Sunday, August 13, 2006
La Vie En Rose
Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose is a song that has been popular long enough, far and wide enough, to be a cliche and fodder for amusing parody, while retaining the soul to still sneak up, unsuspected, at just the right moment and pierce the heart.
For the French who lived through the German Occupation Edith Piaf songs have a special emotional pull because of her efforts to help the Resistance and prisoners of war.
Edith Piaf was essentially a child of the streets, rising up from a near homeless existence, singing as a sideshow to her sidewalk-acrobat father. She managed to educate herself, reading on the fly, amid a torrid, mixed-up life. When she died in 1963 "her funeral procession drew hundreds of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris and the ceremony at the cemetery was jammed with more than forty thousand fans. Charles Aznavour recalled that Piaf's funeral procession was the only time, since the end of World War II, that Parisian traffic came to a complete stop."
So it is doubly affecting to note that, basically, she herself came up with the melody and lyrics.
Many Americans have only heard the English version of the lyrics, as sung by Louis Armstrong and others:
"Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose...." and so on
Actually the original lyrics are quite different, though similar in sentiment.
Here is the begiining of the French/Piaf version - the intro in the first paragraph and the familar melody beginning with "Quand.."- and a very literal English translation after:
Des yeux qui font baisser les miens
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche
Voilà le portrait sans retouches
De l'homme auquel j'appartiens
Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose
Il me dit des mots d'amour
Des mots de tous les jours
Et ça m'fait quelque chose
The eyes that make mine lower
A laughter that gets lost on his mouth
There is the portrait unretouched
Of the man I belong to
When he takes me in his arms
He speaks to me low
I see life in pink
He tells me words of love
The every day words
And that made me something
* at the top, Raoul Dufy's painting "La vie En Rose"