Dutch singer Mathilde Santing (born Mathilde Eleveld) has enjoyed an unconventional career trajectory that has taken her from the confines of indie rock through jazz-based interpretations of other people's songs to mainstream musical theater work. She is perhaps best known for her coolly dispassionate takes on the work of singer/songwriters who are rarely covered by female singers, such as Todd Rundgren, Tom Waits, John Cale, and -- most notably -- Randy Newman, who once described her 1993 album Texas Girl and Pretty Boy as "some of the very best recordings I know of my work." In a career dating back to 1982, she has been showered with awards by the European music industry. Openly lesbian, she once recorded a version of the Jimi Hendrix classic, retitled "Hey Joan."
Born in 1958 in Amstelveen near Amsterdam, Santing spent the years 1972-1981 performing as a solo artist and with a band. In particular she performed as backing vocalist for the highly regarded Amsterdam outfit the Tapes. Her first solo recording was a 1982 mini-album composed of standards; it was released in two versions -- one with seven tracks, one with nine. Shortly thereafter, she played as a supporting act to Newman during his visit to Holland. Though her mini-album eventually went gold, Santing opted for a very different approach for its follow-up, Water Under the Bridge. Gone were the evergreens, replaced by a delicately flavored album of originals, mostly written in collaboration with bandmembers Ralf Hermsen and Dennis Duchhart. For many, this remains Santing's towering achievement, yet the singer's next album, Out of This Dream in 1986, contained a mixture of covers and originals, and since then she has all but abandoned composition.
In 1997 she made her musical theater debut in the stage production Joe: The Musical, and in 1999 seemed to make the ultimate concession to mainstream showbiz when she played two shows as supporting act to Shirley Bassey. That same year she had a hit record with a cover version of the Black song "Wonderful Life." In 2003 she toured with a Dutch-language cabaret-style show called The Nine Lives of Mathilde Santing, which contained many autobiographical elements, and the following year she was among a number of Dutch artists who contributed to "Song for Beslan," a benefit single for the victims of the terrorist attack on a Russian school. Later that same year she gave a master class on Dutch television in a show that included a number of ex-soap stars. In 2005 she was also one of the Dutch vocalists who recorded a benefit single for victims of the Asian tsunami. ~ Christopher Evans