Yves Aerts – photo © Ann Jansen
Belgian guitarist, Yves Aerts, died tragically in a boating accident in Sweden, where he had been living. He was 45 years of age.
A great lover of nature and the outdoors, Yves and his girlfriend were on a canoeing trip near their home in Upsala about ten days ago. When they did not return a neighbor alerted police. Teams conducting a search found the empty canoe, and a few hours later both of their bodies in the water. Police have not yet announced the results of their investigation, but is it presumed that both drowned or died from exposure to the water which was quite near freezing at the time.
Aerts was quite prominent in the European bluegrass scene, both as a creative and influential guitarist, and as a friend to all in the community. Friends and bandmates describe him as always ready to share his knowledge with other musicians, from beginners to other experienced professionals. Though the music world has been on hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, he had been performing as a member of Belgium’s Sons of Navarone, one of Europe’s most popular and longstanding bands.
A number of his friends have shared comments with us about his life, as well as a last farewell. First, from Tony Watt, Boston-based guitarist and member of Alan Bibey & Grasstowne.
“I met Yves Aerts in 2010 when he came to the States from his home in Belgium to attend the Grey Fox and Ossipee festivals, both held in the northeast in July. We were introduced via email by Kevin Lynch, a great bluegrass musician who lived for years in Connecticut before moving to Holland. Yves (pronounced ‘Eve’) was looking to fill up a few days in the Boston area before heading to the festivals, and we offered to put him up at our place in Cambridge. He and I had a lot of similar influences and interests in bluegrass guitar, and we hit it off immediately. Yves was one of the best European flatpickers I’ve ever met, and it was great to get to hang out with him both in Boston, and also at the July festivals. I had always wanted to visit Belgium and see where my grandfather was shot down and smuggled out during WWII, and Yves said he would love to show me around whenever I could come. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make it to Belgium yet, and Yves ended up moving to Sweden where he had lots of success in music and in life. I was heartbroken to learn that he recently passed away during a canoeing accident with his girlfriend. I reached out to some of his friends and they were kind enough to share these remembrances of Yves.”
Jef Van Peer is one of Aerts’ best friends. They had known each other since they were in high school together.
“September 1991: Never been much of an A-grade student, I arrived in another school a few days in the yet-started year. Hence my entry was quite ‘special’ and I almost immediately locked in with another guy who had no great career in high school either. His name was Yves Aerts, and it turned out he was living only a few miles from where I lived. He played the guitar and loved Paul Simon. I noodled on some keyboards back home so we decided to meet at his place. About that time, I discovered my Dad’s guitar in the attic with some chords, and started to get attracted to the guitar. Little did I know I had met one of the few guys who could make a guitar sound like no one else can. From that moment Yves grabbed me and never let go. Until last week. A huge chunk of me has left with him. My playing, my home sound system, my instruments, my friendship all got better because of Yves’ drive and passion to do things the way they should be done. His playing and his right hand are unmatched on this side of the planet. He could make that box ring and hum and he did that with all his heart. My heart now has a hole the size of you, buddy. I will miss you.”
Here are Yves and Jef singing a duet on Don Williams’ Don’t You Believe.
Patrik Lundgren is a well-known Swedish flatpicker who manages the very popular YouTube Channel Flatpick Nation.
“Yves Aerts was the most humble human I have ever met, and the strongest rhythm player I’ve ever heard. I met Yves first time in 2012 at the Torsaker Bluegrass festival in Sweden. He told me I couldn’t play bluegrass on a Martin OM-28, I needed a dread, he said. From that moment we have been great friends. Although Yves Aerts is from Belgium, he has a lot of musician friends here in Sweden. He has done a lot of workshops here, and countless shows with guys like Jens Koch and Erik Igelstrom from the band G2, to name just a few. I received the horrible news that my good friend passed away in a canoe accident here in Sweden. I will forever miss Yves’ bad sense of humor. Best guitar player and friend to ever live.”
Here Yves and Patrick trade licks on Big Sciota.
Yves’ passing is a great loss to the European bluegrass community, not to mention to his family and close friends.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced, pending conclusion of the police investigation. COVID restrictions will make travel difficult, and it is unsure whether he will be buried in Belgium or Sweden.
We share in the condolences being shared across Europe from those who loved Aerts personally, as well as his music.
R.I.P., Yves Aerts.