Chanson du Jour “La Mer”


Another influential French singer/songwriter who became popular during the war years, was Charles Trenet. “Without Trenet, we would all be accountants,” said Jacques Brel. Nicknamed “Le Fou Chantant” (the Singing Madman) and resembling Harpo Marx, Trenet wrote mainly comical, some might say “eccentric” songs – nearly a thousand catalogued. His classic “La Mer” (The Sea) is a beautifully melancholic exception. The song has been recorded hundreds of times since it debuted in 1945, and Trenet’s own version is still the best. Nearly 60 years later after “La Mer,” Charles Trenet was still recording his music, releasing Poets Take to the Streets in 1999. Between 1945 and 1999, there were some bumps in the road. In 1963, Trenet spent 28 days in prison in a French prison, charged with consorting with underage boys. It was revealed after Trenet’s death that it was actor Maurice Chevalier who informed the police about his fellow entertainer. Would Trenet have appreciated the irony of being shopped to the cops by the guy who sang “Thank Heaven for Little Girls?” Peut-être.

Read more about Charles Trenet and French Chanson

Verlaine’s Chanson d’automne

“Chanson d’automne” (“Autumn Song”) is a poem by Paul Verlaine, one of the best known in the French language. It is included in Verlaine’s first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866 (see 1866 in poetry). The poem forms part of the “Paysages tristes” (“Sad landscapes”) section of the collection

Poem: “Chanson d’Automne” by Paul Verlaine

Charles Trenet “Verlaine”
The legendary French crooner Charles Trenet added music to Verlaine’s poem and recorded the song twice, first in the early 1940’s and again in the 1950s with a slower arrangement adding a string section. Here’s the original jazz version.

Word War II Resistance Code
The song’s lyrics include the line “les sanglots longues des violons de l’automne blessent mon coeur d’un langueur monotone” which translates as “the long sobs of the violins of autumn wound my heart with a monotonous languor”.
These words were used in 1944 to form the code phrases that alerted the Resistance to the Allied invasion of France, and were depicted in the earlier epic World War II movie The Longest Day (1962).