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Singer, writer, composer, comedian and presenter
Robert Long, pseudonym of Jan Gerrit Bob Arend (Bob) Leverman (Utrecht, October 22, 1943 – Antwerp, December 13, 2006) was a Dutch singer, writer, composer, comedian and radio and television presenter.
Long was born in Utrecht and grew up in Ederveen. Both he and his divorced mother regularly clashed with the mostly Orthodox Protestant villagers. That didn’t get any better when Long came out openly about his homosexuality. The resistance that his orientation provoked in his environment eventually became the driving force for part of his artistic oeuvre. He expressed this period in the album Homo sapiens with the same title song and the song Perebloesom on the album Nu.
After a short career as a window dresser at department store HEMA, Long started performing as an artist. In 1963 he founded the band The Yelping Jackals under the stage name ‘Bob Revvel‘. In 1964 the name changed to Bob Revvel and the Yelping Jackals. In 1966, Long became vocalist for Bob Revvel and the A-Ones, releasing the single It Takes Time. In 1967 he switched to the band Gloria, later Unit Gloria. His English-language repertoire, certainly in the light of what was to come, had a relatively innocent character. Long’s biggest hit with Gloria is The Last Seven Days. From 1971 he sang solo under his definitive stage name Robert Long (a name that refers to his height of 1.92 meters), although he released an English-language single in 1973 under the name Michael Hirschmann. When Long left Unit Gloria, his role was taken over by singer Bonnie St. Claire.
In 1975 he participated in the satirical theater program Scherts, satire, songs and other sweets with Dimitri Frenkel Frank, Jenny Arean and Jérôme Reehuis.
Initially, Long released some English-language singles. After a demo, on which Long sang some of his own Dutch songs, he was brought into contact with arranger Erik van der Wurff. Under the direction of John Möring, Long recorded his first solo LP Vroeger of later (Sooner or later) (1974). The songs were characterized by their socially critical lyrics, in which American politics and Dutch society were treated with irony. One factor in his decision to switch to Dutch-language repertoire was that Long’s English-language solo career had difficulty getting off the ground. Only when he made a long-playing record with Dutch lyrics did he rise to the highest regions of the album charts in a short time.
His first Dutch-language album Vroeger of later sold more than half a million copies. It was one of the best-selling albums for 118 consecutive weeks. His second album Levenslang, featuring the song Thorbeckeplein, also sold several hundred thousand copies. In 1977 he received the first of six Edisons awards.
In his songs, Long expressed the unease that lived among large groups of young people. In his songs he expressed a passion of saving the planet and opposed capitalism. His fiercest lyrics, however, were directed against the church, the Pope and Jesus Christ himself. Whoever puts Vroeger of Later on the turntable will hear, in addition to romantic songs about love and homosexuality, also disapproval of everything Christian, such as the well-known Jesus saves.
Success gave Long wings and his provocations became more open and vicious. Together with Leen Jongewaard, Long made a series of three theater programs in the 1980’s: Duidelijk zo!? (1980), Tot hiertoe (heeft de Heere ons geholpen) (1982) en En het bleef nog lang onrustig in de stad (1983). The duo went to war against ‘bourgeoisie and Calvinism’. Furious reactions, especially from orthodox Protestants and its supporters, but also from Catholic circles, only stimulated Long even more. Also he called down the evangelist couple Lucas and Jenny Goeree. Because he wanted to make solo projects again, their collaboration with Jongewaard came to an end after the third performance. Leen Jongewaard regretted that very much.
His albums also continued to sell well in the 1980’s. In 1984 he received a Golden Harp award. In 1986 Long scored a top 10 hit in the Netherlands with the single Iedereen doet ‘t (Everyone does it).
Television work, radio, theater and writing
At the end of the 1980’s, Long started presenting a television program for the first time: Mijn geheim (My secret). Although this initially led to mainly negative reactions, the program was still successful. Not much later, Robert Long switched to presenting the language quiz Tien voor taal.
From 1986 Long wrote columns for the newspapaer Algemeen Dagblad. A selection of these was released in 1990 under the title Vandaag geen nieuws (No News Today). At the same time he presented the show Fantastico at the VARA. Long wrote the Dutch-language musical Chekhov with Dimitri Frenkel Frank. Initially, only the music was released on a CD, with Long himself singing the lead role. Other collaborators on that project included André van den Heuvel, Rob de Nijs, Simone Kleinsma and Robert Paul. When the musical was first staged a few years later, Long declined the lead role because he no longer wanted to work in the theater. Boudewijn de Groot got the role of the famous Russian writer. The musical was a great success in the Netherlands, but the German version – in which Long was also involved – was received less enthusiastically in Germany.
His autobiographical novel Wat wil je nou, his novel debut from 1988, was only moderately appreciated in literary criticism. For example, a fairly negative review by Joost Zwagerman appeared in the magazine Vrij Nederland, in which he accused Long, among other things, of merely making use of his fame. There was an audience for it, because the novel was even reprinted.
In 1998 Beste Robert, Waarde Cees was published, a book with letters ‘about life, death, love, sex, work and colleagues’ that Robert Long exchanged with Cees van der Pluijm. Long and Van der Pluijm had known each other since the early 1980s; In 1987, under the pseudonym Paul Lemmens, Van der Pluijm compiled the collection Jij wou me totaal samen, in which all of Long’s Dutch lyrics appeared in print for the first time. Together they also wrote the scabrous picaresque novel Hete klippen (1991).
