple guitar accompaniment. In the age of beat music this was not appreciated and led to unsatisfied reactions. This was one of the reasons that Boudewijn decided to leave the Dutch repertoire for what it was and to focus on English beat music. A short farewell tour in 1969 with the group Names and Faces as support band took him around the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium.

In the studio he recorded the English single 'In your life', with a studio-group called The Tower. Eelco Gelling, at that moment the guitarist of Cuby and the Blizzards, played, amongst others, in that band. It was the same band that already had done the accompaniment for 'Heksensabbath'. The single was successful, even made it to the hit parade, however did not result in a successful English language career. A second single with The Tower was a failure, as well as two trials with another studio-group (Session), in which Rick van der Linden, the keyboard-player of the group Ekseption, participated. Despite the lack of success Boudewijn decides to move to Dwingeloo, accompanied by several musicians, and sets himself the goal to set up a band and write English language repertoire. This project was unsuccessful, and after a harsh winter spend in the country side of Drenthe (North -East of the Netherlands) de Groot returns to the Randstad in 1970. He had run out of money, however the record company Phonogram was eager to appoint him as a producer, probably expecting new Dutch language repertoire to be on its way. De Groot settled down in Amsterdam and contacted his old friend Lennaert with the proposal to resume the collaboration. Nijgh agreed and in 1973 the album "Hoe sterk is de eenzame fietser" was released. This album also contained lyrics by Ruud Engelander. He is, amongst others, responsible for the lyrics of the song 'Jimmy', named after Boudewijn's youngest son born in 1972. The song gloriously made it to the hit parade, the album was equally successful and was rewarded with an Edison and with gold and platinum.

As a producer de Groot was responsible for the comeback of artist Rob de Nijs, for whom he and Lennaert wrote the hits 'Jan Klaassen de trompetter' and 'Zuster Ursula'. The song 'Malle Babbe', turned into a hit song by Rob, had originally been written by Nijgh and de Groot for the female singer Adèle Bloemendaal.
De Groot also produced albums for The Blue Diamonds, Frank Kraayeveld of The Bintangs, Oscar Benton, Willeke Alberti and Henny Vrienten, the last mentioned successively used the artist names Ruby Carmichael and Paul Santos while performing in English.

In 1975 Boudewijn encounters another fellow student of the Dutch Film Academy, Renee Daalder, and this again results in an album: "Waar ik woon en wie ik ben". The lyrics for this album were mainly written in an apartment in the centre of aris; the songs were recorded in the brand-new studio owned by Ely van Tijn in Duivendrecht, with participating musicians such as Ernst Jansz, Willem Ennes and Hans Hollestelle. The voices were recorded and mixed in The Village Recorder in Los Angeles, making a young boy's wish come true for Boudewijn: for one month he lived in Hollywood.

"Waar ik woon en wie ik ben" is, along with the album "Maalstroom", the most personal album from Boudewijn's repertoire. On this album Boudewijn puts his past behind him and gives an open-hearted vision on the who, what and where of a 'successful Dutch singer'. In an interview he states that Lennaert (nor any other lyric writer for that matter) was not the entitled person to write these kind of personal lyrics. Only the person concerned could do so, in other words Boudewijn himself.
After a short second stay in the USA, Boudewijn de Groot tours across the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium with a band, selected for this purpose and called the Hieronymous Bosch band, amongst its members we re-encounter the names Ernst Jansz and Henny Vrienten. The tour was completely sold-out.


IIn 1977 de Groot again leaves for Hollywood, this time for a longer period, during his stay he follows a workshop at Dick Grove's School of Music on arranging music. After a year he returns to the Netherlands. In 1979 he tours through the Netherlands and Belgium with a band composed mostly of Flemish musicians. The only survivor of the former support band was Henny Vrienten. A year later the band went to the studio to record the album "Van een afstand". This album includes the song 'Een tip van de sluier', which was the title song to a movie by Frans Bromet, a classmate of Boudewijn at the Dutch Film Academy.

In the summer of that same year, 1980, Boudewijn decided for the fourth time to leave for Hollywood, this time to finish his course on arranging and to complete his education with a workshop on film music. In between he returned once to tour with the musicians that had accompanied him in the studio for years. An album recorded during this tour was released in 1982 entitled "Concert". In 1983 de Groot returned to the Netherlands, this time to stay. In an attempt to enlarge the sales potential of his records Boudewijn released a Germain-language album ("Bo", 1983) which contained remarkable good translations of known, but also of less familiar, pieces of his repertoire. The project is doomed, poor promotion being one reason why, to die without a struggle. In the following year Boudewijn puts together all the misery of a broken relationship, financial problems and artistic confusion in a repertoire of nine very gloomy, dark songs. He personally wrote the lyrics for these songs. The album "Maalstroom" is made up of these songs completed with the melancholy in the song 'Vlucht in de werkelijkheid', the only song with lyrics written by Lennaert. An over-eagerness to do everything himself was the reason the album never stood out clearly, as the raw material is at least very interesting, Boudewijn personally states: 'I still find the songs very beautiful and they do deserve a better treatment'. Evidently the album sold proportionally. The broad public could not listen beyond the darkness, and to say the least the arrangements were not catching enough.

