Comic strip by Herman Brood

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 songs which were not only raw and dark, but expressed his own excessive lifestyle at the fringes of society. His best known songs were '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 not only an attractive man, but had a soft-spoken personality which easily won everyone's charm. The musician also enjoyed fame as an abstract painter and made a few short-lived comics in the 1970s and 1980s. He inevitably died a young death by commiting suicide at age 55.

Herman Brood was born in Zwolle in 1946. 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. He still tried studying at the Art Academy of Arnhem in 1964, but dropped out after only three months because he was attracted to a new passion: rock 'n' roll. The young adult loved Little Richard and many of the early 1950s and 1960s rock artists. In 1964 he joined the beat rock band The Moans, where he performed 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 taking drugs. They immediately threw him out the band, kicking off a longer and aimless period when Brood no longer made music.

Vaste Prik by Herman Brood

Instead he started drawing and painting again. Many of his works were inspired by the abstract-expressionist Cobra movement and were usually paintings or collages. In the early 1970s Brood also published some comics in the Dutch music magazine Oor. They appeared under the heading 'Bisz'. Others were illustrations for the monthly column of his best friend Bart Chabot. Brood also drew a comic strip for the hippie magazine Aloha, under the name 'Vaste Prik'. This was a pun on the Dutch expression for the word "punctuality" as well as the verb "prikken" ("to prick"), referring to heroin needles. They were typically made in black-and-white to avoid using colour contrasts. Brood was a complete amateur and therefore his drawings were nothing more than quick scribbles and doodles. Most of them were tragicomical observations of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Brood was attracted to the excitement of this lifestyle since he was so bored with everyday reality. He guzzled down alcohol, LSD, amfetamines and shot up heroin on a daily basis. The former musician often got arrested and jailed for drug possession, drug dealing and stealing. For a while it seemed that this would be what he would do for the rest of his life. A collection of his 'Bisz' strips was published in 1979.

Comic art by Herman Brood

Yet in 1974 Cuby+Blizzards reunited for the Dutch musical TV show 'Nederpopzien' and invited Brood to come along again. The broadcast sparked off new interest in the band. Not only were the ratings high, but the concert was even released on an album record afterwards. Still Brood left the band soon again and became a vocalist and keyboard player for groups like Stud, Flash & Dance and Vitesse. In 1976 he felt confident enough to start a solo career. As Herman Brood & His Wild Romance, his group 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). Brood was not a great vocalist or songwriter. His English pronunciation was awful and often slurred since he was always drunk or high. But luck was on his side, as punk and new wave revolutionized rock 'n' roll. Audiences were now more receptive to singers who had attitude rather than professionalism. Brood's music also had a raw, spicy quality which most other Dutch pop acts at the time lacked. He achieved cult status in his home country and gained a certain notability in the European rock scene, particularly when he had an affair with German punk singer Nina Hagen. By 1979 Brood appeared in his own movie, 'Cha Cha' (1979) by Herbert Curiël, alongside Hagen. The film combined a loose plotline with concert performances. While it flopped at the box office it easily became a cult picture.

Brood furthermore 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' ("Turn Your Fart Into A Thunderbolt", 1979). The same year he recorded a song with Dutch comedian Dolf Brouwers called 'Nooit Meer Terug Naar Die Rotschool' ("Never Returning To That Damn School", 1979). Brouwers performed in the guise of his comedic alter ego Sjef van Oekel, the character which also starred in Wim T. Schippers and Theo Van Den Boogaard's celebrity comic series 'Sjef van Oekel'.


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

In the 1980s Brood toured the United States, but failed to crack the market there. Around the same time his musical career also imploded. 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). One of the major reasons his music ran out of steam was his problematic drug use. Many concerts and new albums were simply not that memorable since he was rarely sober while performing or recording. Soon Brood found himself in serious tax debts. He picked up his graphic career again, since it was an easier way to bring in money. The musician took every assignment he could get and created drawings for cars, windows, walls, post cards, beer brands, T-shirts, subways… He even got the Dutch tax revenue so far that they accepted his artwork as temporary payment. Not all of his art was strictly created for financial purposes, though. In 1989 he made a painting criticizing South Africa's apartheid regime with a message which went right to the point: "Apartheid sucks!". Brood made a few comics too, like the one-shot comic book, 'Pas Op, Daar Is Ie' (1984, sometimes titled 'Stil Daar Is Ie' too). In 1995 he and Kamagurka made a work named 'Artiesteningang' ('Artists' Entry') depicting a vagina. To save money Brood naturally designed his own album covers too, like the ones for 'Vitesse' (1990) and 'Home' (1992). Herman Brood also contributed to a collective comic book for the gay community, 'En wie is nou het vrouwtje?' (1986), which was 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. Also in 1986, Ger van Wulften published Brood's picture book 'Sjonge jonge', starring the character Top Dog. In 2003, Herman Brood made a series of drawings and collages, to which poet Jules Deelder added texts for the book 'Inderdaad nee' (Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 2003).

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

Herman Brood remained in the public interest through various media appearances, art exhibitions and by occasionally touring and recording again. But at this point the general public was mostly interested in his private life. Brood had many love affairs, often ruined by his adultery and never-ending drug abuse. He sometimes made headlines by doing embarrassing things under the influence, like a 1999 incident when he fired a gun from inside a train. Jan Eilander, Eugene van Den Bosch, Ton van der Lee and Frenk van der Sterre made a highly recommended rockumentary about his life named 'Rock 'n' Roll Junkie' (1994). And yet, despite Brood's troubled life, he was beloved by many. In interviews he enjoyed telling jokes and always remained humble despite his success. He was such a charming personality that he came across as a little boy who never grew up. Many people took pity on him and easily sympathized with his lifestyle. It got to the point that Dutch customs and police officers simply batted a blind eye when they caught him bringing drugs in the country. Brood even carried a record single with his picture on it around, to help them recognize him in order to get a free pass. After a while the addled addict was nicknamed the "national cuddle junkie". Unfortunately, as everyone allowed him to continue his bad habits, Brood's health quickly deteriorated. He occasionally tried to go "cold turkey", but was never able to kick off his addictions. In 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 unevitable. In the summer of that year he jumped off the roof of the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam, the same building where John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their 'Bed-In' honeymoon in 1969. His death made him an instant legend and his posthumous cover of 'My Way' reached number one in the Dutch charts, making it the only number one hit of his career.

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 he 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). Gerrit De Jager tells an anecdote about how he once met Brood in his autobiographical graphic novel 'Door Zonder Familie' (2013). A new documentary film, 'Unknown Brood' (2016), by Dennis Alink and a theatrical musical, 'Chez Brood' (2016) by Victor Löw keep the memories about the musician alive.

Brood signing his work
Herman Brood with his comic book

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