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Hymne a l'Amour

   Awhile back, a certain Patti requested something by Edith Piaf.  As Patti noted, it is not exactly “mon genre” but I’m game!  The quintessential Piaf chestnut, at least for Americans, is of course La Vie en Rose, which I was pleased to note that Patti did not specifically request.  She was open to anything really but said that Anthem of Love was her favorite. 

     I didn’t know that, but a trip to the library produced it, or in any case Hymne a l’Amour, which I trust is what she wanted.  If not, it is still pretty typically Piafian and I suspect you’ ll recognize it once you hear it.  The music is by Marguerite Monnot, and Piaf wrote the lyrics.

     While I don’t play much French music, I have a sort of tangential affection for it. A French war bride lived across the street from my childhood home – I was always so envious that her daughter was effortlessly bilingual – and when I started taking French in high school, the family gave me a record of the Compagnons de Chanson, a male a capella group that was very popular at the time and often accompanied Piaf.

      I sensed there was something very different about traditional French pop singing, so disarmingly and transparently emotional!  There is a sort of dramatic, art-song quality to a lot of the material, and nothing is held back.  Unlike the more jazz influenced American idiom, there’s no pretense to hipness or irony, it’s just all spilled out!  Think of Frank Sinatra doing And Now My Love.  It swings like crazy, but when you hear Gilbert Becaud do it, you just want get sadly drunk and smoke a lot of cigarettes.

      Anyway, I tried for a typical feel here which required of course my getting out the accordion!  I had great fun doing this, Patti, though now I can’t get the damn tune out of my head.

     Finally as a sort of coda to the story.  After French in high school, I continued it in college and for awhile after that lived in France where I would wistfully smoke Gitanes and listen to people like Brel and Georges Brassens on a borrowed record player.  I hope listeners will forgive me here on the second verse, where, tempting silliness, I indulged my nostalgia for this long ago chapter in my life.  Click on the red title to hear it.  The lyrics are below in both English and French (pardon the lack of orthographic accents).  Francophones, please excuse my changing the French lyrics slightly for a male persona.

 Hymne a l'Amour 

 (If You Love Me (Really Love Me))

(English lyrics by Geoffrey Parsons)

If the sun should tumble from the sky

If the sea should suddenly run dry

If you love me, really love me

Let it happen, I won’t care

If it seems that ev’ry thing is lost

I will smile and never count the cost

If you love me, really love me

Let it happen, darling, I won’t care.

Shall I catc h a shooting star?

Shall I bring it where you are?

If you want me to, I will.

You can set me any task,

I’ll do anything you ask,

If you only love me still.

When at last our life on earth is through

I will share eternity with you

If you love me, really love me,

Then what ever happens, I won’t care.

Le ciel bleu sur nous peut s’ecrouler

Et la terre peut bien s’effondrer

Peu m’importe si tu m’aimes

Je me moque du monde entier.

Tant que l’amour inondra mes matins

Que mon [ton] corps fremira sous tes [mes] mains

Peu m’importent les grands problemes,

Mon amour, puisque tu m’aimes.

J’irais jusqu’au bout du monde

Je me fer ais teindre blonde [je quitterais meme Paris pour Londres]

Si tu me le demandais.

On peut bien rire de moi,

Je ferais n’importe quoi

Si tu me le demandais.

Nous aurons pour nous l’eternite

Dans le bleu de toute immensite

Dans le ciel, plus de problemes

Dieu reunit ceux qui s’aiment.


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