Who is the most important Dutch musician of the past decades? I mean a musician using the Dutch language, not just any Dutch musician. Well, clearly the answers depends much on taste. But I think Boudewijn de Groot is a very good candidate. Although his musical heigth is almost 25 years behind us, his influence was great and can be felt even today. I think albums like ‘Voor de overlevenden’ (To the survivors), ‘Picknick’ or ‘Heksensabbath’ (Witches Sabbath) can easily compete with foreign albums from the same period. But then again, who am I?

Luckily some people do count. Jan Douwes Kroeske, a Dutch d.j., started looking for bands that would like to record a Boudewijn de Groot track. The result was the album Als de rook is verdwenen… (’When the smoke has disappeared’, also a De Groot track). It is a tribute to De Groot, who turned fifty last year, and it contains sixteen interpretations of classic songs.

The songs are all very different, and some of them are real gems. Who would have thought that ‘Meisje van zestien/Girl of sixteen’ would have such a typical Nits atmosphere? And when you hear Thé Lau of The Scene starting the refrain to ‘Waterdrager/Water carrier’ you would think the song was eventually meant for him. And dEUS turns ‘Kinderballade/Child’s ballad’ into the horror-story it really is.

Not all tracks are that great. Boudewijn de Groot became as famous for his songs as he did for his speech: it was Standard Dutch that he spoke, not just any interpretation of the language. So an ‘Amsterdam’ version of a famous ballad ‘Noordzee/Northsea’ comes in like a Cockney rendering of a Shakespeare sonnet. And the originally heavy psychedelic ‘Wie kan me nog vertellen/Who can tell me’ doesn’t sound quite the same now it has become just an ‘ordinary’ rock-song.

But all that is opposed to Hallo Venray, whose singer almost dubs De Groot’s voice, but doesn’t mind going helter skelter with it. The band Betty Serveert comes with the beautiful English translation ‘Butterfly’, while Arno Hintjens gives a broody French interpretation. Dutch hippy avant-la-lettre Simon Vinkenoog turned the (originally English) ‘Captain Decker’ into a brilliant neo-psychedelic piece: "Captain Decker, master of experience, turns you on, tunes you in, and takes you over!"

That’s why I think Boudewijn de Groot is the best Dutch musician of the past decades. When your songs can be performed in such diverse ways 25 years after they were written, you must be.


This text was published previously in the By The Way…, volume 50.

© Roelof Ruules