Cornelis Vreeswijk

From Academic Kids

Cornelis Vreeswijk Template:Audio, Template:Audio (August 8, 1937November 12, 1987) was a singer-songwriter who was born in IJmuiden in the Netherlands but moved to Sweden with his parents in 1949, at the age of twelve. He trained as a social worker and hoped to become a journalist but became instead a musician whose idiosyncratic humor and social engagement are still gaining him new fans.


Swedish career

Cornelis Vreeswijk explained in one of his few interviews that he had taught himself to sing and play in the fifties by imitating his first idols Josh White and Leadbelly. His first album, Ballader och oförskämdheter (Ballads and Insults, 1964), was a hit which immediately gained him a large following among the emerging radical student generation. His abrasive, frequently political lyrics and unconventional delivery were a deliberate break with what he was later to describe as a Swedish song tradition of pretty singing and harmless lyrics, "a hobby for the upper classes". Influenced by jazz and blues and especially by the singing style and social criticism of Georges Brassens, Vreeswijk "speak-sings" his "insults", and compels his listeners to pay close attention to the words.

His 1965 loose translation of Allan Sherman's masterpiece "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" remains beloved to Swedes as "Brevet från kolonien" decades later, and could be said to have passed into folklore.

A political singer with a bohemian lifestyle, Vreeswijk remained controversial in the sixties and early seventies, idolized by his fans but disapproved of by many others for his "rude" language and persistent interest in "unsuitable" people like prostitutes and criminals. Some of his records were blacklisted by the public broadcasting company Sveriges Radio. During this period, he not only wrote and recorded songs now considered classics, such as "Sportiga Marie" ("Sporting Marie") and several affectionate salutes to the ever less employable "Polaren Pär" ("My Buddy Pär"), but he was an actor on the stage, receiving considerable critical acclaim, most notably as Pilate in the Swedish version of Jesus Christ Superstar, and as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. He also appeared in movies, including Svarta Palmkronor (Black Palm Trees, 1968), which was filmed on location in Brazil. Spending four months in Brazil began Vreeswijk's lifelong interest in Latin American music and social and political conditions, later seen for example in his Victor Jara album of 1978.

Later in his career, Vreeswijk was to gain increasing fame and a wider audience both for his songs and his other work. He published several volumes of poetry in his lifetime and left a considerable manuscript legacy of poems which have been published since. He also became an important musical interpreter of the works of other people, recording the songs of Carl Michael Bellman, Evert Taube, and Lars Forssell. His fresh, bluesy renderings of Bellman and Taube, who had up to then been classics belonging to the "harmless" tradition that Vreeswijk despised, were artistic and commercial successes which extended his fanbase. His own best-known songs of the later seventies and early eighties tend to be dark in tone, like "Sist jag åkte jumbojet blues" ("Last time I Went by Jumbojet Blues", a metaphorical bad trip) and "Blues för Fatume", both addressing heavy drug addiction. Even though in this period Vreeswijk was a prey of tabloid scandal and was in the news for his drinking problem and his debts (about both of which he spoke with frankness) rather than for his achievements, he remained highly creative and productive.

Towards the end of Vreeswijk's life his reputation soared again, aided by the televising of some highly regarded nightclub shows, and by Agneta Brunius' TV documentary Balladen om den flygande holländaren (The Ballad of the Flying Dutchman) in 1986. By the time of his death from liver cancer at the age of fifty, Cornelis Vreeswijk had become an icon of the Swedish music scene, and he was honored with burial at the cemetery of Katarina kyrka, a national cemetery in Stockholm.

Dutch career

In 1966, the Dutch broadcasting organisation VARA invited Vreeswijk to the Netherlands. He translated several of his songs into Dutch, and wrote a couple of new ones. One of his songs, "De nozem en de non", was released as a single, without much popular success. His first Dutch album was only released in 1972, after ten successful Swedish albums. 100,000 copies of Cornelis Vreeswijk were sold, and the single "Veronica" became a big hit after it was picked up by the pirate radio station Veronica. His old song "De nozem en de non" was then rereleased with much success. His later albums could not match the success of the first one, and Vreeswijk never achieved the fame in the Netherlands as he did in his home country Sweden.

