Armand – Ben Ik Te Min

Eindhoven’s most famous singer-songwriter must be Armand, the stage name of a guy who was born on April the 10th, 1946 als Herman van Loenhout.

Armand is primarily known as the composer of the ultimate sixties protest song Ben Ik Te Min, which you could roughly translate as Am I Not Worthy? It is the story of a disillusioned teenage boy that is not good enough for the girl he likes. He’s angry, and sings ‘ben ik te min, omdat jouw ouders meer poen hebben dan de mijne?’ (‘am I not worthy, because your parents are richer than mine?’) and ‘ben ik te min, omdat je pa in een grotere kar rijdt dan de mijne?’ (‘am I not worthy, because your dad drives a bigger car than mine?’) Yes, when it comes to grammar it’s not completely flawless, but the message is obvious: she’s rich, he’s poor (and that sucks). Armand wrote the bitter song after a show with his band The Valiants in the city of Roosendaal. He saw a nice girl, but knew well enough he was too poor to make a big impression on her, or her parents, for that matter.

It wasn’t supposed to be a hit single at all. It was the b-side of Een Van Hen Ben Ik (I Am One Of Them), an ode to the old, now demolished pub De Poort van Kleef (it’s on the same location where you can nowadays well… sort of find Café De Vooruitgang). Anybody who was around in Eindhoven in the sixties will know the – somewhat dubious – reputation of this famous pub and its customers. But outside of Eindhoven, I guess it wasn’t that well-known. It may have been the reason why the Dutch radio-DJ Joost den Draaijer stopped playing Een Van Hen Ben Ik and chose to play the b-side instead. Obviously, it struck a chord with some disgruntled Dutch youngsters and an evergreen was born.

Most of Armand’s other singles were banned from the radio, a characteristic that Armand has famously called ‘his speciality’. There were numerous reasons why his singles were banned, but in most cases it was because he promoted the use of a famous Dutch product: marihuana. Armand is a strong advocate of the use of soft drugs and still regularly talks about the benefits of the substance in the Dutch media.

Armand is 67 years old and still regularly performs, especially in cafés and coffee shops. If you ever get the chance, go and see him perform live. I saw him live once and it was brilliant. You could say he got stuck in the sixties, with his henna-coloured hair and hippie clothes, but that’s what makes him so endearing.

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