Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy 14 juillet (French National holiday)

Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli - Echoes of France (La Marseillaise, French national anthem) (buy) (1947)

Georges Brassens - La Mauvaise Réputation (buy) (1953)

July 14 (called Bastille day in English, althoug we never call it that way) is France's national holiday.

Tonight there'll be fireworks and "bals populaires", big balls for the people, generally held on every village/town big square or at the fire station (traditionally it's the firemen who are in charge of the dances).

Tommorrow will be the day of the big military parade on the Champs Elysées.

Georges Brassens, one of our greatest folk songwriters and poets (and my favorite French singer) says, in "La Mauvaise Réputation" (Bad Reputation) that "on the 14th day of July, I stay in my cosy bed / Marching music is none of my business"...

It's a great occasion to play old French music. This version of "La Marseillaise" (our national anthem) by Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli is my favorite by far, and, since it's an instrumental, you don't hear those agressive lyrics about war and blood.

Sometimes I tell myself that I should play more French music here, even though this blog is more about my love for American music. Don't hesitate to give comments if you liked those French songs, I could give you more. Sometimes, too, I wish that American people in general were a little bit more curious about other countries'cultures...

My bonus track : Boris Vian, a great songwriter, jazz critic, trumpet player and most of all, a fantastic author of novels, plays and short stories, begins this song (whose title can be translated as "We're not here to be given hell") with a humorous account of how he went to the military parade with his wife just to be held back by the police, and the way he protested (in a very French manner). In the next stanza the same guy goes home drunk with a friend and this time it's his wife that gives him hell, and hits him so hard with the rolling-pin that he ends up in heaven with his buddy, and once again they're turned back by St Peter. To which Vian answers "If you kick out the drunk, there must'nt be a lot of people left"... So the two of them go to hell, "and downstairs it was marvellous". The morale of the story : Protesting may prove fruitful in the long run...

Boris Vian - On n'est pas là pour se faire engueuler (buy) (1956)


Anonymous said...

Hi! Just wanted to say a massive 'thankyou' for posting these songs. Ever since The Guardian featured a French playlist I've been ( sucked into a wonderful world of Jacques Brel and Yves Montand, and, yes- Johnny Hallyday, that I hardly knew even existed!

I'm English (so Happy Bastille Day!) rather than American but I think your point still stands. So I'm here to say, although my music collection is dominated by British and American pop music and indie bands, listening to these was a true pleasure.

As a fan of Stéphane Grappelli, I really enjoyed the version of the 'La Marseillaise' (although it feels slightly blasphemous to admit that) :D .

Helen, Manchester

Nicolas said...

Merci beaucoup Helen !

I love the Guardian's entertainment pages.
Well, thanks for your comment. I guess, given this post's succes, that I have no choice : there'll be more French music here in the future (but still a trunkload of blues, country, and exotic things like tejano, cajun, Mexican music....)

And one more thing I have to say to be honest :

I wish French people were a little less arrogant, lesson-giving, and learnt more foreign languages !!!

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I just love the fireworks specially at night! I will be there because I love the village/town and that'll be the best event about the holidays, specially if we're talking about military parade on the Champs Elysées.23jj