"J'attendrai" (French for "I will wait") is a popular French song first recorded by Rina Ketty in 1938. It became the big French song during World War II; a counterpart to Lale Andersen's Lili Marleen in Germany and Vera Lynn's We'll Meet Again in Britain.
"J'attendrai" is actually a French version of the Italian song "Tornerai" (Italian for "You Will Return") composed by Dino Olivieri (music) and Nino Rastelli (lyrics) in 1936, said to be inspired from the Humming Chorus of Puccini's Opera "Madame Butterfly". It was first recorded in 1937 by both Carlo Buti and Trio Lescano (accompanied by the Italian jazz quartet Quartetto Jazz Funaro), and become a huge hit in Italy.
The French lyrics were written by Louis Poterat, and "J'attendrai" became an instant success. Rina Ketty's version was followed the same year by one of Belgian chanteuse Anne Clercy, and both Tino Rossi and Jean Sablon recorded it in 1939. When France was occupied in 1940, it quickly became the big French war song, with the love song's title being interpreted as meaning waiting for peace and/or liberation.
The French version of this Italian song became so well known across Europe that it was often called "J'attendrai" even when recorded instrumentally, such as by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli (both in 1939), or referred to as the original source when sung in other languages, such as Richard Tauber's British "Au revoir" (1945, with lyrics by Bruce Sievier) and Bing Crosby's and Hildegarde's American "I’ll Be Yours" (both 1945 with lyrics by Anna Sosenko).
There were also German versions ("Komm zurück", lyrics by Ralph Maria Siegel), sung by both Rudi Schuricke and Horst Winter on recordings made in 1939. The song became known in Denmark as "Kun for dig" (1939, lyrics by Victor Skaarup); in Norway as "Kun for deg" (1939); in Sweden as "Blott för dig'" (1940, lyrics by Tor Bergström); in Poland as "Czekam cię" (recorded in 1939 by Mieczysław Fogg with lyrics by Andrzej Włast); in Czechoslovakia as "Věřím vám" (recorded by both Rudolf Antonín Dvorský and Oldřich Kovář with lyrics by Karel Kozel); and in Lithuania as "Ak, sugrįžk" (with lyrics by Adelė Lenartavičienė).
French singer Raquel Bitton sings "J'attendrai" on her album Boleros.
A more recent popular version was recorded by Dalida for her 1975 album J'attendrai. The following year, she covered the song again for her disco album Coup de chapeau au passé: that version reached the Dutch charts on February 21, 1976. It spent four weeks on the charts and as # 9 in one week.
A recent version of this song was recorded by Italian singer Antonella Ruggiero on the album Souvenir d'Italie, released in 2007.
In 2010 Greek singer Vicky Leandros recorded this song in a new German version entitled "Wenn Du Gehst" ("When you leave"), which is included in her album Zeitlos ("Timeless").
Recordings of "Tornerai " / J'attendrai have been popular for film and TV soundtracks since the early 1950s, being heard in more than 15 films and TV series, among them Lilacs in the Spring (1954), Arch of Triumph (1984), Das Boot (1981), and A Good Year (2006).
The intro of "J'attendrai" is also heard in a sleeping quarters of the underground barracks of Fort Eben-Emael, Belgium. The room shows visitors what sleeping quarters of regular soldiers looked like in 1940, when Belgium was attacked by Nazi-Germany.
The song was used in a French television commercial for car manufacturer Renault in 2007.
- Du Temps des cerises aux Feuilles mortes - Un site sur la chanson française de 1870 à 1945 - audio file of Rina Ketty Version
- on YouTube
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics