Georges Brassens (French: [ʒɔʁʒ bʁasɛ̃s]; 22 October 1921 – 29 October 1981), was a French singer-songwriter and poet.
Brassens rarely performed abroad. His lyrics are difficult to translate, though attempts have been made. He accompanied himself on acoustic guitar. Most of the time the only other accompaniment came from his friend Pierre Nicolas with a double bass, and sometimes a second guitar (Barthélémy Rosso, Joël Favreau).
His songs often decry hypocrisy and self-righteousness in the conservative French society of the time, especially among the religious, the well-to-do, and those in law enforcement.
Le gorille – tells, in a humorous fashion, of a gorilla with a large penis (and admired for this by ladies) who escapes his cage. Mistaking a robed judge for a woman, the beast forcefully sodomizes him. The song contrasts the wooden attitude that the judge had exhibited when sentencing a man to death by the guillotine with his cries for mercy when being assaulted by the gorilla.
- This song, considered pornographic, was banned for a while.
- The song’s refrain (Gare au gori – i – i – i – ille, “beware the gorilla”) is widely known.
- It was translated into English by Jake Thackray as Brother Gorilla, by Greek singer-songwriter Christos Thivaios as Ο Γορίλλας (“The Gorilla”), by Spanish songwriter Joaquín Carbonell as “El Gorila” (“The Gorilla”), by Italian songwriter Fabrizio De André as “Il Gorilla” (“The Gorilla” – FDA included this translation into his 1968 album “Volume III”), by a Polish cover band Zespół Reprezentacyjny as “Goryl” and by Israeli writer Dan Almagor as “הגורילה”.
- His songs have been translated into 20 languages, including Esperanto.
“La Mer” is a song written by French composer, lyricist, singer and showman Charles Trenet (1913–2001).
Trenet wrote the lyrics of “La Mer” on a train in 1943 while travelling along the French Mediterranean coast, returning from Paris to Narbonne. He supposedly wrote the song in ten minutes, on toilet paper supplied by SNCF (National Corporation of French Railways). The music is based on “Heart and Soul“, a popular song at the time, with music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Frank Loesser, published in 1938. He was assisted with the tune by Léo Chauliac. It was originally published by Raoul Breton.
It was not until 1946 that Trenet recorded the song. Trenet explained in an interview that he was told that “La Mer” was not swing enough to be a hit, and for this reason it sat in a drawer for three years before being recorded. When it was released in 1946, it became an unexpected hit, and has remained a chanson classic ever since.
- “La Mer” is perhaps Trenet’s best known work outside the French-speaking world, with more than 400 recorded versions.
- English lyrics, unrelated to the French lyrics, were later written by Jack Lawrence and entitled “Beyond the Sea“.
- The English version has been recorded by many artists, including Benny Goodman, Mantovani, Roger Williams and Gisele MacKenzie, but Bobby Darin‘s version released in 1959 is the best known by many, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song reached the top 40 twice prior to the Darin version (Goodman’s version in 1948, Williams’s in 1955).
- In the videogame BioShock and its sequel BioShock 2, the song is used throughout the game on jukeboxes and loud hailers. The song can only be heard in the special edition of BioShock 2
- At the start of World War II, Trenet was called up. He was in barracks at Salon-de-Provence until he was demobilized in June 1940, when he moved back to Paris.
- In 1963, Trenet spent 28 days in prison in Aix-en-Provence. He was charged with corrupting the morals of four young men under the age of 21 (they were 19). His chauffeur claimed that Trenet was using him as a pimp. The charges were eventually dropped, but the affair brought to public light the fact that Trenet was homosexual.
- On 21 May 1999, he returned to the forefront of the music scene with a brand new album entitled Les poètes descendent dans la rue (Poets Take to the Streets).Nearly sixty years after writing La Mer, Trenet released fourteen new tracks. Following the success of the album, Trenet returned to the live circuit. His concerts proved a huge success, fans in the audience breaking into rapturous applause.
“La Vie en rose” was the signature song of French singer Édith Piaf, written in 1945, popularized in 1946, and released as a single in 1947.
The song’s title can be translated as “Life in Rosy Hues” or “Life Through Rose-Colored Glasses”; its literal meaning is “Life in Pink”.
- The lyrics of the song were written by Édith Piaf herself, and the melody was composed by Marguerite Monnot and Louis Guglielmi, known as Louiguy. Originally, the song was registered as being written by Louiguy only, since at the time Piaf did not have necessary qualifications to be able to copyright her work with SACEM.
- It was the biggest-selling single of 1948 in Italy, and the ninth biggest-selling single in Brazil in 1949.
- The first of Piaf’s albums to include “La Vie en rose” was the 10″ Chansons parisiennes, released in 1950. The song appeared on most of Piaf’s subsequent albums, and on numerous greatest hits compilations.
- Two films about Piaf named after the song’s title have been produced. The first one, a 1998 documentary, used archive footage and interviews with Raquel Bitton, and was narrated by Bebe Neuwirth. The 2007 biographical feature film La Vie en rose won Marion Cotillard an Academy Award for Best Actress for portraying Piaf in the film from childhood until her death at 47.
- Ian Fleming references the song in his first James Bond novel Casino Royale, when Bond is eating with Vesper Lynd, and again in his fourth novel Diamonds Are Forever, when Bond chooses to skip it on the record player as it has “painful memories”.
- The song received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.