“Trois Petits Notes de Musique” is a chanson written by Henri Colpi to music by Georges Delerue for the film Une aussi longue absence by Henri Colpi . It is performed in this video by Juliette Greco
By Ricky Riccardi June 2020
70 years ago, Louis Armstrong entered Decca’s New York studios to record two songs of French origin: “La Vie En Rose” and “C’est Si Bon.” Sy Oliver put together a terrific studio orchestra and arranged both songs for the date. The result was the biggest hit of Armstrong’s career to this point and two sides that have had ever-lasting appeal, especially “La Vie En Rose,” the only song to rival “What a Wonderful World” in terms of out-and-out popularity in the 21st century. Before we get too carried away, let’s listen to Armstrong’s original glorious performance to get in the right frame of mind:
Because the anniversary falls on a Friday, the day we peak inside “Satch’s Tracks,” it only makes sense to examine some of the French selections in Louis’s record collection.
Besides Armstrong’s version, “La Vie En Rose” is most associated with “The Little Sparrow,” Edith Piaf. And yes, Armstrong owned two Piaf LPs, one of which contained her legendary version of “La Vie En Rose”:
And here is the audio of Piaf’s legendary performance:
However, Armstrong actually preferred another version of “La Vie En Rose” to Piaf’s. On this clip from one of Louis’s tapes, he’s trying to get some shy French fans to speak on tape and mentions that he loves the singing of Jacqueline Francois, feeling that her version of “La Vie En Rose” was smoother than Piaf’s:
Here is Armstrong’s copy of Francois’s Vox 10-inch LP, Jacqueline Francois Sings, containing “La Vie En Rose”:
And here’s Francois’s version of “La Vie En Rose”:
On a later tape, Louis actually got all three versions of “La Vie En Rose”–Piaf’s, Francois’ and his own–and played them back-to-back-to-back. Here’s his catalog page:
For the sake of completeness, here is Louis’s copy of “La Vie En Rose,” marked with one of his homemade “Recorded” labels to denote that it had been copied to tape:
As for the flip side, “C’est Si Bon,” we don’t have as many artifacts related to it in our Archives, but thanks to the efforts of Olivier Betti, we know a great deal about the backstory of the song. Olivier’s grandfather, Henri Betti, wrote the music for “C’est Si Bon,” which was outfitted with French lyrics by Andre Hornez. On February 28, 1948, the Nice Jazz Festival hosted a jam session at the Hotel Negresco that was attended by the likes of Django Reinhardt, Claude Luter and Louis Armstrong. At the session, Suzy Delair sang “C’est Si Bon” in French (Delair passed away this March at the age of 102). Armstrong apparently loved the song immediately and promised to record it when he got back to the United States. A recording ban was in effect at the time, but Armstrong eventually got around to it on June 26, 1950.
And for more on the history of “C’est Si Bon,” Olivier Betti has created a Facebook page and has contributed to the Wikipedia entry on the song, as well as this recent article in French. Thank you, Olivier for all of your efforts in telling the story of your grandfather’s wonderful song! Here is Louis’s copy, with the “Recorded” label, alas, no longer affixed.
“La Vie En Rose” and “C’est Si Bon” were recorded during a prolific period for Armstrong at Decca thanks to the efforts of producer Milt Gabler. A host of Armstrong’s Sy Oliver-arranged singles were originally collected on a 10-inch LP, Satchmo Serenades; Louis’s copy is on display in the den of the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
Eventually a few more tracks were added to turn it into a 12-inch LP, of which Louis owned a Argentinian pressing, Satchmo Seranatas (transforming our two anniversary tracks into “La Vida Color De Rosa” and “Es Tan Bueno”)!
And if you’d like to listen to Satchmo Serenades on Spotify, here’s the link:
Finally, one more memento from the Armstrong Collection, a Decca brochure printed for Armstrong’s 1953 tour of Japan, focusing on “La Vie En Rose” and “C’est Si Bon” and even including lyrics of both so you can sing along while listening:
Our times are dire, even apocalyptic. Millions in America today actually are committed to destroying democracy which, though flawed, seems to offer the best hope for survival as a community. The earth is warming up to the point of no return and many corporations we have spawned run essentially on unbridled greed which means all other species are paying a severe price.
(Witness the latest oil spill in the news, this one in southern California. Or the news that mighty AT&T has sunk millions into a radical right station whose goal is to destroy democracy.)
Women and men alike need to wake up and grow up fast as time is running out for homo sapiens, just as it did for all our previous hominid cousins, nine of which we have now named. We are the last ones standing. Will we be standing 100 years from now?
Growing up means, among other things, tapping into our deepest resources such as love and forgiveness, justice and compassion on the one hand; and putting our considerable intelligence and creativity into responding to the moment with useful science and technology.
It also means we learn to balance anew the healthy masculine and divine feminine in our souls and institutions including education, law, economics, business, religion, politics.
How can men in particular grow up and touch what is hidden even from ourselves?
As a species, we can no longer be stuck in our adolescence. Growing up spiritually means we can no longer afford to be stuck in puerile religion or puerile anti-religion.
We need to explore ancient wisdom and deep teachings about the Sacred Masculine and how we touch it and how it touches us and brings us in line with the Sacred Feminine.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. xiii, xv.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you sense that men are eager to awaken their sacred masculine, their deeper selves, in response to the challenges of our times? How best to do this?
To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature, to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.”
— Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God
Recently, while lecturing (on Zoom) about the need to balance the sacred feminine with the sacred masculine, a man asked me: “How do you recommend men entertain more the divine feminine?”
It is a good question.
I offered one answer yesterday in my sharing on Francis of Assisi because he truly stands out as a man who had an amazing balance of the feminine and the masculine. It is so much in evidence in his poem on Brother Sun as I indicated in the video where I read much of the poem. He found the divine feminine (but also the masculine) in nature.
So that is one answer: Check nature out. And look for its feminine aspects—which are everywhere.
It is important to put our hunting-gathering instincts into answering that question, for a patriarchal culture has so flooded us with the uber masculine that we can find, in such a fog, neither the healthy masculine nor the feminine.
This is where praying the feminine names for divinity such as we have been meditating on for weeks becomes a meaningful—and important—exercise.
Such a practice brings the feminine back to one’s own consciousness.
So too is realizing our own mysticism. Mysticism itself is feminine, as Dorothee Soelle described it. Mysticism “comes closest to overcoming the hierarchical masculine concept of God….The mystical certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God grows when we ourselves become one with love by placing ourselves, freely and without guarantee of success, on the side of love.”
The male mystics are very good at this (as are women mystics)