Comic strip by Herman Brood
Comic strip by Herman Brood. Translation: "I was part of the resistance. I had ideas. I never moved. I was inventor. The people are stupid. I bullshit myself to sleep. I can't bullshit myself awake, at most snore." 

Herman Brood is a legend in Dutch music history, particularly since he was his country's only genuine rock 'n' roll star, with considerable fame across the borders. He recorded raw, dark songs that expressed his excessive lifestyle at the fringes of society. His best-known songs are 'Rock 'n' Roll Junkie' (1977), 'Saturday Night' (1978), 'Never Be Clever' (1979), 'Hot Shot' (1980), 'Tattoo Song' (1984) and 'Als Je Wint' (with Henny Vrienten, 1984). However, Brood was far more infamous for openly being a junkie. He consumed gallons of alcohol and numerous hard drugs, but surprisingly enough remained beloved with the general public. Brood was an attractive man and had a soft-spoken personality which easily won everyone's charm. The musician also enjoyed fame as an abstract painter and during the 1970s-1980s made a few short-lived comics. His health inevitably declined and he died an early death by committing suicide at age 55.

Early life
Herman Brood was born in 1946 in Zwolle. He showed an early interest in drawing and painting, particularly comics. His main graphic influences were Edward Hopper, Lucebert, Karel Appel and Pablo Picasso. As an adult, his favorite comic strip was 'Cowboy Henk' by Kamagurka and Herr Seele. Still, a graphic career seemed problematic when doctors discovered that Brood suffered from colourblindness. In 1964 he went to the Art Academy of Arnhem, but dropped out after only three months because he was attracted to a new passion: rock 'n' roll. The young adult loved many 1950s and 1960s bands and solo musicians, particularly Little Richard.

Early rock career: Cuby+Blizzards
In 1964, Brood joined the beat rock band The Moans as a keyboard player and pianist. After he left in 1967, The Moans would eventually become more succesful a decade later under the new name Long Tall Ernie & The Shakers. Between 1967 and 1969 Brood performed with the rock band Cuby + Blizzards. A promising career was cut short when his record company caught him with drugs. They immediately threw him out the band. 

Vaste Prik by Herman Brood
'Vaste Prik', printed in Aloha. 

Graphic intermezzo (1969-1974)
After being thrown out Cuby+Blizzards, Brood made no music for five years. Instead, he led a junkie existence and earned money by making paintings and collages, inspired by the abstract-expressionist Cobra movement. During this aimless period, he also drew comics. In the early 1970s some of these were printed in the music magazine Oor, under the heading 'Bisz'. In 1979 a book collection would be published: 'Bisz' (Stichting Verwarring, 1979), edited by Willem Venema. Other artwork by Brood were illustrations for Oor's monthly column written by his best friend Bart Chabot. In the hippie magazine Aloha, Brood had his own comic series, titled 'Vaste Prik'. The title was a pun on the Dutch expression for the word "punctuality", with a double layer referring to the verb "prikken" ("to prick"), hinting at his heroin use.

Brood's comics are in black-and-white, because he wanted to avoid using color contrasts. The drawings are simple, linear figures, with barely any detail. Some are basically quick scribbles and doodles. Most episodes are tragicomical observations of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. A recurring theme is his desire for an exciting life outside the boring everyday reality. Brood basically made his art to pay off his drug dealer(s). If he lacked enough money, he simply stole what he needed. He was frequently arrested and jailed for drug possession, drug dealing and theft. For a while, it seemed that he had enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame as a rock musician and was destined to live in the gutter as a pathetic hasbeen. 

Reunion of Cuby+Blizzards
However, in 1974 Brood's former band Cuby+Blizzards reunited in their original line-up for the Dutch musical TV show 'Nederpopzien'. Brood was invited too. The broadcast sparked off renewed interest in the band. Their reunion concert in 'Nederpopzien' was even released on a musical record afterwards. Brood was glad to be back in the spotlight, making rock 'n' roll. But he soon left Cuby+Blizzards and joined other groups instead. He sang and played keyboards for such bands as Stud, Flash Dance and Vitesse. 

