Mariska Veres

Singer with Shocking Blue

Tuesday 05 December 2006 01:00 GMT

Mariska Veres, singer and songwriter: born The Hague 1 October 1947; died The Hague 2 December 2006.

With its acoustic guitar intro, piano riff and haunting vocals by Mariska Veres - most memorably on the chorus, "I'm your Venus, I'm your fire, at your desire" - the single "Venus", by the Dutch group Shocking Blue, made the Top Ten across Europe in 1970, including the UK, and reached the No 1 spot in the United States. It turned the striking-looking Veres, with her big, blue kohl-lined eyes, high cheekbones and long jet-black hair (actually a wig), into a sex-symbol.

Shocking Blue followed up their worldwide hit with "Mighty Joe" and "Long and Lonesome Road", but remain forever associated with "Venus". It was covered at the time by Tom Jones, the Larry Page Orchestra and the Chipmunks, and revived to great success by Star Sound in 1981 and Bananarama in 1986. Two years later, Nirvana, the grunge band led by Kurt Cobain, recorded a fuzzy, menacing version of Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz ", a psychedelic track from their album At Home (1969).

Born in 1947 in The Hague, to Hungarian and German parents, Mariska Veres was the daughter of the gypsy violinist Lajos Veres, and often accompanied her father on the piano. She recorded a couple of solo singles before joining a group called the Bumble Bees.

In 1967 the guitarist and sitar-player Robby van Leeuwen formed Shocking Blue with the drummer Cor van der Beek, bassist Klaasje van der Wal and lead vocalist Fred de Wilde. The following year, the Bumble Bees performed at a party where Veres's stunning appearance and powerful vocals attracted the attention of Shocking Blue's manager and publisher. He talked van Leeuwen into having Veres replace de Wilde. "She had a very impressive voice, quite different from all the other girl singers," van Leeuwen recalled: "She was rather like Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane. Once she joined, everything happened very quickly. The first single we did was " Venus" in 1969. In one year, everything we dreamed about happened. It sold millions around the world and gave other Dutch groups a belief in their own potential."

Shocking Blue released a further 15 singles and 10 albums, scoring hits including "Never Marry a Railroad Man", "Hello Darkness" , "Blossom Lady" and "Eve and the Apple" and broke up in the mid-Seventies. Veres embarked on a solo career, with occasional help from van Leeuwen. In the late Seventies, they considered reforming Shocking Blue, going as far as recording a track called "Louise", which remains unreleased, but they did play a couple of concerts in 1984.

Veres loved cats, didn't smoke, drink or do drugs and told the members of Shocking Blue when she joined that relationships were out. Reflecting on her early fame, Veres told the Belgian magazine Flair: "I was just a painted doll, nobody could ever reach me. Nowadays, I am more open to people. "

Pierre Perrone

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