By Michael Stevenson
At the annual New Years Day celebration at Providence’s Casa DeLillo, we were delighted to see our old friend Stan, who once again entertained the revelers with piano renditions of Gershwin, Rogers & Hart and Hoagy Carmichael’s standards. While Linda and I helped drain several bottles of Monsieur Jim’s French wine, we all shaaang along to Stan’s Tin Pan Alley tributes. Accompanied by Monsieur Jim playing his standup bass, Stan closed the evening this wonderful love song from the 1964 French film Umbrellas of Cherbourg. All of us recognized the Michel Legrand melody, but I noticed only our friend Anna who grew-up in Poland knew the words to the song, which she sang in English. Linda, Belkys and I (below, right to left) provided the applause.
More likely Anna learned the lyrics to “I Will Wait For You” from Euro-star Nana Mouskouri rather than Cher, both of whom recorded the song.
Mouskouri sang versions in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese, while Cher sang only in Cherenglish – presumably with an exposed tummy on the record jacket. Mouskouri usually wore a simple blouse along with her signature Buddy Holly frames, and unlike Cher, she could perform without always turning her vocal dial to “11.” Check out Nana’s version dueting with composer Legrand below.
As well as Mouskouri and Cher, “I Will Wait For You” has been covered by iconic vocalists Frank Sinatra, Astrud Gilberto, Tony Bennett, and Vikki Carr, as well as instrumental versions from jazz greats Oscar Peterson, Gil Evans, Donald Byrd, and Louis Armstrong.
I’ve discovered that lyrical translations from French to English are problematic at best, but you can get the general je ne sais quoi of this song from this English verse:
My love I will wait for you all my life
Stay close to me, come back I’m begging you
I need you and I want to live for you
Oh my love don’t leave me
A bit desperate, “non?” Makes Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” sound like Alanis Morisette’s “You Oughta Know.”
American lyricist Norman Gimbel translated the lyrics, as he did with Toots Thielemans‘ jazz classic “Bluesette.” and Jobim’s bosso nova standard “The Girl from Ipanema.”
The film Umbrellas of Cherbourg (“Les Parapluies de Cherbourg”) was directed by Jacques Demy, starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo.
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” and aslo “Best Song.”
Original Instrumental Soundtrack
Nana Mouskouri and Michel Legrand