In Memoriam of Ramses Shaffy


(29 August 1933 – 1 December 2009)

Ramses Shaffy and Liesbeth List

Ramses Shaffy was born in Paris, in the suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine. His father was an Egyptian diplomat, his mother a Polish-Russian countess. He grew up with his mother in Cannes. When she was infected with tuberculosis, Shaffy was sent to an aunt in Utrecht in the Netherlands and eventually ended up living with a foster family in Leiden.

He did not finish high school, but was accepted at the Amsterdam school of theatre arts in 1952. Three years later he made his debut with De Nederlandse Comedie. He went to Rome in 1960, aspiring to be a film actor, but was unsuccessful.

In 1964 he founded Shaffy Chantant, a theatre group, which led to his first collaborations with Liesbeth List, a well-known Dutch chanteuse.

In the early 1980s he travelled to Poona with a friend and took sannyas (and became Swami Ramses Shaffy during a darshan with Teertha) and temporarily stopped his habit of heavy drinking. From August 1982 he worked and lived for a while in De Stad Rajneesh Neo-Sannyas Commune near Heerde, the Netherlands. (Antar Marc remembers him from that time when he was playing the piano and singing, and when they were washing dishes together). Ranses visited Rajneeshpuram in Oregon twice for the annual festivals. From mid-1983 until mid-1985 Ramses lived in Grada Rajneesh Neo-Sannyas Commune (now Humaniversity in Egmond an Zee).

He later returned to the stage as an actor; he played Don Quixote in the musical De man van La Mancha in 1993. Pieter Fleury made a documentary about Shaffy in 2002, Ramses. It won a Golden Calf, the award of the Netherlands Film Festival. The film shows Shaffy’s life in a care home in Amsterdam to where he had to move as he was suffering from Korsakoff-like symptoms, caused by heavy alcohol use.

Ramses’ condition slightly improved in the years following the film. His memory also improved and he sometimes made public appearances again. In 2002, he received a Knighthood of the Order of the Dutch Lion.

In the fall of 2005 he re-recorded his 1978 hit song Laat Me, together with Liesbeth List and the band Alderliefste, which became a minor hit.

Book cover We zien wel!In May 2009 it was made public that Shaffy suffered from esophageal cancer. He succumbed to the disease at age 76 on December 1, 2009 at the Dr. Sarphati House, Amsterdam, where he had lived during his last seven years. The public took leave of him at the Royal Carré Theatre in Amsterdam as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the Netherlands.

The Ramses biography We zien wel! (We will see!), written by Sylvester Hoodmoed, was published in 2012.

The Ramses Shaffy Home, a residential space for artists, was opened in Amsterdam on 23 June 2017.

Text by Marc, with thanks to Ojas and Wikipedia

The song ‘Mens, durf te leven’ (Man, dare to live) was recorded by Ramses Shaffy in 1967. The song was composed by Dirk Witte with lyrics by Dirk Witte, and originally performed by Jean-Louis Pisuisse, as early as 1917.

Mens durf te leven

English translation further below

Je leeft maar heel kort, maar een enkele keer
En als je straks anders wilt kun je niet meer
Mens, durf te leven
Vraag niet elke dag van je korte bestaan
Hoe hebben m’n pa en m’n grootpa gedaan
Hoe doet er m’n neef en hoe doet er m’n vrind
En wie weet, hoe of dat nou m’n buurman weer vindt
En wat heeft “Het Fatsoen” voorgeschreven
Mens, durf te leven

De mensen bepalen de kleur van je das
De vorm van je hoed, en de snit van je jas
En van je leven
Ze wijzen de paadjes waarlangs je mag gaan
En roepen “O foei” als je even blijft staan
Ze kiezen je toekomst en kiezen je werk
Ze zoeken een kroeg voor je uit en een kerk
En wat j’aan de armen moet geven
Mens, is dat leven

De mensen, ze schrijven je leefregels voor
Ze geven je raad en ze roepen in koor
Zo moet je leven
Met die mag je omgaan, maar die is te min
Met die moet je trouwen al heb je geen zin
En daar moet je wonen, dat eist je fatsoen
En je wordt genegeerd als je ‘t anders zou doen
Alsof je iets ergs had misdreven
Mens, is dat leven

Het leven is heerlijk, het leven is mooi
Maar vlieg uit in de lucht, en kruip niet in een kooi
Mens, durf te leven
Je kop in de hoogte, je neus in de wind
En lap aan je laars hoe een ander het vindt
Hou een hart vol van warmte en van liefde in je borst
Maar wees op je vierkante meter een vorst
Wat je zoekt kan geen ander je geven
Mens, durf te leven

Credit –

Man, dare to live

You only live short and you only live once
If you want to change some day, you’ll be too late
Dare to live, people
Don’t ask every day the short time you exist
How did both my dad and my granddad behave
How’s my cousin acting and what did my friend
And who knows what the whole world is thinking of this
And what are ‘decency regulations’
Dare to live, people

The people dictate here the shade of your tie
The shape of your hat and the style of your coat
And of your life, too
They’re pointing the pathways you’re allowed to go
And call: “Shame on you” if you pause for a while
They’re choosing your future, they’re choosing your job
They’re picking a pub for you, also a church
And how much to give to the paupers
That’s no life, people

The people enforce what rules are to lived by
They give you advice and are shouting as one
Live in this manner
These guys are beneath you, those can be your friends
This girl you must marry and don’t you resist
That house in this city is decent and neat
And you will be ignored if you choose otherwise
As if it’s bad misbehaviour
That’s no life, people

Our life is so lovely, delightfully fair
Fly high in the sky and don’t crawl in a cage
Dare to live, people
Always keep your head up, your nose in the wind
And don’t care at all how the other will judge
Keep a heart full of warmth, full of love in your chest
But on your square metre behave like a king
No one else can give you what you search for
Dare to live, people

Translation credit –

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