Comic art by Herman Brood
Comic strip by Herman Brood. Translation: "Then I had to be drafted. Then I had to go to jail. Then I had to wash plates. Then I had to get married. Then I had to support my family. Then I had still had to start my life." 

Solo career
By November 1976, Brood felt confident enough to start a solo career. He named his group: Herman Brood & His Wild Romance. He provided vocals, lyrics and occasional keyboard and piano performances. From a musical viewpoint, he was not a great singer, nor songwriter. His English pronunciation had a strong Dutch accent and often sounded slurred, since he was always drunk or high. But around the same time, with pitch perfect timing, punk and new wave revolutionized traditional rock. Audiences were suddenly more receptive to singers who expressed attitude rather than professionalism. Brood's songs had a raw, spicy quality that most other Dutch pop acts lacked. And he effectively lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, which gave his music an authentic edge. His band scored hits with 'Rock 'n' Roll Junkie' (1977), 'Saturday Night' (1978), 'Never Be Clever' (1979), 'I Love You Like I Love Myself' (1979), 'Hot Shot' (1980) and 'I Don't Need You' (1980). In his home country, he achieved cult status. Brood's foreign fame increased when he had a well-publicized relationship with German punk singer Nina Hagen. Brood and Hagen also appeared in their own feature film, 'Cha Cha' (1979), directed by Herbert Curiël. Essentially a loose plotline, intercut with concert performances, the picture flopped at the box office. Only later did it become a cult movie. In the 1980s, Herman Brood & His Wild Romance toured the United States, but failed to crack the market there. His final biggest hits were 'Tattoo Song' (1984) and 'Als Je Wint' (1984, a duet with Henny Vrienten, the lead singer of the popular band Doe Maar). 

Brood also had a musical spin-off project, De Breedbekkikkers ("The Big Mouth Frogs"), who scored a hit with the carnival song 'Maak Van Uw Scheet Een Donderslag' (translated:"Turn Your Fart Into A Thunderbolt", 1979). The same year he recorded a song with Dutch comedian Dolf Brouwers: 'Nooit Meer Terug Naar Die Rotschool' (translated:"Never Returning To That Damn School", 1979). Brouwers performed in the guise of his comedic alter ego Sjef van Oekel, a character who also starred in Wim T. Schippers and Theo Van Den Boogaard's celebrity comic series 'Sjef van Oekel'. Brood also designed the album covers for his own group, most notably Herman Brood & His Wild Romance's 'Vitesse' (1990) and 'Home' (1992).


From: 'Doorzon's Komplete Karavan Gids' (Espee, 1984).

1980s: return to artwork & comics
By the 1980s, Herman Brood & His Wild Romance were still popular, but new records and concerts sold less well than before. Brood's drug use had a severe impact on the quality of his music. Soon he found himself in serious tax debts. He picked up his graphic career again, since it was an easier and quicker way to bring in money. The musician took every assignment he could get. He made designs for cars, shop windows, murals, subways, postcards, T-shirts, beer brands,... Brood even got the Dutch tax revenue so far that they accepted his artwork as temporary payment. Thanks to his fame, many people were interested in Brood's art. But not everything was strictly made for financial purposes. In 1989, for instance, he criticized South Africa's apartheid regime with a painting whose title went straight to the point: "Apartheid sucks!". 

During this period, Brood also made new comics, like the one-shot book, 'Pas Op, Daar Is Ie' (1984, sometimes titled 'Stil Daar Is Ie' too). In 1986, Ger van Wulften published Brood's picture book 'Sjonge Jonge', starring the character Top Dog. In 1995 he and Kamagurka made a work named 'Artiesteningang' ('Artists' Entry') depicting a vagina. Brood also contributed to a collective comic book for the gay community, 'En Wie Is Nou Het Vrouwtje?' (1986), compiled by Jan Rot and Henno Eggenkamp. The book also featured work by Ralf König, Jean-Marc Reiser, Georges Wolinski, Bill Ward, Horacio Altuna, Eric Schreurs, Hein de Kort, Theo van den Boogaard, Jaap Vegter, Gerard Reve, Erwin Olaf and Philip Hopman. Herman Brood additionally made a series of drawings and collages, to which poet Jules Deelder added texts, later collected in the book 'Inderdaad Nee' (Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 2003).

