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In Memoriam

RIP Eddy Wally: The 83 Year Old Belgian Singer Who Spawned a Million Internet Memes

You might now know the name. You might not even recognise his face. But there was a time when he ruled the Internet.

There’s a good chance you don’t know the name Eddy Wally. The 83 year old Belgian – who sadly passed away over the weekend – was an extravagant crooner, a one-time (self-styled) “Voice of Europe", and a common feature on the strange and sexy comedy show, Eurotrash. But aside from all that, Eddy Wally, with his putty-cheeks and cheeky-wink, was also the man who spawned a million memes during the Internet’s first true golden era. He came before keyboard cat; he is proto-¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Watch this:


Watched it? Good. That’s a piece of contemporary digital history right there. In essence, Eddy Wally was “Wow”, and “Wow” was Eddy Wally. And now he has passed away, excessive internet users, Youtubers, gamers, and genuine Eddy Wally Belgian pop fans are in mourning.

Nobody really knows what Eddy Wally recording “Wow” in front of a screen was initially created for, but from the moment it was uploaded to YouTube on October 8th, 2007, it supernova’d into a million stars, each and every one of them an amateur YouTube montage – from illuminati conspiracy videos, to video game montages, to people failing badly on Family Fortunes, to “Get rekt m8” clips – and each one would conclude with, or just involve, Eddy popping up to say, “Wow”. There is a ten hour mix of Wally saying "Wow" – one for the heads. There is a version of Flappy Bird that features Eddy saying "Wow" whenever you crash.

The life of the man behind the meme is exactly the jumble of primary coloured vividness and slapstick oddness that should be compulsory for any aspirant online cult-hero. He spent his formative years slogging his innards out as a door-to-door handbag salesman before turning to music, and his double platinum hit “Cherie” saw him become the Tony Bennett of East Flanders.

Since dipping away from music, he somehow always found a way to be near alternative popular culture. In the 90s, he become a mainstay on the much-missed, absurdist late-night British music show Eurotrash, primarily for his sheer commitment to balls on the table, triple-A plated sartorial excess which made Liberace pale into M&S Blue Island-esque functionality. The show's presenter, Antoine De Caunes, picked out Wally as one of his favourite artists of all time in a 2009 interview:

“There was this Flemish singer (Wally) who sang very, very, badly and never stopped singing. We would do a sort of world tour with him – Eddy Wally in Tokyo, Argentina… each time he went to sing in a club with old people we brought out from hospices to applaud. It was awful, but very funny.”

First a dude, then a musician, then a meme. Maybe all musicians will eventually become memes. Maybe that's what the afterlife is. Either way, if ever an artist was ripe for a future of Internet notoriety, it was the white-felt stetson wearing Wally. Life meanders on, both online and offline. Things happen and memes are created to commemorate them at ever more dizzying rates of production. You have your "Miley, what's good?" and "Why You Always Lying", but only the special ones become part of the Internet's unendingly vast collective memory. Only the inexplicably lucky ones become classics of the form. Only ones like this brilliant Belgian eccentric. RIP Eddy Wally.

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