I'll never forget when my father played for me an old single he had of Cora Vaucaire, a French singer from Marseilles, with the song "Trois Petites Notes de Musique" perhaps when I was about 7 years old. We loved it to death and copied all the lyrics, though there were many words my brother and myself didn't understand at the time, especially the line 'font la nique'. Many years later when I traveled to Paris on my own I searched the record stores for more from her and found this poor little compilation in a slightly abused condition and played it at home. I was absolutely shocked when I heard its contents for a few of the songs. One of them I've even quoted before, it's the song about the Young Lovers, a poem by Prevert the great French poet (she made a couple of albums out of his poetry), in which everyone stares at them with anger and hate, but they are in their own world, higher than the skies.
She was not the most attractive female-- not like the beauty of Bojoura, but her voice was/is really gorgeous, in a very deeply expressive and pure, emotional way.
"Encore un Ete" which is by a certain Guy Beart is about how short the summers always are. Each stanza is a description of what she sees: "now the beaches are like deserts," "in the train stations, you see handkerchiefs that shake" but it's not until the last line that we understand the missing element: "you got back on the train, while I got back on the road..." Was it an affair between married people? (as I would presume since this is France after all)-- Was it a short summer romance? We don't know, the beauty of the song is in what's left unsaid.
Here it is:
Even more beautiful, and to me one of the most outstanding folk songs I've ever heard, is the "Complaint of the King Renaud." It's credited to traditional but I have trouble believing it could really be an old lyric unrevised. Again, a masterpiece of what's left unsaid. The king has died and the mother of the princess has trouble informing her:
"When King Renaud came back from war, holding his guts in his hands,
his mother was on the crenaud watching come back her son.
"Renaud, be happy, your wife has given birth to a king!"
"Neither wife, nor son, will I be happy for.
I feel death is passing through me, so make a bed,
but make it so quietly, that my wife will never hear."
[now it's the wife who speaks to the mother:]
"Tell me, my mother, my dear, why are our valets crying thus?"
"My daughter, my dear, whilst bathing the horses, we drowned the most beautiful."
"Tell me, my mother, my dear, for a horse so to cry?
When my king Renaud returns, he will bring a more beautiful.
Tell me, my mother, my dear, why do I hear knocking so?"
"My daughter they are the carpenters, who are fixing the floor."
"Tell me, my mother, my dear, what should I wear today?"
"Take the green, take the grey, take the black to decide."
"Tell me my mother my dear what does this black signify?"
"A woman who had a child, the black looks better on."
When she arrived in the church, the stool was given to her,
but she noticed when kneeling the fresh earth disturbed.
"Tell me my mother my dear, why is the earth so refreshed?
My daughter, my dear, I don't want to hide it from you anymore.
Your king Renaud is now buried under the chapel."
"Renaud, my king, my comfort, so you are now with the dead?
Renaud, my king, my comfort, so you are now in the grave?
My mother, tell the gravediggers, to make it big enough for two--
and let the space be big enough so that my baby can be in too...
Earth open up, I must go there with my king,"
and the earth opened up, and the beauty was there entombed.
Here's that song:
Amazing, so vivid.
For everyone there is probably some childhood music that is unforgettable. For me this is it, along with the folk music from my country and those old seventies hits I listened to all night long on my little AM radio night after night, songs like "Telephone Line" by ELO.
With regards to the song "Trois Petites Notes" with which I opened this post there is a story behind this too, which I didn't learn about until much later in University when I spent hours upon hours researching art and movies when I should have been attending lectures-- my father had no idea about it. It was the theme song for a 1961 film called "Such a Long Absence" by Marguerite Duras, the famous French screenwriter responsible for Alain Resnais's Masterpiece "Hiroshima Mon Amour" (1959) which I still think is a brilliant art movie, for those who like art movies (and more recently the infamous movie "The Lover" with Jane March) .
Une aussi longue absence has a brief description on imdb as well-- A cafe owner meets a man she thought is her husband who was lost in the war years before (presumably the second world war) but he doesn't remember anything. She has great difficulty connecting with him but he mentions things only her husband knew. Needless to say it is indeed him, and we find out at the end [spoiler alert?] that he has changed because he had brain damage. Not a movie of the same caliber as Hiroshima, but still really heartbreaking. Think about it when you hear the song I am referring to, which is about how three little notes of music keep bugging you until you turn the page and they go to sleep. (Youtube link.)
I will be honest, there are tons of songs, the majority in fact, in these two albums that I can't abide (in particular I can't stand that old jazz standard Autumn Leaves which has been recorded by law by every jazz artist who ever lived at least once), but the few good ones are really classic...