Marco Borsato is one of the most successful pop musicians of the rock era in the Netherlands. He has had the most number one singles in the Dutch Top 40 since the Beatles, and his domestic records have remained unrivaled. SENA has calculated that Borsato was the most visible Dutch entertainer on radio and television from 1998 to 2001. He has sold millions of records, won the Popprijs and the Exportprijs, several Edisons, and numerous TMF awards.
Borsato was born to an Italian father and Dutch mother in Alkmaar, Noord-Holland, on December 21, 1966. He spent his childhood years in both Italy, where his father ran a restaurant, and the Netherlands, where he went to school. After the divorce of his parents, Borsato settled with his mother in Alkmaar. After high school, he went to a chef's school. Then he went into military service. It was there that he got his first taste of music. After military service, Borsato worked daytime jobs in construction and in his mother's shop, as well as working evening shifts in restaurants and cafes; he also managed to take some singing lessons. After participating in a talent show, he set up a one-man show that attracted attention from vocal coaches Gerard Joling and Karin Bloemen, in addition to a manager.
With their help, Borsato entered the preliminary rounds of the TV show circuit with a last-minute appearance on the Soundmixshow. Borsato won and qualified for the live finale, which he also won. Consequently, he was offered a recording contract. His first single, "At This Moment," appeared in May 1990. The single managed to reach the top of the charts, and Borsato's star began to rise. In August of the same year, his first record, Emozioni, was released, consisting entirely of Italian material. In 1991, Borsato's second single and album, Sento, arrived; both were recorded in Italian. Neither the album nor the single fared well. With 1992's Giorno Per Giorno, written by Borsato himself, record sales continued to drop even further.
Polydor decided it was time for a change and Borsato's image was overhauled and his music too was restyled: a team of Dutch songwriters collaborated with composer John Ewbank to translate Italian material and write some original Dutch compositions. In 1994, the single "Dromen Zijn Bedrog" was released. After a few months of silence, the single suddenly catapulted to the top of the charts, where it stayed for an amazing 13 weeks. Eventually, more than 350,000 copies were sold. The single's success had a direct spinoff: the new album, simply titled Marco, crossed the counter half a million times. At the end of the year, the second single, "Waarom Nou Jij?," also managed to reach the highest position. Suddenly, Marco Borsato was one of the biggest names in Dutch pop music. The year 1995 saw the release of Als Geen Ander, another collaboration by text writers translating Italian texts and John Ewbank's music. Als Geen Ander also sold half a million copies and had two hit singles: "Je Hoeft Niet Naar Huis Vannacht" and "Kom Maar Bij Mij." Borsato appealed to everyone from college students to housewives; fans everywhere bought his records.
The following year, the single "Ik Leef Niet Meer Voor Jou" became a smash hit. At the end of the year, "De Waarheid" — the first single from the forthcoming album bearing the same name and almost entirely written by John Ewbank — arrived. On the day of its release, almost 300,000 copies were sold. The benchmark of half a million copies sold — now almost a Borsato trademark — was surpassed a few weeks later. He sold thousands of records and was the most talked-about star in the country. During the spring and summer, he toured Holland extensively, closing his tour with 14 sold-out shows in Ahoy (with in excess of a 150,000 attendees). He also released the single "Wereld Zonder Jou," a collaboration with Trijntje Oosterhuis of Total Touch. The end of the year was a success, both professionally and personally, as he won the Popprijs in Groningen and announced that he was engaged to TV personality Leontine Ruiters and they would marry the next year.
In 1998, Marco won several TMF awards and two Edisons, one for best singer and one for the best single, for "Wereld Zonder Jou." A new album was released. De Bestemming sold about half a million copies. SENA announced that Borsato was the most played artist on Dutch radio. In 1999, he was awarded the Gouden Harp and had another number one single with "Binnen." Again, he was celebrated as the most played artist on the radio. In 2000, Borsato released the studio album Luid en Duidelijk. It went platinum multiple times — selling 400,000 copies — and won him two TMF awards. In October, he sold out nine shows in Ahoy. In November, the single "Wat Is Mijn Hart" was released. In 2001, he won another Edison, and SENA announced that, for the fourth consecutive year, Borsato was the most played artist on Dutch radio. In 2002, a compilation album, Onderweg, was released, along with a new single, "Lopen Op Het Water." The song reached the number one position and was performed live at the wedding of crown prince Willem Alexander. Closing out his touring season in June, Borsato had three consecutive sold-out shows in De Kuip, with more than 150,000 people attending.
The year 2003 was prestigious for him. He received the Exportprijs, an Edison, two TMF awards, and an Academy Award for the DVD Onderweg. The only distinction that he lost was that of most played artist. Borsato announced that his new album, Zien, would only be released in video format and directors like Dick Maas and Theo van Gogh would make short movies to go with the music. The single "Afscheid Nemen Bestaat Niet" reached the number one position. Next single "Voorbij," released in 2004, also reached the top of the charts, sending the sales of the album Zien above 325,000. For the ninth time in a row, Borsato was crowned best Dutch singer at the TMF awards. In April, he was honored as an Officer in the Order of Oranje Nassau, and in June, he sold out the Kuip again, but six nights in a row this time (almost 300,000 people), being the first Dutch artist ever to do so, and breaking the old record of four sold-out nights, dating back to Dire Straits' On Every Street tour. He recorded a live single with rapper Ali B. that summer, which entered the charts at number one. To top it all off, he closed out the year by reclaiming his title as most played artist.
In 2005, Marco won three Edisons and his tenth TMF award as Best Dutch Artist. In addition, he was crowned Artist of the Decade. He sold out three weeks' worth of shows in Belgium, and sang at the 25th anniversary of Queen Beatrix. In February 2006, "Because We Believe," a joint single with Italian singer Andrea Bocelli, was released. The single was written and produced by David Foster, the 14-time Grammy winner well-known for his work with Celine Dion, Lionel Richie, and Band from TV. The song marked Borsato's ninth number one single. He also received his last TMF award. He decided not to compete for it again — he wanted other bands or artists to win it in the coming years. Later that year, he released "Everytime I Think of You," a duet with Lucie Silvas. He closed out the year in style with ten Symphonica in Rosso performances in the Gelredome, with his own band and a 40-piece orchestra backing him. Accompanying single "Rood" was his tenth number one single, and in 2007 won a Best Single award from 3FM; it was declared the highest-selling single of the year.
After a long absence from recording studio albums, Borsato released Wit Licht in late 2008. Although it was less successful than his work of the '90s and 2000s, it still spent six weeks at the top of the Dutch album chart (and just as many topping the Belgian chart). Dromen Durven Delen, released in 2010, was similarly popular, driven by the Top Ten singles "Waterkant” and "Schouder aan Schouder" (the latter featuring Guus Meeuwis). Borsato's 11th studio album, 2013's Duizend Spiegels, was a much bigger hit in the Netherlands than in Belgium; it spent six weeks at the top of the chart during late 2013 and early 2014, thanks to a pair of popular singles, "Muziek" featuring Ali B and Bag2Bank, and "Ik Zou Het Zo Weer Overdoen" featuring Trijntje Oosterhuis. At the end of 2015, Borsato announced the release of his 13th studio album, Evenwicht. ~ Philip D. Huff