Welterusten mijnheer de president (Sleep well Mister President) is a Dutch protest song from 1965, issued by one of the Netherlands' best known artists Boudewijn de Groot. As the sixties were times of social disruption and of social awareness, protest songs became an important current in popular music. The Vietnam War was one of the major stimuli for protest songs. Following his American and British predecessors Bob Dylan and Donovan, De Groot recorded Welterusten mijnheer de president as demonstration against the bloody interventions in Vietnam: "Better not dream of all those dead people - Better dream of the victory and of power".
Welterusten mijnheer de president was one of Boudewijn de Groot's first hit recordings. On his first album he also issued some Dutch versions of Dylan and Donovan songs, which emphasized his image as protest singer. His songwriter Lennaert Nijgh was consequently known as protest songwriter. It helped De Groot fire off a career of most popular Dutch artist, issuing his biggest success in 1967 with the Jeroen Bosch inspired Land van Maas en Waal, a number one hit.
The protest singer/songwriter was an image they could not shake off for many years to come. Although it brought De Groot the success needed to set his stardom in motion, he eventually was not happy about it. It outshined his other work and placed a certain label on him. In a 1999 interview Boudewijn de Groot said: "In the period that Welterusten mijnheer de president was issued, I was bombarded to be protest singer. No, that is not the best thing to happen to a progressive young guy in the sixties at all. A leftist young man does not want to be restricted. We only issued two protest songs, but still it took years to get rid of the protest singer image. The critics said we did it for the money, that we sailed along with the existing pacifist and anti-war movements. Nonsense! Our whole generation was engaged with Vietnam and protesting and destroying traditional issues. Lennaert Nijgh and I were no exceptions. Just like others we were pulled into the wave of what was happening at the time."
The song is aimed at US president Lyndon B. Johnson, who sent his soldiers to Vietnam under the adagio of bringing peace. In August 1964, Johnson ordered the first United States air strikes against North Vietnam. De Groot sings his disapproval softly and calmly with his chansonnier's voice, although the tone gets a little more insisting and louder towards the end. As most protest songs of the sixties, the use of instruments is constrained. Spanish guitar and muffled drums are used. In an interval some brass instruments and violins are introduced.
Following the new E2 Copyright Changes, I deleted the original copyrighted Dutch lyrics that were mixed through the text below. The translation is all mine and will stay here. You can find the Dutch lyrics at http://www.boudewijndegroot.nl/bdg1.htm#welterusten.
Mister President, sleep well
Sleep comfortly in your beautiful white house
Better not think too much of all those distant coasts
Where your boys are, lonely, far from home
Above all do not think of all those forty six casualties
Those by accident recently at that bombing
And forget the fourth of the ten commandments
Which you will know at good Christian
Better not think of those young front soldiers
Dying alone in the distant humid night
Let that weak pacifist clique do its talking
Mister President, sleep quietly
Dream ahead of triumph and victory
Dream ahead of your beautiful peace ideal
That has never been obtained by bloody murdering
Dream ahead that you will succeed this time
Better not think of all those suffering people
How many women, how many children have been killed
Dream ahead of you pulling the longest straw
And do not believe a word of the opposition
Bajonets with bloody hilts
Are on patrol on your command far from here
For the glory and honour of the Free West
Mister President, sleep quietly
Don't be shocked too much, when in your dreams
You notice all those innocent victims
Who have died there in combat
And ask you how much longer this must go on
And you will probably know by now
That there are people who are sick of the violence
Who cannot forget the blood and the misery
And for whom a human life still counts?
Better not dream of all those dead people
Better dream of the victory and of power
Better not think of all those peace wishes
Mister President, sleep quietly!
Boudewijn de Groot, from the album Apocalyps. Words and music by Lennaert Nijght / Boudewijn de Groot. Translation by me.