Cornelis Vreeswijk Genootschap

Cornelis Vreeswijk (August 8, 1937 – November 12, 1987) was a very special person. Born in the town of IJmuiden, The Netherlands, he moved to Sweden while still in his teens to become one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. He recorded over 30 albums before his untimely death. Folk, blues, rock, samba: Vreewijks' Swedish music tackles many styles. His unique voice, his strong lyrics and his turbulent way of life made him a phenonomen in Scandinavia.

In The Netherlands Vreeswijk is associated with songs like 'De Nozem en de Non' (The Teddy Boy and the Nun), 'Veronica' and 'Misschien wordt het morgen beter' (It could be better tomorrow). His first album release in The Netherlands in 1972 achieved the platinum record status. Five other Dutch releases that followed turned out to be little successful in spite of Vreeswijks' talent that is undoubtedly present in all of these recordings.

In Sweden Vreeswijk has become a legend. Sweden has its own Cornelis Vreeswijk Foundation, an annual musical festival and a Vreeswijk Cultural Award. In the Swedish capital Stockholm there even is a Vreeswijk park.

cvungCornelis Vreeswijk is born August 8, 1937 in the town IJmuiden, The Netherlands. In 1949 he and his family emigrate to Sweden, where his father sets up his own cab driving company in Stockholm. Soon after he move there Cornelis is frantically studying the Swedish language. Each day after school he can be found reading in the public library. Afterwards Vreeswijk, talking with the Dutch journalist Peter Verschoor, reveals that his urge to learn Swedish had everything to do with a humiliating experience at school. While reading out loud in class he pronounced the word "vitamine" in Dutch which made the class break out in laughter for minutes. But how was he to know that his pronunciation of the word "vitamine" had nothing to do with the organic substances found in food but was equivalent to female genitalia?

baladAfter finishing secondary school he studies at the academy of dramatic art. He also spends some time studying at the academy of social sciences. However his mind is set on music. As a student he meets the well known Swedish folk singer Fred Åkerström. Vreeswijk asks him if he is interested in buying some of the songs he has written. Åkerström is curious enough to invite Vreeswijk and give him the opportunity to play some of his songs for him. The producer who is present is so impressed by his original voice that he offers him a record deal. The album is released in 1964 and is titled Ballader och oförskämdheter, which means something like ‘ballads and rudities’. No understatement! The album has an enormous impact and many Swedes are shocked by Vreeswijks' unconventional lyrics that feature whores, bums and the back side of the well organized Swedish society situations. On top of that he ridicules politicians and the church without mercy. That comes as quite a surprise to the respectable Swedish people.

All copies are sold out in no time and his career is firmly launched. His next album releases are a success. One of his biggest hits ‘Brev från kolonien’ (letter from camp) tells the story of a boy on summer camp writing a cheerful letter home about what is going on at night. E.g. setting the camp leaders' tent on fire. (Based on the novelty song ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” by Alan Sherman and Lou Busch.) This songs starts a small scandal. Worried parents take the song too literally and refuse to send their children to summer camp any longer. This is not the only time Vreeswijk upsets the paternalistic Swedish society of the sixties. Radio and television stations regard most of his songs unsuitable for broadcasting and mark them with the dreaded yellow skull stamp to point out they have a bad influence on youngsters. In the announcements of other songs the dj's clearly state that the audience should not take notice of the meaning of the lyrics. Vreeswijk reacts to this by prohibiting the public broadcast of his records. At that time his stardom has already risen to the extent that his record sales hardly drop.

There is no translation available.

hoesnozemBegin 1966 is Vreeswijk op uitnodiging van de Vara in Nederland. Hij heeft wat Zweedse nummers vertaald en een paar nieuwe liedjes geschreven die hij voor televisie speelt. Kort daarop verschijnt 'De nozem en de non' op single, maar het plaatje flopt. Hoewel Vreeswijk dit later zal wijten aan de beroerde productie, trekt hij op dat moment de conclusie dat Nederland niet geïnteresseerd is in zijn muziek. Het duurt zes jaar voordat hij zich laat ompraten om tóch een Nederlandse LP op te nemen. (In Zweden heeft hij dan inmiddels al meer dan tien LP's op zijn naam staan). Zijn titelloze debuutalbum met nummers als 'Veronica', 'De Nozem en de non' en 'Misschien wordt 't morgen beter' slaat geweldig aan. Radiopiraat Veronica omarmt het gelijknamige nummer, dat in de zomer van '72 hoog in de Top 40 staat. Ook het opnieuw opgenomen en uitgebrachte 'Nozem en de non' doet het goed bij het Nederlandse publiek. In het najaar van 1972 volgt een succesvolle tournee door Nederlandse zalen. Daarna vertrekt hij weer naar Zweden om daar nieuw werk op te nemen. De LP Cornelis Vreeswijk wordt in Nederland platina, oftewel: er worden honderdduizend exemplaren van verkocht.

