Singer Arno, a Belgian figure on the rock scene known for his breathy voice mixed with a Flemish accent, his messy hair and his excesses, died on Saturday of complications from cancer, his agent announced.
The 72-year-old artist, sometimes compared to Alain Bashung or Tom Waits of the same generation, announced in February 2020 that he had pancreatic cancer.
“Damn, damn, it was really good. Arno left us on April 23. We will all miss him, his family, his friends, his musicians, but he will always be there thanks to the music that kept him going until the end,” his Belgian agent Filip De Groote wrote in a press release.
Born on May 21, 1949 in Ostend, a Flemish coastal city to which he remained very close and which he evokes in his songs, Arno Hintjens began his career with the rock group TC Matic in the 1980s, in particular with the song ” Putain, putain” (“Damn it, damn it, it’s very good, we’re all still Europeans”) – a title recently taken up in a duet with another Belgian, Stromae.
It was solo that he later revealed himself to a wider audience, thanks to songs like “Los ojos de mi madre” or his version of “Girls by the sea” by another Belgian, Adamo.
The announcement of his illness came while promoting an album (“Santeboutique”, released in September 2019). He had to interrupt his tour to undergo an operation.
The coronavirus pandemic and the impossibility of performing concerts then postponed the prospect of returning to the stage several times throughout 2020, although he was able to record a new album (“Vivre”, with the French pianist Sofiane Pamart, released at the end of 2020 ). May 2021).
At the time of the album’s release, he had been prevented from promoting it by being hospitalized again for chemotherapy treatment.
He finally returned to the stage in February 2022, programming half a dozen dates in Brussels and Ostend, his hometown, after a first meeting in a small committee in the Flemish public radio studios on January 12.
During his last shows, the artist, sitting in front of a microphone, with a haggard face, regularly referred to his state of health in front of his audience.
On February 21, in his customary black stage suit, he was welcomed under the gildings of the royal palace in Brussels for an interview with King Philippe, whom he had hailed as “an icon of the Belgian music scene”.
“We will no longer see his silhouette in the Sainte-Catherine district. Damn, we already miss him, ”Philippe Close, mayor of Brussels, a city of which he was an honorary citizen, lamented on Twitter.