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Bram Vermeulen

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Bram Vermeulen once stated that had but one talent: the talent to become famous, and that he had used it three times in his life.
The first time was at the beginning of the 1960s, when he became known as the Johan Cruyff of Dutch volleyball (Vermeulen made his debut in the national team when he was just 16). The second time was when he entered the public eye as half of famous cabaret duo Neerlands Hoop in the 1970s, and reached unprecedented popularity heights. The third time around was in the 1980s, when Vermeulen made a successful transition from pop artist to troubadour, playing his songs in theaters almost every night of the year, trying to get his messages across. Besides being a volleyball-international, comedian, and musician, Vermeulen was also a painter, TV-maker, and author of numerous books.
Abraham Gerrit Vermeulen was born on October 13, 1946, in The Hague, the third of three children. His father worked for the government, developing new agricultural techniques. The young Bram went to a Montessori school and was an eager child. After school time, he displayed a talent for volleyball, and, aged 16, he was selected for the Dutch national volleyball selection. He made his volleyball debut in Doetinchem, against France, as a centerfielder. By then, Bram Vermeulen went to a H.B.S.-school. In 1967, Vermeulen went to Amsterdam to study psychology. He also joined a student fraternity. It was there that Vermeulen met Freek de Jonge, another member. Together, they would form a cabaret duo: Neerlands Hoop. De Jonge wrote most of the material, while Vermeulen composed the music and did the artwork of their shows. Generally speaking, De Jonge was the loudmouth, where Vermeulen was more of a dreamer -- a romantic soul.
When Neerlands Hoop broke through in 1969 with their first full-fledged show, Neerlands Hoop in Bange Dagen, Vermeulen decided to quit the national volleyball team, aged only 22. The story of Neerlands Hoop is an amazing one: for ten years, they were national heroes, defying critics and audience, introducing a new style of cabaret: rushed, angry sketches, without pauses for applause. They also played pop music, with musicians on-stage.
After the break up of Neerlands Hoop in 1979, Vermeulen immediately got together a pop band: De Toekomst. The members consisted of old supporting musicians of Neerlands Hoop and Pee Wee & the Specials. It is only after Neerlands Hoop that Vermeulen's development as a recording artist came to life. De Toekomst's first record, Bram Vermeulen en de Toekomst, wasn't a big seller, but did contain some truly remarkable songs, such as "Politiek," "Pauline," and "Ik Kan Het Niet." The next record, Doe Het Niet Alleen, won an Edison award. In 1981, Vermeulen also played a leading role in the Ab van Ieperen film Achter Glas. One year later, after two years of incessant touring (including one tour with Doe Maar, where the bands played together under the name De Orde), De Toekomst, and the recording of their third album (Tegen de Tijd), De Toekomst came to and end: Vermeulen's nonstop arguments with lead guitarist Jan de Hont were cited as the main reason.
Once again, though, Vermeulen responded to a breakup by assembling a new band: the Famous Painters, renamed into De Neefjes. De Neefjes lasted for one year. De Neefjes are important, however, because they formed the beginning of the transition from pop artist to theater musician for Vermeulen. After the disbanding of De Neefjes, Vermeulen embarked on a theater tour with just one supporting musician: drummer Edward Wahr. This tour and the following one were not great critical successes. Inspired by this new, sober theater sound -- with a focus on the lyrics -- Vermeulen recorded an album in 1984, simply titled Bram. For this record, Vermeulen won another Edison Award. After this success, Vermeulen turned away from his musical career for a couple of years. He concentrated on his writing and did some television work.
In 1988, Vermeulen made a glorious comeback with the Boudewijn de Groot produced Rode Wijn. Especially in Belgium, Vermeulen's new sound was welcomed by the audience. The album contained classic tracks like "Rode Wijn" and "De Steen." One year later, De Groot returned to produce Dans Met Mij. Ernst Jansz, formerly of Doe Maar, was one of the musicians on the album. Every year now, Vermeulen would embark on a theater tour supporting his albums. In 1991, Jansz (also part of the touring band, which also included Boudewijn de Groot, Raymond van 't Groenewoud, Peter Wassenaar, and Rick Nolov) produced the live album Vriend en Vijand.
Following another short break, Vermeulen returned with Achter Mijn Ogen in 1994, with Jansz serving as producer once again. Jansz also produced 1995's Tijd/Vrije Tijd, a double album consisting of one album of re-recordings of Vermeulen songs of the '80s, and one album with some rarities -- such as a cover of Johan Verminnen's "Tussen Spelers en Drinkers" (the title trick of a tribute album) and two Neerlands Hoop songs. In this year, Vermeulen was also the recipient of the Annie M.G. Schmidt award, for his song "Een Doodgewone Jongen."
In 1997, Vermeulen decided to go on a solo theater tour to accompany the record Polonaise. He played piano, guitar, and harmonica. Doing things himself apparently pleased Vermeulen, because in 1999 he produced studio album De Beuk Erin himself. A year later, at the invitation of the In Flanders Fields Museum, Vermeulen prepared and played a theater tour about World War One. Following that, Oorlog Aan de Oorlog, an album and a new theater tour about war, followed. In 2003, Vermeulen released what was to be his last studio album, De Mannen -- with Leonard Lucieer (of Alamo Race Track) on guitar. In addition, he made a program on reincarnation for television. There was also a radio format of the show, and an interactive website. Apart from all this work, Vermeulen also finished a novel and a children's book. The last track of the album, "Vrij," a Nick Drake kind of song, somewhat foreshadowed his death.
2004, the last year of Vermeulen's life, started with another TV show, In den Beginne. After that, Vermeulen embarked on another theater tour concerning war: Mannen Maken Oorlog. After the tour, Vermeulen went on holidays to Italy. It was there that he died of a heart attack, aged 56. Tijdloos, a collection of his "best" songs, appeared. His partner, actress Shireen Strooker, and Vermeulen's two daughters, in cooperation with Ernst Jansz and Pierre van Duijl organized a tribute tour one year later, with the help of many Dutch performers. An album of the final concert in Carré was released in 2006. ~ Philip D. Huff, Rovi

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