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Friday, August 12, 2011

"La vie en rose"

Edith Piaf - La vie en rose (1946)

A few things here before we get to the song.
1. I just did a cursory look though the 30s and 40s and the book has virtually nothing of what one would call big band music. No Artie Shaw, no Glen Miller, no Dorseys.
2. While I know this song, I know the Louis Armstrong version primarily, so judging with open ears is challenging.

I did not know that Edith Piaf wrote the lyrics to this song. Good on her, it is a beautiful love song. The opening lines, when translated from the French are

"Eyes that gaze into mine,
A smile that is lost on his lips—
That is the unretouched portrait
Of the man to whom I belong."

That just melts your heart and makes me think of long marriages and people who have been through thick and thin. The music is an odd mix of mostly full lush string orchestration, and then suddenly muted horns throughout that sound like a big band harmony more than traditional orchestra. You get them right at the start (then a really big band sounding clarinet) a few times during the first verse, almost not at all in the middle. Then again during the third verse, and right at the end.

Her voice is the real draw here. Edith Piaf is France's most well known and beloved singer. It is a strong voice, she could have sung opera with it as far as I'm concerned, but instead she became known for singing poignant ballads. This was her signature song, and I think, even not knowing French, that you can hear the love in this song.

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