Nowadays, only "De nozem en de non" is still known by the general public. Vreeswijk still has some fans in the Netherlands, however, and in 2000 the Cornelis Vreeswijk society was founded.

One reason for the lack of popularity in the Netherlands was the impression that Cornelis Vreeswijk was a bit old-fashioned. Because of his long stay in Sweden, the Dutch pronunciation and idiom that he had learned to speak in his youth were out-of-date in the seventies and eighties.

Although he was fluent in both Dutch and Swedish, the latter had become his real mother tongue. His Stockholm-accented Swedish was famously witty and expressive, and in an interview he once suggested that the process of learning the language in his teens might have energized his use of it: "It doesn't just fall over you like when you're a baby and fed daily with words and food. You become freer, less respectful. ... Swedish is such a different language. Pure, distinct, beautiful. It has few synonyms. But they're many enough for me."


The Swedish lists below are provided courtesy of Cornelis Vreeswijksällskapet, the Swedish Cornelis Vreeswijk society. The popularity of Cornelis Vreeswijk's songs in Sweden seems to be still on the rise, and many albums anthologizing his own recordings of them have been released since his death. These are not shown in the discography below, nor are the cover versions of his songs. The bibliography, on the other hand, is intended to contain all Swedish publications by and about Cornelis Vreeswijk (exclusively) to date.

Swedish Discography

  • 1964 - Ballader och oförskämdheter
  • 1965 - Visor och oförskämdheter
  • 1965 - Ballader och Grimascher
  • 1966 - Grimascher och telegram
  • 1968 - Tio vackra visor och personliga person
  • 1969 - Cornelis sjunger Taube
  • 1970 - Poem,ballader och lite blues
  • 1971 - Spring mot Ulla, spring! Cornelis sjunger Bellman
  • 1972 - Cornelis live!
  • 1972 - Visor, svarta och röda
  • 1973 - Istället för vykort
  • 1973 - Linnéas fina visor
  • 1974 - Getinghonung
  • 1976 - Narrgnistor och transkriptioner
  • 1977 - Movitz! Movitz!
  • 1978 - Cornelis sjunger Victor Jara
  • 1978 - Narrgnistor 2, En halv böj blues och andra ballader
  • 1978 - Felicias svenska suite
  • 1979 - Vildhallon
  • 1979 - Cornelis - Live. Montmartre-Köpenhamn Vol 1
  • 1979 - Cornelis - Live. Montmartre-Köpenhamn Vol 2
  • 1979 - Cornelis - Live. Montmartre-Köpenhamn
  • 1979 - Jazz incorporated
  • 1980 - Bananer - bland annat
  • 1980 - En spjutkastares visor
  • 1981 - "Alla har vi varit små" Cornelis sjunger Povel/1
  • 1981 - "The gräsänkling blues" Cornelis sjunger Povel/2
  • 1981 - Turistens klagan
  • 1981 - Hommager och Pamfletter
  • 1981 - Cornelis sjunger Povel
  • 1985 - Cornelis Bästa
  • 1985 - Mannen som älskade träd
  • 1986 - I elfte timmen
  • 1987 - Till Fatumeh, rapport från de osaligas ängder

Dutch Discography

  • 1972 - Cornelis Vreeswijk
  • 1973 - Leven en laten leven
  • 1974 - Liedjes voor de Pijpendraaier en mijn Zoetelief
  • 1976 - Foto's en een souvenir: Vreeswijk zingt Croce
  • 1977 - Het recht om in vrede te leven
  • 1978 - Het beste van Cornelis Vreeswijk
  • 1982 - Ballades van de gewapende bedelaar

Swedish Bibliography

Works by Cornelis Vreeswijk

Works about Cornelis Vreeswijk

External links



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