Seasons in the Sun

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For the Spell album, see Seasons in the Sun (album).
"Le Moribond
(Seasons in the Sun)"
Song by Jacques Brel from the album 5
Published 1961
Released 1961
Recorded February 22, 1961
Genre Chanson
Label Philips
Writer Jacques Brel
Rod McKuen (English lyrics "Seasons in the Sun")
Cover versions
Kingston Trio, Terry Jacks, The Fortunes, Westlife
5 track listing
Marieke
(1)
"Le Moribond
(Seasons in the Sun)
"
(2)
Vivre Debout
(3)
"Seasons in the Sun"
Single by Terry Jacks
from the album Seasons in the Sun
B-side "Put the Bone In"
Released December 1973
Format 7"
Recorded 1973
Genre Pop
Length 3:24
Label Bell Records
Writer(s) Jacques Brel, Rod McKuen
Producer(s) Terry Jacks, Clive Davis
Terry Jacks singles chronology
"Seasons in the Sun"
(1974)
"If You Go Away"
(1974)

"Seasons in the Sun" is an English-language adaptation of the song "Le Moribond" by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel[1] with lyrics by American singer-poet Rod McKuen.[2] It became a worldwide hit in 1974 for Canadian singer Terry Jacks and became a Christmas Number 1 in 1999 for Westlife. The Jacks version is one of the fewer than forty all-time singles to have sold 10 million copies worldwide.

Plot[edit]

The song is a dying protagonist's farewell to relatives and friends. The protagonist mentions how hard it will be to die now that the spring season has arrived (in popular culture, Spring is portrayed as the season of new life).

Original Version[edit]

The original French-language song is a sardonic ballad, in which the singer gives backhanded farewells to his adulterous wife and her lover, and the priest he disagreed with, while sarcastically expressing his wish that there should be singing and dancing when he is buried. Before Jacks popularized the song, earlier recordings had been released by The Kingston Trio with the first cover version of McKuen's translation in 1963 and the British band The Fortunes in 1968.

Terry Jacks version[edit]

Jacks' version was recorded in Vancouver in 1973 by Jacks and his wife at the time, Susan Jacks. They made the decision to record the song when the Beach Boys, who recorded a version with Terry Jacks producing, decided to abandon their recording.

Although prior English language versions had attempted to retain the sarcastic tone of the original French song, Jacks opted to make it more sentimental. In each verse, the protagonist bids farewell to someone important in his life:

  • The first verse references "a trusted friend" that he had known since he was "9 or 10". The original specifically names the friend as "Emile", which the Jacks' versions does not.
  • The second verse references the protagonist's father (who unsuccessfully tried to warn him of his lifestyle); this verse differed from the original as it was sung in a matter which downplayed the original's bitter tone of regret.
  • The third verse references "Michelle, my little one" (implied to be his daughter, who will now grow up without her father). This verse completely replaced the third and fourth verses referencing infidelity in the French original.

It was released under Jacks' own name on his label, Goldfish Records and immediately topped the record charts in the U.S. (where it was released on Bell Records), Canada, and the UK,[3] selling over 14 million copies worldwide.

Jacks' version was released in the United States in December 1973, and made the Billboard Hot 100 a month later. On March 2, 1974, the song began a three-week run at No. 1 atop the Hot 100, and remained in the top 40 until almost Memorial Day weekend. Jacks' version also spent one week on the Easy Listening charts.[4] Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1974.[5] Although he released several other singles that were moderately successful in Canada, "Seasons in the Sun" would become Jacks' only major solo hit in the United States.[6]

Though the song enjoyed contemporary success, modern criticism has tended to be more critical of Jacks' overly-sentimentalized rewriting of the original song. Jacks' version is commonly held up as an example of bad music, having been called one of the worst pop songs ever recorded, and ranking number five on a CNN poll in 2006.[7]

Version comparison[edit]

This is an English translation of the original final verse by Jacques Brel:

Good-bye, my wife, I loved you well
Good-bye, my wife, I loved you well, you know,
But I'm taking the train for the Good Lord,
I'm taking the train before yours
But you take whatever train you can;
Goodbye, my wife, I'm going to die,
It's hard to die in springtime, you know,
But I'm leaving for the flowers with my eyes closed, my wife,
Because I closed them so often,
I know you will take care of my soul.
("eyes closed" refers to closing his eyes to her infidelity, following on from the preceding verse in which he bids goodbye to his wife's lover Antoine).

The Kingston Trio's 1963 recording was the first cover of McKuen's English-language version. The last verse in McKuen's three verse freehand rendering retains Brel's reference to the wife's infidelity but with a different sensibility:

Adieu, Francoise, my trusted wife;
Without you I'd have had a lonely life.
You cheated lots of times but then,
I forgave you in the end
Though your lover was my friend.
Adieu, Francoise, it's hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky.
Now that spring is in the air
With your lovers ev'rywhere,
Just be careful; I'll be there.

Terry Jacks' lyrics omit the original third and fourth verses and adds this verse:

Goodbye, Michelle, my little one;
You gave me love and helped me find the sun,
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground.
Goodbye, Michelle, it's hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky;
Now that the spring is in the air,
With the flowers everywhere,
I wish that we could both be there!

