Belgian singer Arno, a rock star known for his broken voice and excesses, died this Saturday at the age of 72 from cancer, according to his agent.
“Arno left us on April 23. We will all miss him (…) but he will always be here thanks to the music that kept him going until the end,” his Belgian agent Filip De Groote wrote in a statement.
The artist, who sang in Flemish, English, and French and was sometimes compared to Tom Waits, announced in February 2020 that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer when he was in the middle of promoting a new album (“Santeboutique”, 2019). He had to interrupt his tour to undergo an operation.
Arno Hintjens was born on May 21, 1949, in Ostend, a Flemish coastal city to which he remained very close and which he used to evoke in his songs.
But Arno, with his characteristic white hair and dressed in a black suit, became known on his own thanks to songs like “Les Yeux de ma mère” [My mother’s eyes] and his version of “Filles du bord de Mer” [ Girls from the seashore] by another Belgian singer, Adamo.
The coronavirus pandemic and the impossibility of holding concerts postponed the prospect of returning to the stage several times throughout 2020, although he was able to record a new album, “Vivre” (Live), with the French pianist Sofiane Pamart, published at end of May 2021.
When the album came out, he was unable to promote it due to further hospitalization for chemotherapy treatment.
He finally returned to the stage in February 2022 and scheduled half a dozen concerts in Brussels, the Belgian capital, and Ostend.
During his last shows, the singer, sitting in front of a microphone with a thin face, regularly alluded to the public about his state of health.
Arno, who also acted in several films, also overcame a form of autism and a juvenile stutter.
He used to refer to his problems with alcohol in a humorous way.
“I haven’t had a drink for three months, my liver was on strike. Well, two bars went bankrupt,” he said in February 2020 during a concert in Paris.
King Philippe of Belgium described him as “an icon of the Belgian music scene”.