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Heintje is the son of a coal miner who had to retire because of silicosis, reducing the family to near poverty. The family opened a small shop and Heintje used to sing along with the jukebox. When he was 11, he entered a singing contest in the next town. He beat out 30 competitors to win the contest. His manager, Addy Kleijngeld, heard about him and went to audition him at his home. After hearing only a few notes, he took him on as a client. On becoming wealthy, Heintje moved his family back to his father's birthplace Neu Moresnet, Belgium, where he still lives to this day.
He became particularly famous as a child singer, with hit song "Mama" (written by Cesare Andrea Bixio, Bruno Cherubini and Bruno Balz) in 1967, and as a child actor, with his appearances in numerous German films in the 1960s and 1970s (some of these were dubbed into English and also Afrikaans). He also enjoyed success with English songs, notably of which is "I'm Your Little Boy". In 1971, The Los Angeles Times described him as, "the hottest property in Europe." The same article quoted the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying of him, "No one is bigger in German show business."
His 1967 recording of "Mama" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The following year his debut album Heintje went on to sell over two million copies, resulting in a platinum disc award. Other discs selling over a million units included "Du sollst nicht weinen", "Heidschi bumbeidschi" and the seasonal album, Weihnachten mit Heintje. His sales over 1968 and 1969 alone totaled over 10 million.
At the age of 20 he also recorded in Afrikaans: The single "Jou Hart Is Weer Myne" reached number 4 on the South African Official Chart in 1975. He was so popular in South Africa that he performed in concert there in the mid-1970s. Heintje continued to sing as an adult, billed as "Hein Simons" and is particularly popular in German-speaking countries. More than 40 million Heintje records have been sold worldwide. He currently lives in Neu-Moresnet, a part of the city of Kelmis (La Calamine in French), in the Belgian province of Liège. He is married and has three children.