Episode Air Date: September 14, 2016
Artist: Charles Trenet
Recording Title: La Mer
You’re listening to La Mer, a Columbia 78 from 1948 and you’re on the Sound Beat.
A man as prolific as Charles Trenet (850 songs published over a 60 year career) probably doesn’t rest much, even on the train. It was on one such trip that he wrote this song La Mer, in 1943, basing the music on the contemporary hit and piano student standby “Heart and Soul”. Legend has it that he penned it on toilet paper liberated from the restroom.
Musicologists put songs like this in the nouvelle chanson category, which is basically a French song with a more lyrical emphasis. The broader chanson tradition goes back to French literature’s very beginnings at the end of the eleventh century.
Jack Lawrence later rewrote the song, and rewrote is the word. Instead of Trenet’s ode to the majesty of the sea itself, the new lyrics gave Bobby Darin the lost love angle that he took to #6 on the charts in 1959.