There could well be a link between the failure of "Maalstroom" and the decision of de Groot to quit the business in 1984. In the following period of musical silence he translates novels in the horror genre, amongst others several novels by Stephen King, for publisher Luitingh. But he also puts together a documentary television series on subcultures in the Dutch pop music for the public broadcasting station IKON and he produces the music for several movies by Pim de la Parra, again a fellow student from the Dutch Film Academy ('How to survive a broken heart' with music by his son Marcel, 'De nacht van de wilde ezels' and 'Lost in Amsterdam'). Besides this he also wrote music for two movies by director Paul Ruven. Occasionally he also produced albums for Bram Vermeulen, Rowwen Hèze and The Shooting Party. His work for Pim de la Parra led to Boudewijn being starred in a leading role in his minimal movie 'Let the music dance'.

The musical silence was definitively broken by the musical 'Tsjechov', in which Boudewijn was casted for the leading role. The opening night took place in 1991 in the city theatre of Amsterdam, the musical was very well received. Once more the public tied the name of Boudewijn de Groot to the theatre. The acting in 'Tsjechov' suited Boudewijn and his producers well enough to ask him, in 1995, to play the role of Otto Frank in the theatre piece 'The diary of Anne Frank' by Mies Bouhuys.

Subsequently the time was right to move back to a musical career. From 1996 to 1998 Boudewijn engages on tours through the Netherlands and Belgium with a group of seven selected musicians, amongst others his former pal Ernst Jansz, with the theatre programme "Een nieuwe herfst". The title came from the cd that was released in the spring of 1996, an album arranged and produced by Jacob Klaasse. Tone and timbre of the cd brought back memories of the time Bert Paige was responsible and the public did justice by affectionately embracing Boudewijn again. It led to another album rewarded with gold.


However most noticeable was Lennaert's contribution to the album, as, after many years of silence, he wrote several exquisite lyrics. The duo had not lost their touch, although it took more time and effort than ever to produce the lyrics. The tour lasted for over two seasons and was completely sold-out, the audience was enthusiastic and spanned several generations.
Having received several 'normal' Edison-awards, Boudewijn was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award 'Edison' statue in 1998. Followed a year later by an equally important award: Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion, a nomination he shared with Lennaert Nijgh.

The opening night for a second series of the musical 'Tsjechov', with Boudewijn starring in the leading role again, took place on February 19, 2000.

Two years later another tour, entitled "Andere tijden", was planned involving mainly the same musicians who participated on the tour of 1996. Again the tour was sold-out and the audience was very enthusiastic.
This scenario was repeated in 2004, during the jubilee season for Boudewijn de Groot, as 2004 is the year in which he celebrates two anniversaries: 40 years in the music industry (May 14) and his 60th birthday (May 20). The short tour entitled "Eeuwige jeugd" from the beginning of March till May 14 of that year will be followed up by a tour with the same name in 2005 (lasting from February till June).
In October 2003 the takes for a new series of the popular Belgian television-series 'Flikken' started and they will last till October 2004. Boudewijn has been casted in the role of profiler for this series. The broadcasting on the Flemish television is planned for September 2004 over a period of 13 weeks.

On November 28, 2002, Lennaert Nijgh passed away after a short period of hospitalisation, although his death came suddenly it was not completely unexpected for neither Boudewijn's nor Lennaert's entourage. Lennaert had struggled with his health for quite a while, actually he had been hospitalised with the same problems in '98 and was regressing rapidly in the months preceding his death. An irreplaceable loss, the only consolation coming from the profuse abundance of memorable lyrics without equal that he leaves behind. The lyrical poetry, the expressiveness and the innovativeness of these lyrics will not easily be surpassed. They have been decisive for the grow to maturity of the Dutch-language texts in the pop music.
Although Boudewijn formed a duo with Lennaert for forty years, never ceasing to sing his lyrics, making his entire career a tribute to Lennaert, he does intend to compress this homage and give it the shape of a Lennaert Nijgh-marathon. The intention is to perform all the songs that Boudewijn and his friend wrote, and that were performed by Boudewijn, on one single night in a complete programme that will last several hours. It will be a tribute to the memory of the person responsible for the incredible successful career of Boudewijn de Groot. This last point being proven once more by the fact that for the past years de Groot has been the Dutch-singing artist who is ranked most often and ranked highest in the radio chart 'Radio 2 Top 2000'.