No doubt about it - music can have a big influence on people. While hearing new, live or your favorite music, emotions and all sorts of feelings come to the surface. For a lot of people, exactly who performs also plays a big part in how they experience music. But what just happened on Sept. 27 in the Netherlands is something that stunned us and was unlike anything we've ever seen before in a country where people are proud of their common sense and both-feet-on-the-ground level-headedness.

So, what happened?

Just that on Thursday, Sept. 23, Andre Hazes died at the age of 53.

Andre who? For 25 years, Andre Hazes was a singer who performed tear jerkers which Dutchies call levenslied or smartlap. Later in his career, Andre changed his image and dressed himself like a Blues Brother. Then people started to call his music The Dutch Blues.

This singer from Amsterdam was a small, fatty/sweaty kind of man without a terrific voice who wrote his songs accompanied by a simple rhyming dictionary and a lot of Heinekens and cigarettes - not a truly earthshaking image thus far. He wrote songs about his often unhappy daily life in the language of the streets and bars of Amsterdam - simple songs, easy to sing along with and if possible, as loud as you can muster. This music is in the Amsterdam tradition of popular music from the city's De Jordaan quarters - the Jordan. It is here where the working class lives (or more accurately, used to live before the yuppies took over) and visits their brown bars that double as living rooms. In the beginning of the 20th century, De Jordaan's poverty was great and music an escape from the harsh reality. These songs are about drinking fathers, lost loves, children without mothers and other daily sufferings and the melodies based on the Italian tradition of bel canto, long exhales on a single note that are easy to sing or cry along with. It's a little like American Country lyrics on a cheap operatic melody. And presto, that is Andre's musical background.

Andre's audience consists of all manner of people, from trendy yuppies to football hooligans and maybe even audiophiles in disguise. This audience always managed to turn his concerts into major parties. This too was Andre Haze's wish for his own memorial service. It had to be a swell party for everyone to enjoy. In just a couple of short days, his record company EMI and concert organizer Mojo had a lot of work to do but damn if they and 500 volunteers didn't pull it off.

First, they contracted for his favorite stadium, the 50,000-seat Amsterdam Arena. Second and outside the stadium, they set up humongous screens for attendees who didn't fit into the stadium. To top it off, national -- i.e. government-funded -- television volunteered 2.5 hours of nationwide broadcasting time to enable everybody else to see this event at home.

Starting in the very early morning hours already, people were waiting, partying and drinking beer in front of the stadium to be sure to get in. When the Memorial Service kicked off, the stadium was filled to every last seat. The event began with the welcoming of Andre's coffin which was placed on the soccer field's center mark. A temporary stage next to the coffin housed family, friends and Dutch celebrities.

Then a party of sadness and laughter began, with the Mayor of Amsterdam, famous footballer Johan Cruijff, celebrities and Andre's 10-year old son all having something to say to their departed friend. In-between, colleagues and admirers presented his most popular songs. In the stadium, people were singing, shouting, crying and laughing. In the rest of Holland, over 5 million TV viewers were doing exactly the same. Remember, the total Dutch population is only 16 million - that's nearly one out of three. Hell, even your 6moons contributors got mesmerized by the event. Instead of flicking off the telecast, we were glued to the tube in fascination and for the whole broadcast. Then we began to wonder what was really going down.

According to Howard Bloom -- the man who literally made pop idol's avantgarde like Bob Marley, Bette Midler, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Run DMC and Queen to name a few -- you have to give something of yourself to the public. Clearly, Andre Hazes gave everything of himself - or was that his record company? His life was an open book. All his troubles, in love and in finances, were public knowledge. If his songs didn't mention it, the gossip press did. He was a vulnerable spirit who showed his soft as well as his more masculine side when his family was attacked. Most of all, he was honest.

It must be this carelessly public character that binds so many people to this bluesman and prompts grown-up men to burn Andre's facial tattoo to their flesh and now openly participate in communal tears. That seems proper and natural for the hard core fans. But having so many people participate seems just a bit strange. Perhaps the Dutch have changed? No more sturdy down-to-earth workers but emotional (over?)sensitives? Naturally, emotions are beautiful and it is necessary to express them and let them go, with music a great help to tune into your emotional self. But

when emotions start to turn into mass hysteria, something altogether different is happening. Then other forces and agendas are at work. Are we too cynical to think that an artist is worth more dead than alive?