Pops Goes French: “La Vie En Rose” and “C’est Si Bon”

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”:

LAHM 1987.3.1497

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”:

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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:

LAHM 1987.2.22

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:

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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.

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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.

LAHM 1987.3.1630

“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”)!

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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:

 

Source: Pops Goes French: “La Vie En Rose” and “C’est Si Bon” – That’s My Home

Bertrand Tavernier, veteran French director of Round Midnight, dies aged 79

Acclaimed film-maker won a string of awards for a wide variety of films, including crime and film noir, as well as his celebrated film about a jazz musician

Bertrand Tavernier, the veteran French director of a host of acclaimed films including A Sunday in the Country, Round Midnight and These Foolish Things, has died aged 79. The news was announced by the Institut Lumière, the film organisation of which he was president. No cause of death was given.

Tavernier’s output was prolific: he made his directorial debut in 1974 with The Clockmaker of St Paul and worked continuously until 2013, when he released his final feature film, The French Minister. He also took in a wide variety of material, from crime and noir, to comedy, jazz and historical drama.

Born in Lyon in 1941, Tavernier was the son of magazine publisher René Tavernier, whose anti-Nazi principles would greatly influence Bertrand. Like the generation of French New Wave directors that slightly preceded him, Tavernier grew up as a film obsessive; having moved to Paris after the war, he founded his own magazine and managed to get a job as an assistant director to Jean-Pierre Melville on the 1961 film Léon Morin, Prêtre. By his own admission, he was so bad as an AD that Melville instead made him the publicist for its follow-up, Le Doulos. It was in this role that Tavernier made his first mark in the film industry, working as a publicist on a series of New Wave classics, including Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt and Agnés Varda’s Cleo de 5 à 7. “We were the first film publicists who were film buffs – we only accepted the films we liked,” he told the Guardian in 2008.

Continue reading “Bertrand Tavernier, veteran French director of Round Midnight, dies aged 79”

Record Review: Annabelle Chvostek “String of Pearls”

 

An album for those who reckon there’s just not enough singer-songwriters celebrating the French and Weimar cabaret era, the former Wailin’ Jennys member Annabelle Chvostek digs into her East European heritage alongside her Canadian background and marital Uruguayan influences for this gloriously ebullient sixth album ‘Strong of Pearls’. Co-produced, from Montevideo, by composer and multi-instrumentalist, Fernando Rosa who assembled an array of tango and classical musicians to evoke the days of 30s tango and jazz swing while, back home in Toronto, David Travers-Smith recruited members of the gypsy jazz scene alongside regular drummer Tony Spina. Added to all this, Chvostek drew on her time as artist-in-residence with the city’s Echo Women’s Choir to work on the vocal arrangements.

She raises the curtain, singing in both French and English on the frisky brushed snares flapper shuffle Je T’ai Vu Hier Soir (I Saw You Last Night),  keeping the swing sizzling with the double bass, clarinet, mandolin and classical guitar feline slinkiness of the title track, not the Glenn Miller number but certainly evoking a similar vintage. Continue reading “Record Review: Annabelle Chvostek “String of Pearls””