The 60's: Bobbejaan Schoepen, Wil Tura & Jacques Brel
We start our short story of the Belgian pop history at the beginning of the sixties, when Bobbejaan Schoepen (the Belgian Roy Rogers) was at the top of his career. He had six No. 1 hits in the Belgian charts from 1960 to 1964. From 1958 to 1961 he toured Flanders with his own circus tent before starting his own amusement parc Bobbejaanland.
Will Tura had his first hits with chansons in the Flemish-language (which is very close to Dutch but has its own typical words and a dialect in every hamlet). He would continue to be popular and become the king of “Flemish Chanson”. Louis Neefs scored his first hits and became one of the most popular Flemish singers. Tony Sandler (original from West Flanders) performed as part of the duo Sandler & Young in the US. Annie Cordy had particular success in Wallonia (the French speaking part of Belgium from which also Salvatore Adamo came). Adamo scored hits worldwide and sold more than 100 million records, still being the best selling artist from Belgium.
There was a popular song contest; Canzonissima, the then Flemish preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest, was an important springboard for many artists. Participants like Jimmy Frey, Ann Christy, Marc Dex, Micha Marah and Nicole & Hugo started their career in this event. Schlager- and crooners like Paul Severs and Eddy Wally scored big hits in Flanders. Liliane Saint-Pierre released several songs in English and had some success in France as a duo with Claude François.
And, just like in the surrounding countries, the first Dylan covers were released in Belgium.
Woorden in de wind (Blowin' in the Wind)
The Dockx Brothers
Pingaleo, Vinyl 7'' EP, 4 tracks, Arcade Records (België) EP/M 1009, 1964
This Wheel's on Fire
Clee’s Five - The Top 15: Hit Parade 1968
Vinyl LP album – 1968, Fontana - Acy 846 004
The rock and roll developed further, and also in Belgium guitar groups surfaced. Finally, young people also had their own music. Burt Blanca was a pioneer in this field. The group The Cousins scored and international monster hit in 1960 with the song Kili Watch. In a few months it sold more than 50,000 copies, a large number of Belgian music industry at that time.
Even a band like The Jokers were relatively successful, including their adaptation of the traditional song I saw Cecilia Cecilia come to Rock. The Pick-Nick also made uptempo guitar rock inspired by the music of successful international groups like The Shadows and The Spotnicks. Rock and roll found its place on the radio especially popular BRT program for youth “Schudden voor Gebruik“, which was presented by the then very young Guy Mortier. And, Belgium had its own Woodstock/Isle of Wight in october 1969, with a great festival of Amougies with several international artists.
Belgium even had its own Bob Dylan: Blues- and skiffle singer Ferre Grignard was well known in the hippie circuit and he also had some notable hits (Ring-Ring and Drunken Sailor). At the end of the sixties bands like The Pebbles (Seven Horses In The Sky) and Wallace Collection (Daydream) scored big hits. The soulduo Jess & James with their accompanying JJ Band knew much acclaim, especially with the single Move (1967).
A bizarre maverick was Soeur Sourire, a nun who recorded some songs. When one of then – Dominique - was released in 1963 it scored a number 1 hit in the United States.