ROCK ’N ‘ ROLL JUNKIE
The rise and fall of a Dutch icon: HERMAN BROOD - 1946-2001
Ten years ago, in July 2001, the Dutch musician, painter and media personality HERMAN BROOD put an end to his life by jumping from the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel. To many, his suicide was the most significant event in the history of Dutch pop music of the 20th century.
Ten years without BROOD, but he still lives on: His music, an impressive art collection and, last but not least, the story of his life, have made him immortal. HERMAN BROOD (1946-2001) was an “enfant terrible” and a cultural figure whose suicide only strengthened his controversial status. According to his friends, he could not cope with his failure to kick his drug and alcohol habit. Herman was called “the Netherlands’ greatest and only rock ‘n’ roll star.” Later in life he became also a well-known painter. He set up his atelier in Amsterdam, and it became his second home.
HERMAN BROOD was born on November 5, 1946 in Zwolle in the eastern part of Holland. In 1959 the Dutch ‘icon to be’ got his first piano lessons. In school he was rather slow. He was more into playing the piano at his father’s abandoned factory building. The young HERMAN BROOD went to the art academy in Arnhem in 1964 where he started his first band, The Moans. During their numerous gigs for American military in Western Germany, a soldier offered him speed (amphetamine). This was the moment when BROOD knew: This is it. It was the beginning of an addiction that never stopped.
In 1967, BROOD switched from The Moans to Cuby and the Blizzards. “It was the best I could get into,” Brood said some years later in an interview. ”It was the first time in my life I was on record.” In this period, BROOD had a short relationship from which his son Marcel was born in 1968. Then his record company found out about his drug addiction and he was kicked out of the band. A hard blow for his career and a rough time followed. Burglaries and drug dealing earned him several terms in prison.
In 1976, Brood’s career took a turn, when he met Koos van Dijk, the owner of a bar in Winschoten near the city of Groningen.
Koos van Dijk invited the artist to perform at his bar, and it was a great success. Subsequently, van Dijk became BROOD’s manager, and in the same year BROOD started his own group, HERMAN BROOD & HIS WILD ROMANCE. In 1977, the band released their first album, Street. They are still best known for their second album, Shpritsz, a pun on the German word for syringe from 1978. This album contained their first Dutch hit single, “Saturday Night”.
BROOD’s outspoken statements in the press about sex and drug use brought him into the Dutch public arena even more than his music. He was romantically involved with the German singer Nina Hagen, with whom he appeared in the 1979 film “Cha-Cha”. He is also reputed to be the subject of her song “Herrmann hieß er” (Herrmann was his name), a song about a drug addict, from the 1979 Unbehagen album. BROOD relished the media attention and became the most famous user of hard drugs in the Netherlands. “It is quite common for an artist to use drugs, but not for him to tell everybody. I admit that I was afraid that my popularity could make people start using drugs,” he once said in an interview. In the summer of 1979, BROOD managed to enter the American market, where he toured as a support act for The Kinks, The Cars and Foreigner. A re-recorded version of “Saturday Night” peaked at number 18 in the Billboard Hot 100, they had a national break-out and even made it into the Hawaiian Top Ten, but the big break BROOD had hoped for didn’t happen.
When BROOD returned to the Netherlands in October 1979, his band had already begun to fall apart, and soon his popularity went downhill. Brood continued to record throughout the 1980’s and had a few hits, but he spent more and more time on his art.
At the end of the 1980’s he made a comeback of sorts. He toured Germany with a renewed Wild Romance. In 1990, he won the BV pop award, one of the highest Dutch awards for popular music, and recorded the album Freeze with Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band and Tejano accordion player Flaco Jiménez.