Thank You, Mr. Heineken: A Look at Mayor Tecklenburg’s Forgotten Ballad

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Mayor John Tecklenburg - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Mayor John Tecklenburg
In 1983, Freddy Heineken of beer fame was kidnapped and held for ransom. He was eventually released and the kidnappers were brought to justice, but aside from adding another footnote to history, these events inspired John Tecklenburg to write “Thank You, Mr. Heineken.”

Released in 2013, “Thank You, Mr. Heineken” takes listeners on a sonic journey. Reeling from the news that Mr. Heineken had been taken, the track begins with the lone, driving chords of a piano before Tecklenburg enters on vocals with a sincere show of gratitude to the brewer.

“Mr. Heineken, it’s sure been a rough year, but you helped me through it. Helped to chase away the fear,” the mayor sings, his voice ripe with emotion. “You helped to change my attitude. You helped me when I was in such a bad mood.”

Tecklenburg says he penned the tune shortly after Heineken’s kidnapping and eventual release. While the song is the only original track from Tecklenburg that is readily available online, he says it was recorded as part of a compilation of his works.

“From time to time, I’m an amateur songwriter. I’ve been writing songs most of my adult life, very infrequently, but from time to time I do. I was particularly struck by the fact that Mr. Heineken had been kidnapped back then. It clearly caught my attention, and I followed the story,” he says. “I was relieved when he was safely returned, even though they paid a ransom to get him. ... I just followed the story very closely. I had a particular interest because even though I’m not a big beer drinker these days, I guess at that point in my life I enjoyed, how do you say, swigging back a few. Heineken was my beer of preference at that point in my life.”

Aside from being a fan of Heineken’s product, Tecklenburg was also touched by the story of how the brewer promoted his product in the U.S. The mayor says that following World War II, Heineken traveled to every bar and restaurant in Manhattan, giving free samples of his beer to all the bartenders along the way. This eventually led to Heineken gaining a foothold here in the states.

“Even when I was a kid, I’m 60 years old now, and I would travel with my parents to New York City occasionally, and I noted that this beer was available in New York that you couldn’t find in South Carolina,” says Tecklenburg. “My first taste of it was in Manhattan, as well. About that time, their marketing and distribution increased dramatically, but it really got its international exposure by Mr. Heineken spending his time and having the recognition that anybody who is anybody would be coming through New York. I just think that’s a really cool business story, as well.”

The most compelling part of “Thank You, Mr. Heineken” is that it depicts an entire emotional arc — ending on an uplifting note with Tecklenburg singing, “The weekend’s come. I’ve got some time to waste. Come to think of it, I’ll buy a case.”

Tecklenburg says he’s always liked songs that tell a story, something that he feels is becoming less and less common in modern music. After campaigning on the promise of bringing more live music to Charleston, “Thank You, Mr. Heineken” stands as a testament to the mayor’s love of music as well as his willingness to have a good time.

“I hold on to the premise that in addition to trying to tackle difficult issues and challenges and all, we need to have some fun too,” he says. “That’s a part of being in Charleston.”


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