Thursday, October 11, 2012

No Agony Please, We're British: Vicky Leandros: "Come What May (Apres Toi)"

And now to the winner of 1972's Eurovision, to a song that was sung originally in French as "Avec Toi" but was translated into English as "Come What May."  Leandros was born in Greece but was asked by Luxemburg to represent them at Eurovision in '68 (I have no idea how that would happen, by the way - perhaps it's because she was brought up in Germany?) where she placed a more than respectable fourth place; and so she returns again, with an anthem of love - all the typical tropes are here ("my life changed completely the moment I met you" and "yesterday is very far away" are the main messages of the song, beyond her loyalty and love for her Other).  Yes, this is an unabashed love song, of the kind that automatically gets versions sung in various languages, yet is immediately understandable even if you don't comprehend what she is singing.  The feeling of relief and triumph are here, a kind of stark testifying that might grip the hearts of the Housewives of Valium Court and remind them of their own decisions of the past, ones made with equal conviction and heroic quality.  The French lyrics, however, take the song to a more intimate corner, where she is comparing how she feels when she is with the Other and when she is not; she is singing to let her Other know that she has "les main vides, le coeur sans joie" and the song ends with the ambiguous but hopeful "je pourrai peut-etre/donner de ma tendresse/mais plus rien de mon amour."

All of which is to say that in English this is an utterly straightforward song, clear as can be; but in French (which was the basis of the other versions, I presume) it is more a song of experience and love that is typically Gallic in its sophistication, more heart-grabbing, more the kind of thing that properly translated could be sung by Scott Walker.  I feel as if the English-speaking audience is being cheated here, that a song that is about the many facets of love and loss is being ironed out into a rah-rah blunt statement of near-slavish devotion that is just plain embarrassing once the original lyrics are understood.  I am not sure who re-wrote the song, but s/he did the original version (co-written by Leandros' father, Leo) an injustice.  In French, she sings about living after him as the shadow of her Other's shadow; in English, she seems to give up everything for this man, not once telling him how things will be for her if he leaves her; and so a fine Eurovision winner is more than just lost in translation; it is simplified for an audience that is presumed to be too...something....for such a song to work.  What that something is, is in part what I am working towards here; the answer is not going to be pretty, I'm afraid.

Next up:  back to the 60s via a 70s pin-up. 

1 comment:

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