Mariska Veres was something of a child prodigy. Her father was a noted violinist and young Mariska would often accompany him on piano for performances.
Teenage Mariska bounced around a number of different pop bands in her native Netherlands. She sang, played guitar and keyboards and enchanted her audiences with her exotic dark looks and distinctive ancient Egypt-inspired eye makeup. She soon became a favorite of the budding psychedelic club scene in The Hague.
In 1968, Mariska was asked by guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen to audition for his band to replace the departing vocalist Fred de Wilde who had joined the military. She was reluctant at first, but soon became comfortable enough to take the lead vocalist position. In 1969, the band — Shocking Blue — scored an international hit with “Venus,” topping the charts in nine countries including the Number One spot on Billboard’s “Hot 100.” Shocking Blue received wide praise, with US entertainment columnist Earl Wilson singling out Mariska as a “beautiful busty girl.” The band released a string of follow-up songs — all hits — but none achieving the status of “Venus.” Some didn’t even crack the charts in the all-important United States or England. The band members eventually went their separate ways in 1974, with Mariska embarking on a successful solo career in Europe. Shocking Blue reunited briefly in 1984, riding on the success of Bananarama’s new-wave take on “Venus.” The reunion, however, was short-lived.
In the early 90s, Mariska formed a jazz ensemble and released jazz interpretations of Shocking Blue’s songs. In later years, she lamented about being treated like a “painted doll” by fans and the press. Diagnosed with gallbladder cancer, Mariska passed away in 2006 at the age of 59.