La Mer (song)
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"La Mer" (English: "The Sea") is a song written by French composer, lyricist, singer and showman Charles Trenet. The song was first recorded by the French singer Roland Gerbeau in 1945. It was not until 1946 that Trenet recorded his own version. When it was released in 1946, it became an unexpected hit, and has remained a chanson classic and jazz standard ever since.
Background and history
According to Trenet he wrote a first version of the song's lyrics as poem at the age of 16, many years before he came up with a tune for it. The tune came to him while traveling on train in 1943 while he was gazing out of the window at a couple of ponds. He jotted it down on piece of paper and in the afternoon he worked out the details with his pianist Léo Chauliac. The same day at night they already performed it in front of an audience but without receiving much reception.
The song was not recorded before the end of the war. It was first offered to Suzy Solidor, who however declined it. After that the job fell to Roland Gerbeau, who recorded it together with Jo Bouillon's orchestra at the end of 1945. The orchestration and chorus were provided by Albert Lasny. Trenet himself recorded his song for the first time in 1946.
Over the years the song turned out to be rather popular throughout the world and developed into a chanson classic and jazz standard with a large number of prominent artists recording their own versions. Besides the in original French the song was also recorded in several other languages with the English version Beyond the Sea being particularly popular and becoming the signature song for the American singer Bobby Darin. In 1966 there already over 100 different recordings of La Mer and it was considered France's best selling song together with Edith Piaf's La Vie en rose. By the time of Trenet's death in 2001 there were supposedly already more 4000 different recordings of it.
Despite various translations into other languages the original French version was popular outside of France and with non-French musicians as well. Trenet published his recording in the US in 1947 and Bing Crosby recorded La Mer on his 1953 album Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris.
Roger Williams recorded it as "La Mer (Beyond the Sea)" in 1956. Charles Trenet's recording of 'La Mer' is choreographed in Matthew Bourne's 1989 ballet suite, Infernal Galop, "a French dance with English subtitles", in which a merman seduces three matelots.
In the 1960s, a cover was done by Cliff Richard with The Shadows. In 1976 Julio Iglesias recorded a live performance of the song. Iglesias' performance is used as the end music for the 2011 film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy directed by Tomas Alfredson. Dalida did a cover in 1978.
More recent versions include, for example, Kevin Kline's version in the 1995 film French Kiss., Kristina & Laura, Manlio Sgalambro, Lisa del Bo, Biréli Lagrène, Patricia Kaas, Lola Dutronic, and others.
"Beyond the Sea"
The English version has been recorded by many artists, including Benny Goodman, Mantovani, Roger Williams and Gisele MacKenzie, but Bobby Darin's version released in 1959 is the best known by many, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song reached the top 40 twice prior to the Darin version (Goodman's version in 1948, Williams's in 1955).
More recent versions include covers by Lawrence Welk, Martin Denny, Bent Thalmay, Dick Jordan, Helen Shapiro, Johnny Mathis, We Five, The Sandpipers, Sacha Distel, George Benson, Bobby Caldwell, Carol Welsman, Eric Comstock, Gene Nery, Robbie Williams, Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart and Miguel Bosé.
An Italian version with lyrics by Pasquale Panella was made famous by Sergio Cammariere
In 2008, it was covered in Dutch but with new lyrics Herman Pieter de Boer rather than the 1970 lyrics. It was performed as a jazz tune by Rob de Nijs.
The first German version was written in 1948 by Hans Fritz Beckmann und Lale Andersen. The latter recorded it with Michael Jaty and his orchester in the same year. However Beckmann was unhappy with the first attempt and rewrote it. The new version was first recorded by the German actress and singer Liselotte Malkowsky in 1949 and became rather popular in German speaking countries. Later recordings comprise the Austrian Schlager singer Lolita, the Austrian soprano Eva Lind, the Italian-German singer and entertainer Caterina Valente and the German entertainer and band leader Götz Alsmann.
- Barnett Singer: Charles Trenet: Troubadour of Modern France. Contemporary Review, January 1997 (Questia, Highbeam)
- Robert Dimmery: 1001 Songs: You Must Hear Before You Die. Hachette UK, 2011, ISBN 9781844037179, (excerpt (Google))
- MER, LA at originals.be (retrieved 2015-1-4)
- Matt Schudel: Composer Jack Lawrence Dies at 96. Washington Post, 2009-03-18
- Trenet Returns To Paris Stage. The Billboard, 1966-10-22, p. 44 (excerpt (Google))
- French singer Trenet dies. BBC News, 2001-2-19
- W. Scott Haine: Culture and Customs of France. Greenwood, 2006, ISBN 9780313328923, p. 244 (excerpt (Google))
- Charles Trenet (Columbia 4498-M). The Billboard, 1947-9-15, p. 113 (excerpt (Google))
- Discogs: Roger Williams – Roger Williams, 1956. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- Alastair Macaulay: Matthew Bourne and His Adventures in Dance: Conversations with Alastair Macaulay. Faber & Faber, 2011, ISBN 9780571279890, chapter 3 (excerpt (Google))
- Discogs: Cliff Richard With The Shadows – Sings In French, 1963. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- Discogs: Julio Iglesias – En El Olympia, 1976. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- Discogs: Dalida – Dalida, 1978. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- Discogs: French Kiss (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), 1995. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- Lize Marke – Als De Lente Komt. amc, 2002 (online copy (toc) at discogs.com, retrieved 2015-1-2)
- JAZZSCHLAGER DES MONATS DEZEMBER 2013 Das Meer – LISELOTTE MALKOWSKY (1949) at goetz-alsmann.de (German, retrieved 2015-01-17)
- Bart van Loo: Chanson. Een gezongen Geschiedenis van Frankrijk. WPG, 2011, ebook (1952) (excerpt (Google))
- Bob Leszczak: Who Did It First?: Great Pop Cover Songs and Their Original Artists. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, ISBN 9781442230682, p. 22 (excerpt (Google))
- La mer at secondhandsongs.com (retrieved 2015-1-4)
- La mer at swisscharts.com (retrieved 2015-1-4)
- Charles Trenet at the IMDB (retrieved 2015-1-4)
- Paul Clinton: Sea Story: At Age 92, Jack Lawrence, out Lyricist of "Beyond the Sea," Talks about His New Autobiography-And about Having Kevin Spacey Sing His Words. The Advocate, 2007-12-7 (Highbeam)