Monday, April 19, 2010

Corny and Crazy: "THE DUTCHMAN"

It's really too damn bad about the Dutch, isn't it? Most of the terms related to them are negative: "Dutch uncle" is a crusty bastard, "going Dutch" or "Dutch treat" means being cheap, and being "in Dutch" means you're in trouble. "Dutch widow" is a whore, "Double dutch" is inane babble, and "Dutch courage" comes from getting drunk. Farting under the covers in bed is creating a "Dutch oven."

As the notable "Morris Dictionary of Phrase and Word Origins" notes, "Probably no nationality has come in for so consistent a torrent of verbal abuse from the English as their neighbors across the channel, the Dutch."

The image of somebody from Holland is someone wearing a silly little beard and smoking a clay pipe, which is an awful stereotype as most Dutch women don't look like that at all.

To the average Amster damner, the Dutch really haven't done anything noteworthy since they hid Anne Frank. Not that this turned out particularly well. Drunks will tell you that the Dutch at least have given the world Heineken, but who can order it without feeling a bit wimpy? Heineken sounds like you're talking about a child's ass. Well, what do you expect from the "nether" lands?

Beer connoisseurs aren't so sure Heineken is actually the greatest beer in the world, so what does that leave Holland to be proud of? Tulips? Gouda? Windmills? Wooden shoes? These can't compare to Roses, cheddar, air conditioning or Clark's Wallabees. While Swedish and Danish women have a history of being sexy (going all the way back to Anita Ekberg and Greta Thyssen) the most famous female from Holland is "The Little Dutch Girl," with her braids and her tiny heine-ken.

Dutchmen? At best, they are perceived as portly and nuttier than a Kerstsol. The most famous song about a Dutchman is "The Dutchman," a bit of sentimental grutjespap made popular by Steve Goodman and loaded with every Dutch cliche songwriter Michael Smith could think of.

"The Dutchman's not the kind of man who keeps his thumb jammed in the dam that holds his dreams in," the song begins. Does that means he's successful? No: "That's a secret that only Margaret knows." In other words, he's a delusional loser. This is underlined by: "He thinks the tulips bloom beneath the snow. He`s mad as he can be." But fortunately he has a woman named Margaret to prevent him from walking into a windmill and scrambling what's left of his brains.

A particularly sickening image has Margaret lusting wistfully for the old bastard: "Sometimes she sees her unborn children in his eyes." Ewwwww.

Chorus sung by The Dutchman:
"Let us go to the banks of the ocean where the walls rise above the Zuiderzee.
Long ago, I used to be a young man and dear Margaret remembers that for me."
In other words, he's too senile to even remember he was young.
Embarrassing? Things get worse:
"The Dutchman still wears wooden shoes…sometimes he thinks he's still in Rotterdam.
He watches the tug boats down canals and calls out to them when he thinks he knows the Captain, 'til Margaret comes to take him home again…"

A mental case. Needs a keeper. He can't even dress himself properly without her: "The windmills whirl the winter in. She winds his muffler tighter…The Dutchman falls asleep and Margaret blows the candle out."

Pretty depressing stuff. Sentimental at best, insulting by most any definition. What nation would want to be known by stereotype and cliche? "The Mexican's not the kind of man who lets fences at the border hold his dreams in…" "The African wears no shoes. Sometimes he think he's still a cannibal. He watches the people and thinks of them as white meat until Margaret comes to prevent his arrest…"

You'd think the song would've referenced something more interesting about the average Dutchman. "The Dutchman's not the kind of man who won't pay for prostitutes or enjoy legal marijuana…" A little more catchy, eh?

As Steve Goodman is well known, and this blog favors the obscure, your download version of "The Dutchman" is from Kate Loitz, and she's particularly stirring on the march-tempo chorus. She's also representing "Margaret," the mythical woman who loves the crazy fuck even though he still wears wooden shoes.

Loitz's affluent hubby paid for her vanity recording session and it helped her find a new vocation for her retirement years…cabaret singer. The album is at CD Baby of course, and mp3 downloads are at the usual sites. If you want to loiter through Loitz's entire CD, you'll probably find it selling on eBay one week for a dollar or two. Which might still be too high a price for the average Dutchman! (Now now, don't start spurting snert through your nose (that's a type of Dutch soup), this entry is of course just in fun.)

The charm of "cabaret" music is that if the singer is good, and the pianist particularly adept at all the pitter-patter cliche of accompaniment, the result creates a pleasing veneer of superficial bliss for the listener. Especially if you don't pay much attention to the lyrics. Madame Loitz does find the charm in what is intended to be the kind of period piece that needs no napkin to handle the overflow of blood, perspiration and tears.

Teachers of Creative Writing 101 will tell you, "Write what you know about." There are exceptions to every rule, and no rules to live by. The authors who created Babar, The Mad Hatter, Harry Potter or Hobbits worked from imagination. Michael Smith's imagined his Dutchman, obviously influenced by movies, picture postcards and even paintings, but he also imagined "Crazy Mary," the star of another song performed often by Steve Goodman. This blog offered it years ago, beautifully performed by Bonnie Koloc. It has sentiment, it has a heavy-handed message, but like the best of Harry Chapin, the lyrics ring true and the pathos doesn't get in the way.

So in all seriousness, artists simply have to find their way and are glad for whatever manages to escape their ids to be bought by idiots. "The Dutchman" will simply be a pretty little curio for many who choose to download it, and they're welcome to enjoy it as nothing more than a sentimental song.

Being charitable, we must remember that Michael Smith wrote his song several decades ago. Perhaps today, he would've paid attention to a few of the more famous Dutchmen, ones who don't wear wooden shoes. For example, there's Joran van der Sloot, who has made a career out of making up tales about Natalee Holloway, a girl who befriended him and ended up dead, her body never discovered. Van Der Sloot has at times claimed he sold her into white slavery, he simply left her on a beach because he had no condom, it was a friend of his who buried her somewhere as a favor, etc. etc.

Another well known resident of Holland is Mohammed Bouyeri, who after firing eight bullets into Theo Van Gogh, nearly decapitated him with a knife, stabbed him in the chest, sank two knives in him, and left a maniacal five page religious screed at the scene of the crime.

Hmmm…maybe the stereotypical "The Dutchman" by Michael Smith, sung by Kate Loitz, isn't so bad a representation of life in the Netherlands after all. Enjoy!

THE DUTCHMAN written by Michael Smith, performed by Kate Loitz Instant listen on line or download. No pop-ups, porn ads or wait time.
CRAZY MARY written by Michael Smith, performed by Bonnie Koloc Instant listen on line or download. No pop-ups, porn ads or wait time.

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