THE singing duo Nina and Frederik had not performed together for nearly 30 years. But the death of Frederik van Pallandt in what police in the Philippines have described as a mysterious professional killing, brings to a final end an era of sweet, slightly folk-tinged singing that, in their heyday, placed van Pallandt and his then wife Nina at the top of the international popular music tree, with sell-out Royal Albert Hall concerts, and at least five chart entries (one song twice) between 1959 and 1961.
They first made their mark in Britain at Christmas 1959 with a revival of 'Mary's Boy Child', which had been a hit for Harry Belafonte two years earlier, followed by another religious song, 'Little Donkey', which was in the charts for 10 weeks between November 1960 and February 1961. It reached No 3. They released two different albums called Nina and Frederik, the first of them reaching the Top 10 for albums in February 1960, and the second No 11 in April/May 1961.
Much was made of their aristocratic origins. Frederik was a baron, and the son of a former Ambassador for the Netherlands to Denmark, and Nina had simliar connections with the Danish and American social registers. Though they principally used material from the Third World - like another Belafonte hit, 'Long Time Boy', in September 1961, and 'Sucu Sucu' the following month - they were really part of the soft underbelly of folk, represented by a number of such duos - one thinks immediately of the Israeli Ofarim, who had a similarly glamorous woman partner with a pretty-boy male counterpart - whose hegemony was decisively put to an end by the tongue-in-cheek antics of Sonny and Cher, as well as the more carefully crafted tones of Peter Paul and Mary.
But it was not a shift in musical tast that dislodged them from their brief pinnacle of fame. Never particularly fond of the spotlight that success shone upon their lives, Frederik broke up the partnership by insisting that they retire, though Nina carved out a solo career for herself thereafter, followed by acting roles in films such as Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) and A Wedding (1979), and Paul Schrader's American Gigolo (1980).
Frederik invested his chart profits in a number of ventures, farming for a while in Ibiza - where Nina was a close neighbour - and becoming owner of Burke's Peerage for a short time in 1979.
Though the couple separated and eventually divorced in 1976, they remained friends until Frederik's death, from gunshot wounds, along with his second wife, Susannah. It was a measure of their continuing closeness that Nina flew out to the Philippines to bring his body home to Europe.