From 1999 to mid-2003, Long presented the radio program Mezzo.
On May 31, 2008, a second volume of correspondence with Cees van der Pluijm was published, titled Het laatste jaar (The last year). The 2006 letters, in which Long talks about death, farewell and illness, unaware that he would soon become ill and die.
The book could be published thanks to a campaign by two Robert Long fans who recruited more than 250 subscribers in two months. Publisher De Stiel then brought the book on the market.
During his final appearances, Long seemed to have mellowed. The title of his last CD, which was released in 2006, was ‘n Duivels genoegen (a Devil’s pleasure). The songs on this record are part lyrical and part rebellious.
Robert Long was not only critical in the lyrics of his songs. He was also socially active outside his performances. In 2000, for example, he became spokesman for the Pigs in Need Foundation, an organization that wanted to bring abuses in the factory farming industry to the attention of the public. In the newspaper Agrarisch Dagblad (Agricultural Daily) and the weekly magazine Boerderij (Farm) he made a comparison with atrocities from the Second World War: “Pigs live like in a concentration camp”. He called on consumers to opt for animal-friendly pork instead of “the torture chop, which is cheap, sickening and barbarically produced”. “Concentration camps have come to an end. The guilty could be punished, but that is not yet the case for pig farming,” says Long. The Agrarisch Dagblad published his criticism under the headline “Pigs are the Jews of the meat industry”. These publications caused quite a stir in the media and in agricultural circles. The agricultural organization LTO Netherlands filed summary proceedings against him. In it, the judge was asked to order him to retract these statements and to prohibit him from making similar statements in public. The judge, however, honored his appeal to freedom of expression. Long also released a single for the activist organization Varkens in Nood (Pigs in Distress), called Een vrolijk biggetje (A cheerful piglet).
Long suffered a heart attack on September 8, 2005 and was treated for this at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. Later that year, on December 6, 2005, Long married his Belgian friend and manager Kristof Rutsaert (1971). The ceremony was performed in the town hall of Baarle-Nassau by the well known artist Gerard Cox, a good friend of Long’s. The week before, Cox was sworn in as a civil registrar in Breda especially for the marriage.
On December 11, 2006, it was announced that Long was terminally ill and had a very short life to live. At the beginning of December he was admitted to hospital with a serious form of peritoneal cancer. He received chemotherapy, but this was quickly stopped after it turned out that the treatment did not work. Robert Long died on December 13, 2006 at the age of 63 in a hospital in Antwerp. He was buried on December 23, 2006 in a sand grave at the Sint Petrus Banden Roman Catholic cemetery in The Hague, not far from the arcade, where his good friend Dimitri Frenkel Frank is also buried. On the grave monument is a sculpture by the Flemish artist George Minne (1866–1941) of a “kneeling youth”, the original design of which was used for a fountain in Ghent; there is also the phrase that Long himself chose in his song Epitaph: “Someone, at least one, has loved him”.
After his death
In December 2015, a musical about Robert Long’s life featuring many of his songs premiered. In the musical Robert Long, produced by Stage Entertainment Nederland, Paul Groot plays the title role, while Jeremy Baker plays the role of Leen Jongewaard. Both are known as actors of Koefnoen. At the beginning of 2016, the oeuvre box Jij wilde mij totaal (You wanted me totally) was released, containing all of Long’s Dutch-language albums. Although the box speaks of “his complete Dutch-language oeuvre”, the cabaret albums 10 years of theater with Leen Jongewaard and various songs, which did not end up on albums by Long, are missing. In 2023, Gerald Drent and Martijn Mulders will perform as a duo LUDIQUE! on in the country with the music theater performance LevensLONG, produced by Kristof Rutsaert, the widower of Robert Long.
Major Music Albums
- 1969 – Mea Semper Gloria Vivet (Gloria)
- 1971 – Ultraiectum (Unit Gloria)
- 1974 – Vroeger of Later
- 1977 – Levenslang
- 1980 – Homo sapiens
- 1984 – Dag kleine jongen
- 1986 – Achter de horizon
- 1988 – Hartstocht
- 1992 – Voor mijn vrienden
- 1994 – In die dagen
- 1996 – Nu
- 1999 – Lang genoeg jong
- 2002 – Brand!
- 2006 – ‘n Duivels genoegen
- Teksten. Aarlanderveen 1979.
- Jij wou mij totaal. Amsterdam 1987 (alle liedteksten).
- Wat wil je nou. Amsterdam 1988 (roman).
- Vandaag geen nieuws. Baarn 1990 (columns).
- Hete klippen. Baarn 1991 (roman, met Cees van der Pluijm).
- Liegen mag. Baarn 1993 (columns).
- Van vroeger en nu. Baarn 1996 (alle teksten).
- Beste Robert Waarde Cees. Nijmegen 1998 (met Cees van der Pluijm).
- Getekend. Schiedam 2005 (liedteksten in stripvorm getekend door Charles van den Broek).
- ‘n Duivels Genoegen. Schiedam 2006.
- Het laatste Jaar. Een briefwisseling tussen Robert Long en Cees van der Pluijm uit het jaar 2006. Nijmegen 2008.