After forty years interspersed with silent periods, of success on stage and in the
studios the career of Boudewijn de Groot has reached another highlight.
Tours scheduled to span months are completely sold-out and his tenth record was rewarded with gold within a month after its release. A prodigy aged 60, still finding his way. The traveller has not yet arrived home, although since November 2002 he misses the company of his former travelling companion who once started the journey with him, his regular lyrics writer Lennaert Nijgh. Together they formed, for forty years, a renowned and innovative song-writing duo in the Dutch popmusic. 'Life begins at 40' suddenly gets a deeper meaning.
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
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
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
"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 Dutch radio 2 rewarded Boudewijn with the first ever 'Radio 2
Zendtijdprijs' in 2000. The award is given to
'an artist of remaining value for the Dutch pop music'
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.
2004 was the jubilee season for Boudewijn de Groot, as 2004 is the year in which he celebrated two anniversaries: 40 years in the music industry (May 14) and his 60th birthday (May 20). It was also the year of the release of his tenth studio album "Eiland in de verte". On this album one can find some of the last texts that Lennaert Nijgh wrote before passing away in 2002. The album is certified platinum. The short tour entitled "Eeuwige jeugd" was so successful that it was followed up by a second tour with the same name in 2005.
Also in 2004, during the Celebration of the Flemish Community of July 11
(battle of the Golden Spurs), Boudewijn was the main guest on the central
market square, where in addition 11 Flemish artists also performed their
favorite song from his repertoire
At the end of 2004 Boudewijn stars as the profiler Robert W. Nieuwman in the sixth series of the popular Belgian television-series 'Flikken'.
The jubilee season was closed by Boudewijn performing together with the Metropole Orchestra in Carré on December 6, 2004. This performance was broadcasted live on Radio 2.
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, which 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 growth 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 brought on November 27, 2005 a touching homage entitled 'the Marathon', in the Philharmonie in Haarlem. In a single - 9 hour -programme, Boudewijn performed all 76 songs that he and his friend wrote, and that were ever (even if only once) performed by Boudewijn.
In 2005, the Dutch chose Boudewijn's song 'Avond' as the best
song ever in the Radio 2 Top 2000 music chart, pushing Queen's 'Bohemian
Rhapsody' to the second position. "De Avond" was originally
composed in 1973 by Boudewijn for Rob de Nijs' album entitled 'In De Uren
Van De Middag'. Lennaert had written the text for his girlfriend Anja.
In 1995 Boudewijn rewrote the song and recorded it on his album 'Een
nieuwe herfst'. Anja has been married to Boudewijn since 1995.
In 2006 Boudewijn can be found in the theaters for a short tour with the Limburgs Symphonic Orchestra, a revised version of the show he also performed with this orchestra in 2003.
At the start of 2007 a book entitled 'Hoogtevrees in Babylon' containing lyrics written by Boudewijn himself and some background to these lyrics is released simultaneously with the release of a new cd entitled 'Lage Landen'. The cd contains 6 lyrics written by Boudewijn. The album entered the Dutch top 100 album chart at nummer 1.
Boudewijn also started a new tour with the same name as the cd: 'Lage Landen'.
On april 20 and 21, 2007 Boudewijn will be the main guest (as he was 10 years ago) on the Belgian Nekka-night in Antwerp.
Early may 2007 the Dutch Radio 2 broadcasted the 100 greatest Protest songs, chosen by the listeners, and Boudewijn's 'Welterusten, Meneer de president' ranked number 1
Having been on tour in the Netherlands and in Belgium, almost without interruption, for 12 years in a row, Boudewijn announces a sabbatical for 2008. He also mentions he will be focussing on the writing of new songs.
On the occasion of his 60th birthday and the 40 years spent in the music industry, Boudewijn received a Bronze statue, which is permanently placed in the theater of Gouda, in May 2004. On the same occasion he was offered a painting, which was installed in the redecorated theater of Haarlem in february 2009.
In September 2009 Boudewijn has started his new theater tour entitled "Wilde Jaren" ('Wild Years'). The tour will last till the end of May 2010