Famous Belgian singer Arno died on Saturday, his agent, Filip De Groote, announced on Saturday afternoon.
The singer had been battling pancreatic cancer since late 2019. He would have been 73 years old in one month’s time.
Born in Ostend, Arno Hintjens had been residing in Brussels since the 1980s and was a frequent visitor to the neighbourhood around Place Sainte-Catherine. He had been made an honorary citizen of the capital, and Brussels Mayor Philippe Close, was one of the first people to publicly react to his death.
"Arno, honorary citizen of the City of Brussels has gone. We will not see his silhouette in the Sainte-Catherine district anymore. F*ck, f*ck, we miss him already ('Putain putain, il nous manque déjà …')," Close said, referring to the title of one of Arno's most famous hits.
"We have lost a great man in Ostend," commented Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein on Twitter, writing in the local dialect. "Thank you Arno, the people of Ostend will never forget you."
Various political leaders paid homage to the Belgian icon as news of his death spread.
“Rest in peace, Arno. It was wonderful! ('C'était magnifique')” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo tweeted, referring to another one of the singer's hits.
Others, like ministers Céline Tellier and Bénédicte Linard, celebrated his 'Belgitude,' while the Minister-Presidents of Flanders and Wallonia, Jan Jambon and Elio Di Rupo respectively, also paid homage to his memory.
"Arno was one of the greatest Belgian artistes," Di Rupo said. "His special style reflected an exceptional talent and unfailing determination to assert his status as a Belgian of the North, the South and the Centre."
Celebrating Arno's life
Also on Saturday afternoon, a condolence book was opened at the De Grote Post culture centre, which will be accessible to the public until 30 April, from 12:00 to 20:00 each day. The book will also be available online for those wishing to sign it digitally.
The wall bearing Arno Hintjens’ image, at the Ostend city hall, will be illuminated and passers-by will also be able to go there to hear some of his best-known songs at 19:00, 20:00 and 21:00.
A special viewing of the documentary by Dominique Deruddere on the life of Arno is also planned.
Flags at the Ostend City Hall are being flown at half-mast and the municipality has announced that Arno’s ashes will be committed to the North Sea from its beach.