Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Songs about old people : John Prine vs. Jacques Brel

Great discovery of the past weeks : the self-titled John Prine album from 1971, and especially the song "Hello In There". The music is awesome, the lyrics too; as I read somewhere, what kind of 26-year old wrote so well about old people ?).

John Prine - Hello In There (buy) (1971)

Wow ! That song alone (and a conversation with a friend over great polish vodkas) made me want to play music again. If I come up with something good enough, I'll post it here (own song or cover).

I realized I couldn't remember a better song about old couples. Except maybe the Jacques Brel song. But Jacques Brel's point of view is more general, the song is called "Les Vieux" ("The Old Folks"), whereas Prine puts himself in the skin of a retired man, which I think is stronger. Anyway, the Brel song is one of his masterpieces.

Jacques Brel - Les Vieux (buy) (1963)

Here's a translation I made, borrowing some lines from the English cover by one Laurika Rauch (quite forgettable I would say)

Old folks don't talk
Or only with their eyes
Even rich, they are poor
They lost their illusions
And share one heart for two

Their homes all smell of tyme, of clean, of lavender
And of old-fashioned words
May you live in the city, you all live in a small town
When you've lived much too long
And have they laughed too much, do their dry voices crack
Talking of times gone by
And have they cried too much, a tear or two
Still always seems to cloud the eye
And if they tremble a little
Is it because they're watching the same old silver clock
It tick-tocks oh so slow, it says, "Yes," it says, "No"
It says, "I'll wait for you."

The old folks dream no more
The books have gone to sleep, the piano's out of tune
The little cat is dead and no more do they sing
After Sunday's white wine
The old folks move no more, their world's become too small
Their bodies feel like lead
From the bed to the window
Then from bed to armchair
And then from bed to bed
And if they still go out, arm in arm, arm in arm
All dressed in stiff clothing
It's to follow in the sun
An older man's burial, an uglier woman's funeral
And while they mourn and cry
They'll forget for an hour the same old silver clock
It tick-tocks oh so slow, it says, "Yes," it says, "No"
It says, "I'll wait for you."

The old folks never die
They just go down to sleep and they just sleep too long
They hold each other's hand afraid to lose each other
But one will get lost anyway
And the other will remain here
The best or the worst, the gentle or the strict
It doesn't matter now, the one who's left behind
Just finds himself in hell
You'll see her sometimes, You'll see him one day
All covered up with grief
Crossing the present
Already feeling sorry of not going further
Escaping while they can
For the last precious time
The same old silver clock
It tick-tocks oh so slow, it says, "Yes," it says, "No"
It says, "I'll wait for you."
The old, old silver clock that's hanging on the wall
That waits for us

I'm sure you know a lot of other great songs about old age. Don't hesitate to mention them in the comments section. It's great to hear from you guys!

1 comment:

iserve pharmacy said...

this is a incredible duel, if I don't have many time listened both singers, the choice will be so hard, but in my personal opinion, John Prine.