The 1973 allbum release, titled ‘Leven en laten leven’ (live and let live), contains songs like ‘Liedje voor Linnea’ (song for Linnea), ‘Morgenpsalm’ (morning psalm) and ‘De bekommerde socialist’ (the worried socialist). The album is received well but the record sales far from equal those of his debut.

In 1974 Vreeswijk returns to The Netherlands to promote his third Dutch album 'Liedjes voor de Pijpendraaier en mijn Zoetelief' (songs for the piper and my sweetheart). Some tracks on this lp are: ‘Teddybeer’ (teddy bear), ‘Marjolijn’, ‘Kleurenblind’ (colorblind), ‘Ik wil ‘t niet pikken’ (I don't want to take it) and the Bellman-translation ‘Epistel 81’. The Album is hardly successful in The Netherlands, nor are its successors 'Foto’s en een souvenir' (photographs and a souvenir) (1976) and 'Het recht om in vrede te leven' (the right to live in peace) (1978). The first of the above mentioned albums contains Dutch translations of Jim Croce songs, the latter translations of the songs from Victor Jara, the folk singer from Chili who was murdered during the 1973 coup by Pinochet.

It is hard to point out why the record sales are this disappointing. Fact is that in the meanwhile the problems in his private life are piling up. He divorces from his wife and he has a serious drinking problem. It will take until 1982 before Vreeswijk will again record in Dutch. 'Ballades van de Gewapende Bedelaar' (Ballads by the armed beggar) is according to many his best Dutch album ever, with songs like ‘Is er nog plaats in de schuilkelder’ (is there still room in the underground shelter), ‘De dolfijnen’ (the dolphins), ‘De capucijnersamba’ (the marrowfat samba) and ‘Persoonlijke Peter’ (personal Peter). In this album Vreeswijk simultaneously expresses his musical and poetical talents and his great sense of humor. But in 1982 he is only remembered as someone from 1972 who once sung the story of a teddy boy and a nun. And in the early eighties there are no longer teddy boys in The Netherlands and nuns are getting scarce.

In Sweden Vreeswijk’s star never fades. He has a great many loyal fans. Throughout his recording career they are treated on a new album once a year and with every release his lyrics cut deeper into the heart. He also starts to publish poems. On the other hand there still are many Swedes that do not appreciate what this bearded minstrel is producing. The subtle way he ridicules and criticizes the Swedish society and his erotic lyrics do not comply with the accepted norms and rules. Critics and journalists spend little time discussing the quality of his products but write lengthy articles about his turbulent private life instead. And it must be admitted that there are plenty of events to be described. Booze, women, tax problems and the strong arm of the law are the story of his life. In the early eighties however he seems to have dealt with most of his problems. Some new albums are released with modern arrangements of his earlier recordings. A new and young Swedish audience is getting interested in Vreeswijk. Then in 1985 the fatal diagnosis of a cancer in the liver comes across his path. During the last few months of his life he puts all his effort in finishing a final album 'Till Fatumeh', again with new arrangements of old material, as a goodbye to his fans. Sadly enough, due to financial circumstances, he has to change hospital a few weeks before his death. On November 12, 1987 he dies, almost bankrupt, at the age of fifty.

corndagShould he have lived he probably would not have had any more financial problems. After his death Vreeswijk is more popular in his resident country than he ever was before. A foundation looks after his legacy and royalties. There are movies about his life. In the Mosebacke theater an annual Vreeswijk musical festival is held. Well known Swedish artists play his songs there and tickets are sold out day after day. Nearly every year a cd-album with previously unissued songs is released. Stockholm houses a Vreeswijk park with a statue of Cornelis. Sweden is proud of this Dutch Swede. Like the literature critic Bengt Holmqvist once said: ‘since Rembrandt Vreeswijk is the best Holland ever gave us.'

Even in The Netherlands there seems to be a Vreeswijk revival. On November 12, 1999 in Utrecht the first Cornelis Vreeswijk Music Night turned out to be a well visited meeting. The Cornelis Vreeswijk Society to be was introduced to the fans with the aim to keep the memory of Vreeswijk vivid. On May 27, 2000 a second meeting was held and the Society was officially founded.

The year 2012 was a very special one for the Society: in August Cornelis would have become 75 years and November marks the 25th anniversary of his death plus the 12½ year anniversary of the foundation of the Society’s.

On the 12th of November - exactly 25 years after Vreeswijk’s passing away – a musical gala celebrating Cornelis’ music was held at the IJmuiden city theatre. Musical director was Dutch/Scandinavian guitarist/singer Laurens Joensen. Special musical guests were Cornelis’ sister Tonny and his son Jack.     

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