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André Hazes

André Hazes (June 30, 1951 - September 23, 2004) was a Dutch singer in a genre called levenslied (song about life) which is a form of emotional folk music about everyday life sung in the Dutch language. André Hazes was one of the most successful singers in this genre. Hazes recorded 31 studio and live albums and 54 singles.

Biography

André Hazes was born in 1951 in the Pijp, a neighbourhood in Amsterdam. At the age of eight, he was discovered at the famous Albert Cuyp day market by Johnny Kraaykamp, a Dutch TV personality and made his television debut. His career was not particularly successful with many odd jobs and he became known locally as the singing bartender.

In 1976 he wrote "Eenzame Kerst" ("Lonely Christmas") and Willy Alberti ensured its publication, earning Hazes his first hit single. In 1979 he signed a contract with EMI, and soon after that his career started to take off. "Een Vriend" ("A Friend") and "Een Beetje Verliefd" ("A Little Bit In Love)" were both top ten hits. He reached his high point with the 1977 hit song "De Vlieger" ("The Kite"), which became a Dutch evergreen.

In 1981 Hazes was awarded the Silver Harp for his album Gewoon André ('Simply André') which sold 500,000 copies and was certified five times platinum in its first year of release and two more times two years later. 1982 was the year of his great concert in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. His Italian album in 1986, in memory of Willy Alberti, was followed by a blues album. A childhood dream had come true.

In 1988 he sang the song "Wij houden van Oranje" ("We love Orange"—Orange being the nickname for the Dutch national soccer team) for the football championships. The song became very popular in the Netherlands, to the extent that most people could sing along with the lyrics, a feat in a country where few can recite more than the first two lines of the national anthem, the Wilhelmus.

1999 saw the release of a hit documentary on Hazes, named "Zij Gelooft In Mij" ("She Believes In Me/ She Has Faith In Me") after one of his earlier songs. The film portrayed the singer as a tragic man of simple ways, a well-meaning but clueless father and husband tormented by stage fright and a propensity towards drinking. Hazes had mixed feelings about the film, but most viewers saw a man who had remained true to his humble background and whose raw emotional songs were genuinely felt. It earned him something of a cult status outside of his loyal fan base, with the cultural establishment taking him in a somewhat uncomfortable embrace.

André was known to live unhealthily, beer being his main vice. He himself once said: "If it wasn't for the fame, I'd be a full-blown alcoholic." In fact, he already was; he just managed to integrate this well into his life.

On September 23, 2004, he died of a cardiac arrest. Eventually his lifestyle had caught up with him, and somehow André became bigger in death than he had ever been during his lifetime. Everybody identified with the small underdog, and in the months after his death André became public domain.

In an interview with de Volkskrant, he made the remark that he knew as a child that when he died, he would make the television news. Not only did that happen, four days after he deceased, a startling crowd of about 48,000 attended a memorial ceremony in his honour at the Amsterdam ArenA stadium. Over 6 million viewers followed the event, broadcast live on Dutch and Belgium television. Hazes was cremated the day after.

On September 29, 2004 the single "Zij Gelooft In Mij" ("She Believes In Me / She Has Faith In Me") was re-released and was his first #1 hit in the Dutch Top 40. Even though André Hazes had a #1 album with Gewoon André ("Just André"), it is very difficult for music in the native Dutch language to enter the Top 40 and posthumously he was one of the few artists to achieve this. In 2007 he reached the #1- position in the Dutch Top 40 again. Now he sang with Gerard Joling the hit "Blijf Bij Mij" ("Stand By Me"). It is a cover from the song "Forse" of the Italian singer Pupo.

Exactly one year after his death, in accordance with his wishes, his remaining ashes were distributed over a couple of skyrockets, which were then launched into the sky by his surviving relatives. On the same day his statue was revealed in the Pijp, Amsterdam, near the singer's birthplace.