April 10, 2005 – Wally Tax (the Outsiders) was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands on 14 February 1948. His Dutch father and his Russian Romani mother had met in a concentration camp during World War II. He grew up in Amsterdam and learned English at an early age from contacts with American sailors, for whom he acted as a pimp.
In 1959, at age 11, he was one of the founding members of the beat band The Outsiders. The band sang English lyrics, with Tax as the main songwriter; Tax sang and played guitar and harmonica. Even while playing with The Outsiders, Tax recorded a solo album (with a symphonic orchestra), Love-In.
The Outsiders reached a good measure of success, opening up for The Rolling Stones in 1966 and scoring a number of hits in the Netherlands (Well Touch, Monkey on your Back, Summer Is Here). They were one of the best-known bands of the Nederbeat movement — when they signed with Phonogram Records in 1968, as Billboard reported on it.
The frontman of what Billboard called “the leading Dutch beat group,” Tax had a high profile—he was reported to have the longest hair in the country and lived a lavish lifestyle involving expensive dinners, chauffeur-driven cars, and friendships with Little Richard and Johnny Hallyday, as well as rumors of an affair with Brigitte Bardot.
Although The Outsiders’ records were not distributed in the United States, Tax did go overseas and made friends with notable musicians such as Tim Hardin, Richie Havens, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and attended the 1969 Woodstock Festival. He played with Hardin and Jimi Hendrix at the latter’s Electric Ladyland Studio. As he explained in his 1998 autobiography, success came too quick for him, and alcohol and drugs took their toll, and combined with a lack of financial security (he admitted not being good at bookkeeping since his “way of life” had killed too many braincells) the next decades of Tax’s life were chaotic. After recording three albums, The Outsiders broke up in 1969.
Tax, after briefly heading a band called Tax Free, went solo. He was accompanied, in succession, by Bamboule (1972), George Cash (1973), Watermen (1973), and The Mustangs (1976). In 1974, he won the Silver Harp, an award for musical talent. The end of his playing career was “Let’s Dance” (1977), which became a small hit in the Netherlands.
After his performing career had ended, he concerned himself mainly with songwriting and wrote a number of hits for Dutch artists such as Lee Towers (“It’s Raining in my Heart”) and Champagne (“Valentino,” “Oh Me Oh My Goodbye,” and “Rock ‘n Roll Star,” the latter charting at #2 in the Netherlands and #83 in the United States).
The 1980s saw his personal decline, starting with the slow death by cancer of his long-time partner Laurie Langenbach [another one of Jimi Hendrix’s conquests, when he was in Amsterdam in March 1967], who died in 1984—according to close friend Armand (Ben ik te min), he never recovered from her death and for the next twenty years lived surrounded by her personal belongings. Efforts to revive a music career appear hampered by personal problems caused by a heavy alcohol addiction and tax problems.
Wally Tax died in 2005 in relative obscurity on April 10, 2005, bothered by financial and physical problems. He was buried in Amsterdam, after a gathering in Paradiso in his honor raised enough money for his funeral. A year later, a benefit concert was held in Paradiso to raise funds for a monument to be placed on his grave. The monument, two guitar necks crossing, continues to draw visitors and proves his lasting popularity and influence.