Zjef Vanuytsel Bookmark and Share


6 juli 1945

Born in Mol Zjef Vanuytsel started singing and composing as a student at the Sint-Lucas School for Architecture in Brussels. This was around the year 1966. From then on, he slowly gathered attention, until he made his record debut in 1970. Together with a new generation of Flemish artists (Kris de Bruyne, Jan De Wilde, Rum, Raymond van het Groenewoud, Johan Verminnen), he came to the forefront.

The album ‘De Zotte Morgen’ (The foolish morning) is still considered to be one of the finest Dutch-sung albums of all time, a real classic with songs like the titletrack, "Houten kop" (wooden head - the term used for a hangover over here), ‘Ik weet wel mijn lief’ (I know my darling) and the joyful hit ‘Hop Marlène’ (Go Marlene). It sold over 100.000 copies (platinum status), an impressive number for a record with simple and direct heartfelt songs.

Vanuytsel success was largely explained by his skill and talent for melody and arrangement, his flair for romantic and poetic songs and ability to mix kleinkunst elements mixed with traditional folklore elements. He was clearly influenced by the Dutch team Boudewijn De Groot and Lennaert Nijgh. His lyrics are often taken from life and autobiographical. The song ‘Stilte in de Kempen’ (Silent in the Kempen), for example, was written following the death of his parents.

All through the seventies, he continued to record and to play live with a backing group. He released three more albums in this decade, with songs on it like ‘De massa’ (the masses), ‘Tussen Antwerpen en Rotterdam’ (Between Antwerp and Rotterdam), ‘Mijn beste vriendin’ (My best girlfriend).

In the eighties, the market for his kind of Flemish-sung music was getting smaller and smaller (as a new generation had taken over control with more punk orientated music). After one last record in 1983, ‘Tederheid’ (Tenderness), he finally decided to call it a day and devote his life to his first love : architecture. On this farewell : "I quitted in 1985 because I had always wanted to do my job as an architect. You can't wait till you're 50 to do that. And when I was still singing, I always had the feeling I couldn't do that 'till I was 60. However, if you look at Clapton and Joe Cocker ... they're still doing well." As an architect Vanuytsel designed the town halls of Huldenberg and Bertem, the Nero (comicbook) bar in Hoeilaart, the cultural center of Scherpenheuvel and the markets in Brussels.

Zjef Vanuytsel takes to the stage on some occasions though. In 1998, he did a series of shows for Vlaanderen-Europa 2002 (a project of the Flemish regional government around July 11th, the regional holiday). He insisted this is not a "comeback" to Het Nieuwsblad : "I like living in the anonymity. I've had my share of success in my life. I just want something to remain of the songs I wrote back then.” In 2007 he came back on that promise and released a new album He also did some shows in 2008 in Flanders and one in Holland.

The text on http://www.houbi.com/belpop/ was a big help.

On the web:

- Website of his management: http://www.liveconcerten.be/

If you like this, you probably like... / european counterparts:

Boudewijn de Groot (Netherlands)

What do we think:

DB: Zjef is not really very well known outside Belgium, even not in the Netherlands. Still he made some beautiful records with semi-acoustic music (sometimes an orchestra pops up here and there) and bittersweet lyrics. Vanuytsel positioned himself somewhere in-between Cat Stevens and Donovan on one side and Dutch singer Boudewijn de Groot on the other. Even some Brel or Wolf Bierman can be deduced of you listen very carefully. He didn’t make many records but his first two are highly recommended of you’re into European pop/rock troubadours.


♪♪♪♪ - De Zotte Morgen - 1970

♪♪♪♪♪ - Er is geen weg terug - 1973

♪♪♪ - De zanger - 1976

♪♪♪ - De Stilte van het land - 1978

- Tederheid - 1983

- Ouwe Makkers - 2007



♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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