Pas op, daar is ie, by Herman Brood
From: 'Pas Op, Daar Is Ie'.

Drug use
Throughout his career, Herman Brood remained in the public interest through various media appearances, art exhibitions and occasionally touring and recording. He was respected as a musician who breathed life and excitement in the Dutch rock scene. His music was almost a soundtrack to the hedonistic night life of Amsterdam. Since he was a good-looking man, many women found him very attractive. But to general audiences he was first and foremost a famous junkie. Brood guzzled down gallons of alcohol, LSD, amphetamines and shot up heroin on a daily basis. He had many love affairs, often ruined by his never-ending drug abuse and adultery. He sometimes made headlines by doing embarrassing things under the influence, like in 1999, when he shot a gun from inside a train. In many interviews, Brood made a distracted impression and longed for his next chemically-induced high, away from all responsibilities, conventions and everyday dreariness. Contrary to popular thought, he did sometimes try to kick his unhealthy habits. But no matter how often he tried to go "cold turkey", he always succombed back into the repetitive junkie life cycle. 

Still, Brood was beloved by many. The musician always remained humble about his success. He had a charming personality and many people therefore took pity on him. In their eyes, he was like a little boy who never grew up. They just couldn't be angry with him. It got to the point that Dutch customs and police officers simply batted a blind eye when they caught him with drugs. Brood even carried a record single with his face on it around, in case the narcotics brigade wouldn't recognize him. After a while, the addled addict was nicknamed "the national cuddle junkie." 

Final years and death
An unfortunate side effect of so many people allowing Brood to continue taking drugs was that his health slowly but surely deteriorated. By 2001, his doctor informed him that his body was so spent that he basically only had a few months left to live. Brood decided not to wait for the inevitable. That summer, he went to the roof of the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam, the same building where John Lennon and Yoko held their 'Bed-In' honeymoon for peace in 1969. He then jumped off the roof, to an instant death. Brood had left a suicide note behind that stated he was going to "bungee jump without elastic." His suicide made him an instant legend. Brood's posthumous cover of 'My Way' reached number one in the Dutch charts, the only number one-hit of his career. His funeral was attended by Dutch pop singer André Hazes, comedian Hans Teeuwen and jazz orator Jules Deelder. 

Legacy
Brood is still remembered today, with his music and art still attracting audiences. Bart Chabot wrote a four volume-work about his friend between 1996 and 2003: 'Broodje Gezond', 'Broodje Halfom', 'Brood en Spelen' and 'Broodje Springlevend'. In 2001, Brood received his own statue in his birth town, sculpted by Frank Rosen. Four years later, a museum was dedicated to his work in Wageningen, while his life was made into a biopic feature film by Jean Van de Velde, 'Wild Romance' (2006), one year later. Rock singer Frank Black of the Pixies recorded a homage album to Brood named 'Bluefinger' (2007). Jan Eilander, Eugene van Den Bosch, Ton van der Lee and Frenk van der Sterre made a highly recommended rockumentary about Brood's life named 'Rock 'n' Roll Junkie' (1994). A more recent documentary is Dennis Alink's 'Unknown Brood' (2016). The musician even inspired his own theatrical musical, 'Chez Brood' (2016), by Victor Löw. Peter Pontiac made a comic strip about how he met Brood before he became famous, printed in his 'Stof aan de Naald' comic in the drug information magazine Mainline. Gerrit De Jager told an anecdote about how he once met Brood in his autobiographical graphic novel 'Door Zonder Familie' (2013). 

Brood signing his work
Herman Brood with his comic book.

Series and books by Herman Brood you can order today:

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