Monday, July 7, 2008


I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: one person’s new and startling trivia is another person’s tired old fact. With that in mind, I offer you some of the fascinating info I just found out about the Nina and Frederik, who sang that soft calypso-style song, “Listen to the Ocean.” But first, just a bit of history. Calypso music swept into North America the 1950s in much the same way the British bands did a decade later. One of the early precursors of calypso rhythm in a popular song was the 1944 Andrews Sisters Island-flavored hit, “Rum and Coca-cola,” then in 1956 Harry Belafonte released what would become a million-seller album, and give us the blockbuster hit single, “Banana Boat Song.” Soon everybody was getting into the Island spirit. I particularly remember “Marianne” by Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders (1957) and “Jamaica Farewell” by the Kingston Trio.

Back in 1960, I had the 45 of “Listen to the Ocean,” and just about wore it out. But it didn’t come with a picture sleeve to show me what the artists looked like, so, in my extreme youth and inexperience, I assumed the Nina and Frederik were what we would call today Afro-Caribbean. You know, like Harry Belafonte (who was actually born in Harlem, New York...but hey, what did a white suburban 14-year old kid know in 1960?). Anyway, that mode of thinking about Nina and Frederik didn’t get revised until just the other day, when I began to research (Wikipedia) this tribute. First discovery: they’re white! Second discovery: they’re…Danish?? Well, who knew! Anyway, though we may think of Nina and Frederik (or as their close friends called them, Baron and Baroness - really!) as pretty much a One-Hit-Wonder group, they enjoyed quite an international following for a while. Then they divorced in 1975, and each of them went down very different roads. Here is quickie time line of sorts to show you what I mean. And I think you’ll agree that while Baroness Nina did pretty well for herself, the Baron, not so much.

Nina: In 1960, Danish singer and actress Nina Magdelene Moller-Hasselback married Frederik, Baron van Pallandt, formed a singing duo, and released “Listen to the Ocean.” After they divorced, Nina moved to Ibiza (still there) and was romantically linked to resident author Clifford Irving (who wrote a ton of books that could be pretty decent for all I know, but is best known for that fake bio of Howard Hughes). In the Richard Gere film about the bio hoax (“The Hoax”) Nina was played by Julie Delpy. Interestingly, Nina herself had a part in Gere’s “American Gigolo.” She also had parts in several Robert Altman films in the ‘70s, and contributed a song to a James Bond movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” There’s also a rumor that Nina might be the model for the enigmatic Marie-Claire in Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go To My Lovely” (the one about the girl from the streets turned international jet-setter).

Frederik: After the split, Frederik eventually settled in the Philippines, got involved with a major Aussie crime syndicate (there’s got to be a pun in there somewhere if I can just find it!) trafficking in drugs, and was murdered (a hit?) in 1994.

Well, that’s the long and short of it. To my great disappointment, YouTube doesn’t have “Listen to the Ocean” at present. Too bad, it’s a really lovely song. I’ll give you a link for Amazon so you can at least hear a tidbit to whet your ear’s appetite.

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