He was a social democrat who, to his sorrow, saw the Netherlands change ‘into a society in which market forces and the individual are central’. It brought the originally Catholic, but unbelieving Van Merwijk back into the church: churches could hire him for a moralistic sermon, which is why people laughed. He didn’t like business, but companies could also book him “for a discouragement speech”.
Jeroen van Merwijk grew up in the then completely white Utrecht district of Kanaleneiland. He would always remain Utrecht. He felt at home in the cathedral city, not least because of the language: “That calm proate, with that delicious áccent. “
Van Merwijk graduated from the art academy in 1983 after a discontinued study of Dutch. He wanted to be a painter and painted all his life, but earned his living as a comedian and song and lyricist. Already in the seventies he started writing for radio programs of the KRO and the VARA. In 1986 he toured the country with his first theater show.
He was prolific, creating more than twenty theater shows, writing a thousand columns and possibly thousands of sketches, songs and poems; by no means everything has been preserved. He often worked for others and remained in the background himself, such as in 2010 and 2012, when he and Erik van Muiswinkel attended his New Year’s conferences. Tolerance, hope and love and The honest story wrote.
Apartheid is a virtue
The course of events with the song was typical Apartheid es ien skone matter from 1988, about a white South African who returns enthusiastically from a visit to the Netherlands. In self-made ‘Afrikaans’, Van Merwijk sung in a mocking way how well apartheid has succeeded in the Netherlands: the poor live with the poor, the rich with the rich, the Moroccans and the Turks clean everything and there is no black in parliament.
In Van Merwijk’s performance, the song went unnoticed, but Karin Bloemen celebrated great success with it from 1992 and performed it for Nelson Mandela. Bloemen had more panache than Van Merwijk, who felt uncomfortable on stage, and had a swinging arrangement put under it, in which Van Merwijk, as always, only accompanied himself with simple guitar chords.