“Les amants d’un jour”

September 7, 2022 • 12:45 pm

Today is a busy day, with a lot of scheduling involved for overseas and domestic trips, so I’ll just present some music. With luck, I’ll manage to read enough tonight to have something to say about the usual topics.

After I learned about the French singer Zaz (real name Isabelle Geoffroy), I’ve listened to a fair amount of her stuff on YouTube, and I really like it. Of course Zaz isn’t mainstream pop, but sort of retro jazz/pop; she even did some duets with the great but aging singer Charles Aznavour before he died in 2018. (Those duets remind me of the collaborations between Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett; see here for a good one.)

But I digress. One of the reasons I like Zaz is that she seems like an updated Édith Piaf, with a similar timbre in the voice. Zaz is a chanteuse. So let’s hear some of her predecessor.

Piaf, of course, is most famous for her songs “La Vie en rose” (1946), “Non, je ne regrette rien” (1960), and, “Milord” (1959, but the one I’ve put below is my absolute favorite, surpassing all the others. In fact, you never hear it played, for it’s not numbered among Piaf’s greatest hits, but to me it’s unforgettable for the music, lyrics, and above all the emotionality Piaf puts into the song—as she did with all her others. There’s a short entry for it in the French Wikipedia—but not in the English one—which tells us that the song ( came out in 1956 and was written by Claude DelécluseMichèle Senlis , and Marguerite Monnot.

The singer is supposed to be someone working in the bar of a hotel, cleaning the glasses. One day two lovers walk in and ask for a room, clearly to find solitude for making love. I won’t be giving a spoiler if I tell you that the lovers never leave: they clearly came there to die together.

If your French is tolerable, you can make out the words, but you don’t even need to know French to appreciate this song. I’ve put the original lyrics and an English translation—not mine—below the fold. I could listen to this song over and over again, as I often do when listening to my iPod Nano. (When that thing dies I’ll be bereft; they don’t make them any more.)

Here’s “Lovers for a day.” Enjoy.

Here are two photos of Piaf’s grave I took in 2018. She was buried with members of her family (she was born Édith Giovanna Gassion, later taking the name “Piaf”, which is French slang for “sparrow.” )She died of alcoholism at only 47, and her last words are reported to have been “”Every damn thing you do in this life, you have to pay for.”

You can find this grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, but you have to look very hard. But do go there, as there are many famous people in the large cemetery, including Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.

Click “continue reading” for the lyrics and translation.

Original:

“Les Amants D’un Jour”

Original Lyrics Claude Delecluse, Michelle Senlis
Music: Marguerite Monnot
Moi j’essuie les verres au fond du café
J’ai bien trop à faire pour pouvoir rêver
Mais dans ce décor banal à pleurer
Il me semble encore les voir arriver…
Ils sont arrivés se tenant par la main
L’air émerveillé de deux chérubins
Portant le soleil ils ont demandé
D’une voix tranquille un toit pour s’aimer
Au cœur de la ville et je me rappelle
Qu’ils ont regardé d’un air attendri
La chambre d’hôtel au papier jauni
Et quand j’ai fermé la porte sur eux
Y avait tant de soleil au fond de leurs yeux
Que ça m’a fait mal, que ça m’a fait mal…
Moi, j’essuie les verres au fond du café
J’ai bien trop à faire pour pouvoir rêver
Mais dans ce décor banal à pleurer
C’est corps contre corps qu’on les a trouvés…
On les a trouvés se tenant par la main
Les yeux fermés vers d’autres matins
Remplis de soleil on les a couchés
Unis et tranquilles dans un lit creusé
Au cœur de la ville et je me rappelle
Avoir refermé dans le petit jour
La chambre d’hôtel des amants d’un jour
Mais ils m’ont planté tout au fond du cœur
Un goût de leur soleil et tant de couleurs
Que ça m’a fait mal, que ça m’a fait mal…
Moi j’essuie les verres au fond du café
J’ai bien trop à faire pour pouvoir rêver
Mais dans ce décor banal à pleurer

In English [none of the translations are great, but this is the best of the lot, I think], even though forced to rhyme. It’s just way off. 

Shine another glass make the hours pass
Working every day in a cheap café
Who am I to care for a love affair?
Still I can’t forget I can see them yet
They came hand in hand, why can’t I forget?
For they’d seen the sign that said “Room to Let”
The sunshine of love was deep in their eyes
So young, oh so young, too young to be wise
They wanted a place a small hideaway
A place of their own if just for one day
The walls were so bare, the carpet so thin,
But they took that room and heaven walked in
And I closed the door and turned to depart
With tears in my eyes and tears in my heart
Shine another glass make the hours pass
Working every day in a cheap café
Who am I to care, one more love affair?
Love is nothing new I have work to do
We found them next day, the way they had planned
So quiet, so cold, but still hand in hand
The sunshine of love was all they possessed
And so in the sunshine we laid them to rest
They sleep by side two children alone
But I’m sure they’ve found a place of their own
So why must I see the ribbon she wore
The glow on his face as I closed the door
Be still children, still, your shadows may start
The tears in my eyes and tears in my heart
Shine another glass make the hours pass
Working every day in a cheap cafe
Everything is fine ’till I see that sign
How can I forget — it says “Room to Let”

6 thoughts on ““Les amants d’un jour”

  1. I have that particular CD set released for the Piaf Centennial. Parlophone France did a fine modern remastering on most of the tracks.
    As an aside, there are areas of the French classical repertoire that are quite accessible to those who listen mainly to pop.
    This album :
    https://www.eclassical.com/conductors/malmberg-fredrik/requiems-by-faure-and-durufle.html
    contains the two great modern French choral masterpieces – Requiems by Fauré and Duruflé [ the latter from around 1947 ]. Just compare the haunting ‘Pie Jesu’ of the Fauré with the wretched Lloyd Webber version.
    The soprano on this set, Malena Ernman, is better known now as the mother of Greta Thunberg.
    This album doesn’t contain the conventional symphonic versions of both Requiems, but rare chamber versions for small choir and organ. The classic version of the Fauré is the edition by John Rutter, which picks the ‘best bits’ from the composer’s various manuscript editions, sung by Fischer-Dieskau and De Los Angeles, with Andre Cluytens conducting a Paris orchestra that still shows French woodwind instrumental timbres.

  2. That is really lovely. I too remain drawn to older styles of music. Has anyone here listened to Caro Emerald? I really like her although I am not sure how to classify her music. Jazz/Swing?

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