Jacques Brel – If You Go Away – Jacques Brel is Alive and Singing in Paris
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
I bought this because Beirut’s The Flying Club Cup was apparently heavily influenced by Jacques Brel and I was really into that album. The first song, “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” translated as “If You Go Away” (or “Don’t Leave Me” as it reads in the liner notes), is a song I already knew, but through a cover version by Emiliana Torrini. It’s a beautiful, terribly sad song no matter how you render it. This version is particularly sad, you can hear it buried in his voice, coming to the surface. The rest of this record is less sad. Actually, reading the lyrics of “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” the song isn’t sad. It’s about being in love with someone so much that he is giving her grandiose reasons why she should stay and what will happen if she leaves. “Let me become/ the shadow of your shadow/ the shadow of your hand/ the shadow of your dog,” he signs (in French of course, I like this part of the English translation though, though I prefer the usual English version of the lyrics better for the most part). It might be one of the best songs about obsessive love that I have ever heard. I adore it. I’ve always loved French singers though. I remember when I was a kid, or right around when Saving Private Ryan came out and my dad made me download Edith Piaf songs for him and I got kind of obsessed with her. When I listen to French singers, I imagine what it must be like to listen to American singers as a Frenchman. Usually I obsess about lyrics and consider them the most important part of a song most of the time, but here I just appreciate Brel’s gorgeous voice and the beautiful tunes that swirl around off of the record. Now I want to cover “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” I either want to learn all the French, even though I can’t speak the language (I ran through it on the guitar and I think I can pronounce most of the words) or do a version from the “Don’t Leave Me” translation in the booklet (which has both the French and English lyrics! God, I love having this record).