Obituary for Jan van Veen

On 4th of February, it was announced that former radio DJ and presenter, Jan van Veen, passed away at the age of 79, after a short illness. Van Veen was best known as presenter of the radio programme Candlelight. In it, he read listeners’ love poems in his characteristic heavy voice. Jan van Veen started his radio career on 1st of September 1964 aboard Radio Veronica, where he later also became programme manager.

Jan van Veen. Photo: Douwe Dijkstra

A joke that got out of hand where Van Veen read love poems on the radio led to thousands of poems from listeners, after which the programme Candlelight was born. This would eventually become one of the longest-running programmes on Dutch radio.

After Radio Veronica, Candlelight could be heard on various stations, including AVRO on Hilversum 3, Sky Radio and 100% NL. In 2019, Van Veen briefly returned with the programme on NPO Radio 5. He stopped there after just one month because of a difference of opinion about the programme’s content. He also had his own internet radio station Candlelight Radio for a while. Most recently, he could be heard with the programme on Easy FM. Van Veen’s warm and reassuring voice created a relaxing and intimate atmosphere. Listeners often tuned into Candlelight for a dose of nostalgia and to enjoy the heartfelt messages and poetry. When Van Veen recited his poems, the song Greensleeves could invariably be heard. In 2009, he was appointed a member of the Order of Orange-Nassau.

We should not forget that in 1971 he started working for the then new Radio Noordzee, an offshore station whose ship was anchored close to that of Veronica. He was also involved in the failed Radio Hollandia in 1978.

Joost de Draaijer, Ferry Maat, Jan van Veen, John de Mol sr and Robert Jan Mijnaard Photo: Menno Dekker 1971 05 15

He also lent his characteristic voice to commercials and recorded records. For instance, with Patricia Paay and Willem Duyn, among others, he made a Dutch-language version of radio play ‘The war of the worlds’ by Jeff Wayne. A pioneer he remained to the bitter end. In his last active year as a radio presenter, he applied artificial intelligence to generate Candlelight poems. “I get a lot of poems every day from people who have put their loves and sorrows on paper. Putting your feelings on
paper is not for everyone. These new techniques show that now every Candlelight listener can write a poem,” he told a Broadcast Magazine journalist in an interview.

Van Veen died of ALS in his hometown Hilversum. During his Veronica and Noordzee period, he also recorded records himself, such as the song ‘Meer'(1974); and with fellow DJs Lex Harding and Rob Out had a hit with a Dutch-language version of the Steam,-success song ‘Na Na Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)’ that became a hit under the name Los Piratos. But also Het Lied Van De Sirene. Originally an Italian summer hit that was reworked again with Dutch lyrics voiced by Jan van Veen.

A collector’s item. Van Veen is further known for the single: “Veronica” / “Jan Van Veen” (Park). Front cover was the tune of Veronica’s lunch programme, sung to the tune of the gospel song “Amen”. The back was a kind of poem written by Veronica fan Henry Francino from The Hague and this was committed to vinyl with the instrumental song “Greensleeves,” the tune of van Veen’s programme Candlelight, as background.

Jan and Ceessie: If I Were James Bond. Comical record sung by Veronica deejays Jan van Veen and Cees van Zijtveld. The song was, as Van Veen confirmed, a cover of the earlier and German-language “Wenn Ich James Bond wär” by English-German deejay Chris Howland. That was a brief overview of the many records made by Jan van Veen.

Hans Knot 2024.