Westlife version[edit]

""I Have a Dream" / "Seasons in the Sun""
Single by Westlife
from the album Westlife
Released December 19, 1999
Format CD single
Recorded PWL Studios, London
Genre Pop
Length 4:09
Label BMG
Writer(s) Brel, McKuen
Certification Platinum (United Kingdom)
Westlife singles chronology
"Flying Without Wings"
(1999)
"I Have a Dream" / "Seasons in the Sun"
(1999)
"Fool Again"
(2000)

Irish boy band Westlife covered "Seasons in the Sun" for their self-titled debut album Westlife (1999). It was released on December 19, 1999 as a double A-side with a cover of ABBA's "I Have a Dream" and became the 1999 Christmas number one. It has sold over 650,000 copies in UK so far.[8]

Other versions[edit]

Apart from the versions noted above, there have been numerous cover versions of the song. Generally, these use the same translation as the Terry Jacks version, and thus inherit that version's less harsh interpretation of the song's storyline.

Swedish dansband Vikingarna covered the song in Swedish in 1974, as "Sommar varje dag" on the album Här kommer Vikingarna.[9] The song has also been covered by Andy Williams, The Beach Boys, Nana Mouskouri, The Fortunes, Bad Religion, Too Much Joy, the Squirrels, Spell, Black Box Recorder, Nirvana, Indochine, Karel Gott (Léta prázdnin), Klaus Hoffmann (in German), Pearls Before Swine, Alcazar, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Second Run, The Others, Television Personalities, and Gob featuring blink-182.

In 1993, Nirvana recorded an informal version of the song which was never intended for release, but was eventually included on the DVD portion of their 2004 box-set With the Lights Out. Nirvana's lead singer, Kurt Cobain, would often reference the song in interviews, mentioning the fact that it made him cry as a child.

Another cover version, by Bobby Wright (son of Johnnie Wright and Kitty Wells), reached the Top 40 of the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart in 1974.

The Manchester-based Coachmen's version was recorded at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in July 1966 and released on Columbia DB8057 in November 1966.

Spanish versions are entitled 'Epocas de Sol, Estaciones en el Sol, or Etapas de mi Vida.

There is a German version called Adieu Emile by Klaus Hoffmann published in 1975. The translated lyrics are very close to the French ones but the melody is slightly altered and the whole song has a 3/4 beat.[10]

Italian singer/songwriter Roberto Vecchioni recorded an Italian version called "Stagioni nel sole" for his 2005 acoustic, jazz-influenced live album Il Contastorie. The title of his version is a literal translation of "Seasons in the Sun", but both the lyrics (rewritten by Vecchioni himself) and the musical structure of Vecchioni's version are much closer to Jacques Brel's original (including a vague allusion to the protagonist's wife being unfaithful) than to the Jacks/McKuen version. The accompaniment of this rendition, played on acoustic guitar, piano and double bass (with no drums) is march-like, similar to Brel's, and pointedly un-romantic.

A second French-language version, Adieu la Vie, Adieu Soleil, was recorded in 1974 by Quebec musician Jacques Amar; this version is the Québécois adaptation of Terry Jacks' version.[11]

The band Beirut has covered "Le Moribond" live on a number of occasions. A version performed for KEXP was recorded along with "My Family's Role in the World Revolution" for the third track on the Elephant Gun EP. Beirut performs a cover that is quite faithful to the original Jacques Brel version, maintaining the French lyrics and the marching up-beat tempo.

The Finnish schlager singer Arto Sotavalta have recorded a Finnish version of the song called Päivät kuin unta (Eng. Days like dreams). The Finnish translation is very similar to the English text.

The Vietnamese version, called "Những mùa nắng đẹp" was translated by musician Pham Duy. The translated lyrics are quite similar to the English ones. A number of Vietnamese singers have covered this version.

In the spring 1987 a parody version titled "Condos In The Sun" was recorded at the Appalachian State University college radio station (WASU). The song spoofed the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker scandals that had become national news. The parody was picked up on several commercial radio stations in the south.

In 2002 a satirical version of the song lambasting the Canadian government's aging Sea King helicopters was leaked to Esprit de Corps magazine. The lyrics were published in the Ottawa Citizen on November 20, 2002.

Another spoof was recorded in 2006 by Dundee United fan under the alias 'Terry Jack'. This version mocks the possible demise of Dundee United's arch rivals, Dundee FC who were suffering severe financial difficulties at the time.[12] This version contains swearing and adult themes.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce
Canadian RPM 100 number-one single
(Terry Jacks version)

January 26, 1974 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"The Way We Were" by Barbra Streisand
Preceded by
"The Way We Were" by Barbra Streisand
US Billboard Hot 100 number one single
(Terry Jacks version)

March 2, 1974 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Dark Lady" by Cher
Preceded by
"Last Time I Saw Him" by Diana Ross
US Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single
(Terry Jacks version)

March 9, 1974 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Sunshine on My Shoulders" by John Denver
Preceded by
"Billy Don't Be a Hero" by Paper Lace
UK Singles Chart number one single
(Terry Jacks version)

April 6, 1974 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Waterloo" by ABBA
Preceded by
"Goodbye" by Spice Girls
UK Singles Chart Christmas number-one single
(Westlife version)

1999
Succeeded by
"Can We Fix It?" by Bob the Builder
Preceded by
"I Try" by Macy Gray
Irish IRMA number one single
(Westlife version)

18 December 1999 (five weeks)
Succeeded by
"Born to Make You Happy" by Britney Spears
Preceded by
"The Millennium Prayer" by Cliff Richard
UK Singles Chart number-one single
(Westlife version)

19 December 1999 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"The Masses Against the Classes" by Manic Street Preachers