La Mer (song)
|Single by Charles Trenet|
|B-side||"Seul... Depuis Toujours"|
|Recorded||25 March 1946|
"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
Trenet said that he had written 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 by train in 1943 between Montpellier and Perpignan as he was gazing out of the window at the Étang de Thau, a lagoon in the south of France. He jotted it down on piece of paper and in the afternoon he worked out the details with his pianist Léo Chauliac. That evening they performed it in front of an audience but without having much of an impact.
The song was not recorded before the end of World War II. 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 Lasry. 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 original in 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 were already over 100 different recordings of La Mer and it was considered to be 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 more than 4000 different recordings of it with over 70 million copies sold in total.
Despite various translations into other languages the original French version was popular outside 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.
The song was also recorded in the 1960s by Cliff Richard with The Shadows. In 1976 Julio Iglesias included the song on his live album Julio Iglesias – En El Olympia. Dalida did a cover in 1978.
"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 recordings 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 Kevin Spacey.
In 2008 it was recorded in Dutch a second time but with new lyrics by 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 Jary 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.
Usage in popular culture
The French original is featured prominently in a variety of movies, including L.A. Story where it is in the opening montage, French Kiss (1995) where it is sung by the actor Kevin Kline and Mr. Bean's Holiday, which uses a recording of Trenet himself in its final scene. The song is sung in the French documentary film Blood of the Beasts (1949). Julio Iglesias' 1976 live recording is used instead of dialogue and other sounds (included a gun shoot) during the last three and a half minute, of the 2011 British spy-film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, directed by Tomas Alfredson. The film and the song both end in the same moment (credit credentials aside). It is performed in the film A Life Less Ordinary (1997) by Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz. The Trenet recording is heard over the end credits of an episode of The Simpsons titled "The Squirt and the Whale".
Other movies that featured the song include Every Girl Should Be Married, A Safe Place, Edith and Marcel, Bitter Moon, Funny Bones, The Way We Laughed, Mondays in the Sun, The Dreamers, Marseille, Beyond the Sea, Man of the Year, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Automata, The Brand New Testament, and One Wild Moment.The Robbie Williams version plays over the closing credits of Finding Nemo and is included on the soundtrack.
- 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))
- Patrick O'Conner: Charles Trenet - France's favourite chanson serenader. The Guardian, 2001-02-20
- 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.
- 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)
- Discogs: French Kiss (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), 1995. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- 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)
- Metcalfe, Nick (14 June 2016). "Euro 2016 TV watch - ITV score early goal with La Mer, while Pearce is a clear winner of shouting contest". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- Second Hand Songs: La Mer page
- Discogs: La Mer page
- Will Friedwald: Ocean Crossing at bobbydarin.com
- Lyricstranslate Original lyrics plus crowdsourced translations (not singable) into many languages. Unlike many webpages, this page preserves the French diacritical marks–été not ete, bergère not bergere, etc.—which are part of the spelling.