In a sense, Candy Dulfer has carried on in the family business: her father, Hans Dulfer, was a well-known tenor saxophonist in the Netherlands, and he began giving her lessons on the instrument while she was still a child. Few could have predicted, however, that Dulfer would become an international recording and performing star while still in her teens, and that her debut album, released before she was 21 years old, would sell more than one million copies worldwide. More remarkable still, Dulfer did so in a musical genre not known for setting sales records by young artists: fusion jazz. Helped along by her sound musical training and willingness to experiment with different musical forms, Dulfer has released a series of albums featuring collaborations with everyone from R&B legend Prince to jazz musician David Sanborn. Dulfer has also been aided by her blonde bombshell looks, prominently featured on her album covers over the years. Dulfer has refused to take her image too seriously, however, acknowledging to Europe magazine in 1996, “In the beginning, many people bought my CD thinking, ‘How cute, a girl playing saxophone.’ And then they found out that I actually play fusion music, a kind of music that they might not have bought otherwise.”
Born on September 19, 1969, to Inge and Hans Dulfer in Amsterdam, Candy Dulfer grew up in a musical environment. Her father was a jazz musician who started giving his daughter formal lessons when she was six years old. By that time, Dulfer was already a sort of veteran on the jazz scene in Amsterdam. As her mother recalled in an interview with Margriet, a Dutch magazine, “Pretty soon after her birth I took Candy in her basket to the concerts…. Everybody knew her and she knew those people. She grew up with it. To go along with the music has always been an important part of our life.” Dulfer herself fondly recalled that the nightclubs were “nothing for a child. They were smoky and there were … drunken people. But I found it… nice. I was more or less the police-agent of the house. I rather had to take care of the grown people than they of [me].”
Under her father’s instruction, Dulfer’s progress on the saxophone was rapid. After a year of studying, she began to appear with Hans Dulfer in jazz concerts around Holland; by the age of eleven, she was performing on her father’s records. The following year, Dulfer started playing with the brass section of Rosa King’s band. King, an American expatriate musician, became another early mentor to Dulfer, who stopped taking lessons from her father. As she told Margriet, “We are both pig-headed. I was thirteen when he gave me my last saxophone lesson. After that he [was mad at me], because I never wanted to listen.”
The young musician followed Rosa King’s lead by fronting her own band, Funky Stuff, at the age of 14; by then, Dulfer was a well-known personality throughout the Netherlands. Although much of the attention focused on the novelty of such a young, female musician
Born on September 19, 1969, in Amsterdam, Netherlands; daughter of Hans (a saxophonist) and Inge Dulfer (Candy’s manager).
Studied saxophone with father, a jazz musician; fronted Funky Stuff band as a teenager; released first album, Saxuality, 1991, followed by several additional albums in the 1990s; released two albums, Girls Night Out and Candy Live in Amsterdam, 2001.
Addresses: Record company —BMG Records, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036, website: http://www.bmg.com. Fan club —Candy Dulfer Fan Club, P.O. Box 7, 1843 ZG Grootschermer, Netherlands. Website—Candy Dulfer Official Website: http://www.candydulfer.com.
leading her own group, Dulfer was determined to make Funky Stuff a success. “I always like to be the boss and for myself, [having] my own band [was] a much greater challenge,” she explained to the Dutch newspaper Goudse Courant 1992. Dulfer’s drive paid off when Funky Stuff was asked to open for a Madonna concert in Rotterdam in 1987; the publicity allowed the band to become a regular concert act across the Netherlands. In 1989, Funky Stuff once again snagged a key opening slot for another hugely successful artist, Prince, for three dates on the Dutch leg of his European tour. Unfortunately, Prince canceled the concerts at the last minute, leading Dulfer to write a brash letter to the star in response. Impressed by her nerve, Prince ended up inviting Dulfer to join him in an impromptu jam during one of his concerts; eventually, the superstar asked her to perform on his Graffiti Bridge soundtrack.
