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Legendary Brussels singer ‘Grand Jojo’ has died, aged 85

16:33 01/12/2021

Legendary Brussels singer Jules Jean Vanobbergen, known as Grand Jojo, has died aged 85. Jojo was famous for his many upbeat chanson hits throughout the years, including ‘On a soif’, ‘Jules César’ and ‘E viva Mexico’.

Jojo was an icon on both sides of the language border, seeing a recent rise in popularity among young people, who saw his sometimes kitschy music as a source of Belgian pride and unity. No good party is complete without a Grand Jojo party mix.

And no one forgot his many performances at the Bal National in Marolles. “Grand Jojo has delighted many generations of Belgians,” said Brussels-City mayor Philippe Close. “He loved Belgium and the Belgians. My thoughts go out to his family.”

Jojo was born in 1936 in Ixelles, staging his first performance – age three – in a Koekelberg bistro. His family soon moved to Molenbeek, where he grew up. After secondary school, he studied drawing and got the nickname that would stick with him until the end.

Music in Grand Place

He began his musical career in the late 1960s, and put out one number after another. He sang in both French and the Brussels dialect and had a penchant for drinking songs and humorous lyrics, backed by a catchy brass-band sound.

In 2016, Jojo was named an honorary citizen of Brussels-City and later an honorary Marollien. He continued to perform up until this year, finally announcing his retirement in the summer.

Grand Jojo’s music will be played on loudspeakers in the Grand Place today from 17.00 to 19.00. A memorial book has been opened in the city hall, where fans can leave their thoughts about Jojo and wish his family well.

Photo: Grand Jojo during the closing ceremony of RTL’s Televie charity event in 2014
©Laurie Dieffembacq/BELGA

  

Written by Lisa Bradshaw