Here’s how I listen to music.
I have about 50 of my favorite songs on my iPod. I listen to them until I’m bored. Then I listen to Pandora or Last.fm or some other music site, hoping to discover (or be reminded of) some new music that I might like.
When I discover (or rediscover) a new bit of music, I’ll purchase it and, more often than not, I’ll put it on a short playlist of extra-favorite-favorites on my iPod. And I’ll listen to it over and over. Sometimes I’ll listen to several different versions of the same composition. I’ll get to know the piece inside and out and finally I’ll get bored with it and it may or may not stay on my iPod as one of my favorites.
This week I discovered an old song by an artist whom I have loved since being introduced to his music in my high school French class ca. 1979. I had a couple of his records, but I’d never heard this song, or at least I didn’t remember it.
Anyway, it’s a classic and very VERY beautiful– and I know I can appreciate it much more at my “certain age” than I ever could have as a high school student.
Jacques Brel sings La Chanson des Vieux Amants. That chorus makes me tear up every time!
There’s an English version that’s been frequently recorded, called “Song for Old Lovers”. It’s nice but I don’t think it quite does justice to the original French version. (Mr. Brel had a special way of putting it all out there with his lyrics.)
So anyway, about the song:
The song is about two lovers who, over the course of 20 years, have endured their share of ups and downs, infidelities, and fights, and yet the love remains. Here’s my own translation of the chorus:
My sweet, my tender, my marvelous love,
From the break of dawn until the end of the day
I love you still
I love you.
(If you’re interested in an actual singable translation of the entire song, check out this very good one by musician Jeff Rosenberg.)
As you might have guessed, I’ve listened to many interpretations of this song by various artists. The original recording by Jacques Brel himself, despite its obviously dated orchestral accompaniment, remains my favorite version.
I like that he sings the melody as written, without extreme variations in tempo or other “tricks” typically used by artists to add drama to a performance. And yet, he manages to convey such deep expression. The chorus is sung three times during the song, and each time he sings it, it sounds different. But not in an obvious way. He was a true master.