15 golden oldies you probably didn’t know were Belgian

We bet you can sing (or hum) along with quite a few of the golden oldies in this list, without realizing these songs are actually ‘made in Belgium’. Over the past few decades, Belgium has produced a decent amount of hits that got picked up internationally and even turned into worldwide successes in some occasions. Here are our favorites from back in the days.

1. Daydream

Wallace Collection - 1969

Daydream by the Belgian collective The Wallace Collection was recorded at Abbey Road Studios. If you listen carefully, you can hear a few notes from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in it! The band also composed film music and scored a few more modest hits after Daydream before they split in 1975.

Artists like Claude François and I Monster made their own version of Daydream, others sampled the bass line of the song, like Isaac Hayes II, Portishead and Tricky.

2. Pump up the jam

Technotronic – 1989

Belgium played an important part in the rise of techno music. Technotronic was founded by Jo Bogaert in the late 80s, and the first single, Pump up the jam, was an instant worldwide hit. The band served as the opening act for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour and sold over 14 million albums in total, but it was ‘Pump up the jam’ that truly made Technotronic immortal.

3. No limit

2 Unlimited - 1993

Another techno classic! 2 Unlimited is the most successful Dutch-Belgian pop band in history. They were especially huge in the 90s and sold over 20 million records worldwide. The band was the first group that was able to make commercial house music on a large scale. Male rapper, female singer , easy on the ear melodies and infectious dance rhythms (also called Euro Dance), what’s not to like on a night on the town?

4. Disco Samba

Two man Sound – 1977

Two Man Sound is a Belgian trio from the seventies that achieved success with rhythmic songs based on disco, samba and bossa nova. If you don’t recognize the ‘Disco Samba’ song (especially huge in Mexico), try ‘Charlie Brown‘ or ‘Copacabana‘, two more of their hits from the seventies.

5. Marina

Rocco Granata - 1959

Rocco Granata has a very distinctive voice, so recognizable that it’s considered a violation to imitate his voice for commercial profits…  The Belgian singer started composing songs when he was 18 but couldn’t find a single record company interested in releasing his work so he composed, recorded and produced an LP by himself. Rumor has it he finished the chorus of ‘Marina’ with ‘oh no no no no no’ because he had to finish the song in a rush due to the limited time he had in the studio. ‘Marina’ became one of the most covered songs in history!

6. Kili Watch

The Cousins – 1960

One of the benefits of boy scouts: finding inspiration for a hit song. ‘Kili watch’ is an adaptation of an Indian song that the bassist player of The Cousins had learned as a boy scout. The Belgian band sold a million copies of the single and continued composing music in the same style for another six years. They took the charts in several countries multiple times but could never emulate the success of Kili Watch.

7. Bluesette

Toots Thielemans – 1963

Toots Thielemans was a Belgian jazz musician and composer and one of the best harmonica players the world has ever seen. Never heard of him? Sure you have. He composed the opening theme of Sesame Street and in 1952 he emigrated to the United States to collaborate and share the stage with an impressive amount of artists, from Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Joel and Quincy Jones to Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Nick Cave, Jamie Cullum and Sting. His ‘Bluesette’ is a true jazz classic. Thielemans died in Belgium on the 22nd of August 2016 at the age of 94.

8. Jungle fever

The Chakachas - 1972

The Belgian latin style band Chakachas (also called Les Chakachas or Los Chakachas) scored several hits during the 50s, 60s and early 70s, but they will mostly be remembered for their world hit ‘Jungle Fever’. Over a million copies were sold and the single reached 8th place in the American Billboard Hot 100. In the UK though, the BBC refused to play the song because of the groaning… The song made it on the soundtrack of the movie Boogie Nights in 1997 and is used in the computer game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

9. ça plane pour moi

Plastic Bertrand – 1977

In 1977, Plastic Bertrand started his solo career as the credited artist of the international hit single ‘Ça plane pour moi’, but what a lot of people don’t know is that in fact the song is sung and produced by Lou Deprijck, who was also a member of Two men Sound. The song became an absolute smash hit in several European countries and even peaked at n°7 in New Zealand and n°5 in Australia. Plastic Bertrand however continued to claim he was the singer but despite the dispute, ça plane pour moi became a true classic!

10. Eviva Espana

Samantha - 1971

‘Eviva España’ is Belgian? Oh yes it is! You’ve probably it heard in a different version (over 400 different artists covered the song) but the original song was written by two Belgians composers and sung by the Belgian Samantha. In total, over 40 million copies of the song have been sold, 450,000 of them were performed by Samantha.

11. The sound of C

Confetti's – 1988

if you’re looking for a typical Belgian new beat sound, Confetti’s must be it. Confetti’s was actually the name of a nightclub in Brasschaat (north of Antwerp) where singer Peter Renskens worked as a waiter. The band was formed as a publicity stunt for the Antwerp club, but their song ‘The Sound of C’ was picked up by all the right people and became a huge international hit.

12. Tombe la Neige

Salvatore Adamo – 1964

The best-selling artist in the world in 1964 after The Beatles was….. Salvatore Adamo, a Belgian singer of Sicilian descent! His songs (all written by himself) are mainly in French, but also in Italian and in Dutch, English, Turkish, Spanish, Japanese and German. In his career he has sold over 90 million albums and singles worldwide, making him the best selling Belgian artist of all time. The song ‘Tombe la Neige’ is one of his biggest hits.

13. Dominique

Soeur Sourire - 1963

Jeanne Paule Marie (Jeannine) Deckers was a sister in the Dominican convent in Fichermont, near Waterloo. She was known to compose and sing songs on a regular basis and in 1963 the monastery decided to record an album of her songs, to sell or give to visitors and novices. The song ‘Dominique’ was picked by the people at Philips, who released the song under their record label and turned it into a worldwide hit. At one point it even outsold Elvis!

The smiling nun couldn’t cope with the fact that she was a one hit wonder though. After Dominique she tried all kinds of projects that failed one after the other. She even made a disco version of Dominique in the hope of regaining some money and fame, but that never happened. Nonetheless she will always be one of the rare Belgians to win a Grammy Award.

14. Minor Swing

Django Reinhardt - 1937

Django Reinhardt was a great Belgian guitarist and jazz lover. He developed a unique style known as jazz manouche or gypsy jazz and he is now considered one of the greatest artists of Belgian jazz history.

Reinhardt’s music has been used in many films, including The Matrix (1999), The Aviator (2004) and Chocolat (2001). His music is also included in the soundtrack of video games such as ‘Mafia’ and ‘Bioshock’. ‘Minor swing’ is one of his biggest ‘gipsyjazz’ hits and has been covered multiple times over the years.

15. Ne me quitte pas

Jacques Brel - 1959

We’re finishing with one the most beloved Belgian artists in history! Singer and composer Jacques Brel has given us many wonderful songs, but ‘Ne me quitte pas’ must be the most famous one. He wrote it after his break-up with Suzanne Gabriello (Zizou). The song has been covered countless times in several languages (the English version is called ‘If you go away’) by major international stars, including Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, Nana Mouskouri, Dusty Springfield and Frank Sinatra.

A special thank you to Patrick Swimberghe (Cactus Music Brugge)

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