Dulfer’s appearance on the video for Prince’s track “Party Man” and her performance with him on Saturday Night Live raised Dulfer’s profile in the United States, though the exposure was a mixed blessing. She had performed as a professional musician for over a decade, but some critics assumed that Dulfer was merely another in a long line of Prince protégés. Declining Prince’s offer to appear on his next world tour, Dulfer returned to Holland, where she encountered unexpected breakthrough success. Before recording with Prince, Dulfer had contributed to a soundtrack put together by Eurythmics member Dave Stewart for the film Lily Was Here. Released as a single, the title track went to number one in Holland and hit the top ten on pop charts across Europe. “I never would have thought of it,” Dulfer recounted on her website. “I recorded my part in five minutes. I was hoping they wouldn’t put it on the album. I was so embarrassed. It was so simple and I even played off-key. It wasn’t until later that I learned to appreciate it and saw what a genius Dave Stewart is.”
Although she had been offered recording contracts during her tenure with Funky Stuff, Dulfer waited until 1990 to sign with BMG records for a solo album. Released in 1990, Saxuality included the track “Lily Was Here,” along with several funk and jazz-fusion songs co-written by Dulfer and a partner from Funky Stuff, Ulco Bed. Making the album into a family affair, Hans Dulfer even performed a saxophone duet with his daughter. A Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Recording helped the album earn a gold record in the United States, and it sold more than one million copies worldwide.
With her recording and performing career in overdrive, Dulfer entered the studio to record her follow-up, Sax-A-Go-Go, in 1993. With a smooth R&B track written by Prince, “Sunday Afternoon,” and covers of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “Pick Up the Pieces,” Dulfer once again covered a wide range of musical territory, from funk to jazz to straight-ahead pop. Although the album was another international success, Dulfer struggled to keep the focus on her music. She told Margriet, “Before the big success started and I went playing with Prince, I didn’t really ever practice and [had] only been playing for the fun…. It went so all very easy. But now I am having the success, it is very difficult to hold your attention to … where it all started … the music. Before you know it, you are spending days with interviews and forgetting to play.”
In 1996, Dulfer released Big Girl, a title that jokingly referred to an album of her father’s, Big Boy. Although a Q magazine review gave Big Girl half-hearted approval as “a spirited exposition of activational background music,” the album did contain the standout duet with David Sanborn, “Wake Me Up When It’s Over.” Dulfer’s next album, For the Love of You, released in 1997, made more of a stab at crossover commercial success, with a dance remix of the track “Saxy Mood” leading the way. An indefatigable concert performer, Dulfer supported both releases with extensive tours of the United States, Japan, and Europe; she also made a number of concert appearances with Prince on his New Power Soul Festival tour in 1998.
Dulfer released What Does It Take in 1999. An album of jazz and funk tracks with danceable beats and glossy production values, it reconfirmed the artist’s appeal across an array of styles, including forays into house music and reggae. On her 2001 release, Girls Night Out, Dulfer continued her musical explorations with a guest appearance by legendary salsa musician Arturo Sandoval and several tracks that showed her love of contemporary R&B.
(Contributor) Lily Was Here (soundtrack), BMG, 1990.
Saxuality, Arista, 1991.
Sax-A-Go’Go, RCA/BMG, 1993.
Big Girl, RCA/BMG, 1996.
For the Love of You, N-Coded Music/Warlock/BMG, 1997.
What Does It Take, N-Coded Music/Warlock/BMG, 1999.
Girls Night Out, BMG, 2001.
Candy Live in Amsterdam, BMG, 2001.
Billboard, February 14, 1998, p. 85.
Europe, April 1996, p. 40.
Goudse Courant (The Netherlands), July 2, 1992.
Margriet (The Netherlands), September 8-14, 1995.
Q, March 1996.
Rolling Stone, September 5, 1991, p. 18.
Candy Dulfer Official Website, http://www.candydulfer.com (November 27, 2001).
“Candy Dulfer Wants to Go on Stage Again,” Funky Stuff, http://www.funky-stuff.com/maceo/revuint2.htm (November 27, 2001).