And The Time Lost

Bee Halton at The Bee Writes Love Is In Da Blog 2019 ~ A Music Festival has buzzed us to write about our favorite Love Song in a Foreign language and I chose a French song that is sung by Nina Simone ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’.  The title of the song translates in English to ‘Don’t Leave Me’, or ‘If You Go Away’ and it was written in 1959 by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel.  I might be cheating a bit here because I read that Brel said this song was not a love song, but rather it is “a hymn to the cowardice of men”, and the degree to which they were willing to humiliate themselves.  He knew that it would give pleasure to women who assumed it was a love song.  ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’was written after Brel’s affair with his mistress “Zizou” (Suzanne Gabriello) the Paris impresario who threw him out of her life.  Zizou was pregnant with Brel’s child, but Brel refused to acknowledge the child as his own.  Zizou later had an abortion due to Brel’s actions.

This is a sad but hopeful ballad, the lyrics are told from the perspective of someone telling their lover how much they’d be missed if they left.  The singer pleads for his lover not to leave him, begging earnestly in a self-humiliating tone.  If the lover stays, the narrator promises them both devotion and good times.  Some lines show that the narrator is speaking to the lover as they are already leaving, or considering doing so.  This is a hard break-up that is a real proof of love.  He tries to deny it, that everything will be alright, that “anything can be forgotten” and then he starts to bargain saying, “I will give you pearls of rain from countries where it doesn’t rain”, which is not even possible.  The song is sung in a pleading, desperate manner with voyeuristic, sexual and sinister lyrics, but you always lose something when songs are translated and the English language has a way of taming Brel’s meanings.

Scott Walker recorded several Jacques Brel compositions between 1967 thru 1969.  In 1973, Terry Jacks had a hit with ‘Seasons in the Sun’ which is an English-language adaptation of Brel’s song ‘Le Moribond’ and this song hit number one in both the U.S. and the U.K.  In July 1974, Brel bought a yacht and set off on what was intended to be a circumnavigation of the globe.  But in October, while in the Canary Islands, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He went to Brussels for an operation to remove part of his left lung.  Jacques Brel died from lung cancer in October 1978 at the age of 49.  An amazingly broad selection of rock, pop, jazz, and country artists that have performed his songs includes Glen Campbell, Ray Conniff, John Denver, Dion DiMucci, Celine Dion, Julio Iglesias, Brenda Lee, Olivia Newton-John, Mitch Ryder, the Seekers, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Vinton, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and many others.

Memorable cover versions of this song are done by Sting, Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand and Cyndi Lauper, plus the pop standard ‘If You Go Away’ an English version of the tune which was made famous by singer/poet Rod McKuen.  The wistful song, with its alternating happy and sad lyrics and lush melody, became a pop standard recorded by dozens of singers, including Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond.  Nina Simone recorded this song on her June 1965 I Put a Spell on You album.  Simone’s cover is a beauty to listen to, and it is easy to became enamored with her rendition.

There is something about French, a certain je ne sais quoi (I do not know what) that makes it sound so sexy.  French is a syllable-timed language which means that the duration of every syllable is perceived as being equal. English, on the other hand, is a stress-timed language, thus English speakers divide stresses so that they are separated by equal amounts of time, not by syllables.  The iambic pentameter of Shakespeare (which I am not getting into) is a good example of how stresses work in English.  Maybe my fascination with French stems from them writing the book on kissing with their deep amorous kiss, where the participants’ tongues extend to explore each other’s lips and reach inside their partner’s mouths.

Nina Simone’s career spanned over four decades from her first hit, the 1959 Top 10 classic ‘I Loves You Porgy’, to ‘A Single Woman’, the title cut from her one and only 1993 Elektra album.  Her music was enjoyed by the masses due to the CD revolution, discovery on the Internet, and exposure through movies and television.  Nina sold over one million CDs in the last decade of her life, making her a global catalog best-seller.  Nina recorded more than 40 original albums in her career.  Nina Simone died on April 21, 2003 at the age of 70 after battling breast cancer and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Don’t leave me
We must forget
All can be forgotten
That has already passed away
Forget the time
Of misunderstandings
And the time lost
Trying to know “how”
Forget those hours
That sometimes kill
With slaps of “why”
The heart of happiness
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me

I will give to you
Pearls made of rain
From countries
Where it never rains
I will work the land
All my life and beyond
To cover your body
With gold and with light
I will make a land
Where love will be king
Where love will be law
Where you will be queen
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me

Don’t leave me
I will invent, for you
Fanciful words
That you’ll understand
I will tell you
About those lovers
Who have twice seen
Their hearts set ablaze
I will tell you
The story of the king
Who died of not having
Ever met you
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me

We’ve often seen
Fire flowing again
From an ancient volcano
Considered too old
It’s said that there are
Fire-scorched lands
That yield more wheat
Than the best April
And when evening comes
With a burning sky
The red and the black–
Are they not joined together?
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me

Don’t leave me
I won’t cry anymore
I won’t talk anymore
I will hide over there
To watch you
Dance and smile
And to hear you
Sing and then laugh
Let me become
The shadow of your shadow
The shadow of your hand
The shadow of your dog
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave me

Written for Love Is In Da Blog “favorite Love Song in a Foreign language”.

12 thoughts on “And The Time Lost

    1. Glad you liked it Li. I don’t really do foreign stuff, as if I start watching a movie and I see it is in another language with subtitles, I immediately switch it off. Too much work having to do all that reading, as I get enough reading on WordPress and when I watch TV I am looking for enjoyment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re missing a lot of good movies then, but to each their own, it is understandable if you don’t want to read the subtitles. I have to have the SDH subtitles on for everything these days. Too much loud music in my youth.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I guess I could be missing some stuff and Netflix has so many foreign movies on now, it is actually annoying when I start to watch a film and find out it is foreign. I wish they had a way for me to block these out.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Nice one. I’d never heard it before, but from your write up it seems lots of artists have covered this song. Seems so sad, though.
    I took a couple years of French in school…wish I remembered more of it, as it is such a beautiful sounding language.

    Liked by 1 person

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