Seasons in the Sun
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|Song by Jacques Brel|
|from the album Marieke|
|Recorded||February 22, 1961|
|"Seasons in the Sun"|
|Single by Terry Jacks|
|from the album Seasons in the Sun|
|B-side||"Put the Bone In"|
|Genre||Pop, soft rock|
|Songwriter(s)||Jacques Brel, Rod McKuen|
|Terry Jacks singles chronology|
"Seasons in the Sun" is an English-language adaptation of the 1961 song "Le Moribond" by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with lyrics rewritten in 1963 by American singer-poet Rod McKuen, portraying a dying man's farewell to his loved ones. It became a worldwide hit in 1974 for Canadian singer Terry Jacks and became a Christmas number one in the UK in 1999 for Westlife.
Background and lyrics
The first version of the song, recorded by Jacques Brel, tells of a man dying of a broken heart. It is sung in a marching tempo and shows the man saying his last farewells to a priest, his best friend, and his wife who cheated on him.
The American poet Rod McKuen translated the lyrics to English. In 1964, the Kingston Trio first recorded an English version of "Seasons in the Sun", which was later heard by Terry Jacks and became the basis for his rendition.
Jacks rewrote the lyrics, although he is uncredited for it. The inspiration for the rewritten lyrics was a friend of Jacks who was suffering from acute leukemia and died four months later. The Terry Jacks rendition was later dedicated to the friend.
Unlike the Jacques Brel version, Jacks' rendition instead tells of a dying man giving his last words to his loved ones. In the first verse the dying man gives his last words to his friend, whom he had known since childhood and reminisces the happy times they had such as playing together ("climbed hills and trees"), friendships with others ("skinned our hearts and skinned our knees") and studying together ("learned of love and ABC's"). The second verse has him addressing his father, who tried to give him a good upbringing and exert a positive influence on his undisciplined life ("I was the black sheep of the family", "You tried to teach me right from wrong", "wonder how I got along") which included vices and revelry ("too much wine and too much song"). The final verse shows him addressing "Michelle", possibly his daughter or niece, and stating how she lifted his spirit up in times of despair.
According to Jacks, the Beach Boys asked him to be their producer during the sessions for the band's album Surf's Up. On July 31, 1970 they attempted a rendition of the "Seasons in the Sun", but the session went badly, and the track was never finished. Afterward, Mike Love told an interviewer: "We did record a version [of 'Seasons'] but it was so wimpy we had to throw it out. ... It was just the wrong song for us." The recording remained unreleased until the 2021 compilation Feel Flows.
Jacks released his version as a single in 1973 on his own label, Goldfish Records. "Put the Bone In", an original composition about burying a deceased pet dog, was included as the B-side. The single soon topped the record charts in the U.S. (where it was released on Bell Records), in Canada, and the UK, selling over 14 million copies worldwide.
Jacks's 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 number one atop the Hot 100 and remained in the top 40 until almost Memorial Day weekend. Jacks's version also spent one week on the Easy Listening charts. Billboard ranked it as the number two song for 1974. Although he released several other singles that were moderately successful in Canada, "Seasons in the Sun" would become Jacks's only major solo hit in the United States. In Canada, the single (Gold Fish GF 100) reached number one on the RPM Magazine charts January 26, 1974, and remained there four weeks.
Though the song enjoyed contemporary success, some modern critics take a dimmer view, considering it overly sentimentalized. Jacks's version has been held up as an example of bad music, such as having been listed as one of the worst pop songs ever recorded and ranking number five in a similar CNN poll in 2006.
Jacks also released a German-language version in Germany with lyrics by Gerd Müller-Schwanke, "In den Gärten der Zeit".
- The first recording of the English-language version (lyrics by McKuen) was released on 1963 album Time to Think by The Kingston Trio.
- The Fortunes recorded the song for a 1968 single.
- The Newmen, an Irish vocal group, released a version in 1969 on Dolphin Records (DOS37) with 'Bonnie Bonnie' on the B side.
- Colombian duet Ana y Jaime released a Spanish version called Estaciones en el Sol.
- Pearls Before Swine included a version of the song on their album City of Gold in 1971, with lyrics reflecting the darkness of Brel's original version.
- A cover version by Bobby Wright reached #24 of the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart in 1974.
- Hong Kong English pop and Cantopop band The Wynners cover version in 1974 album Listen to the Wynners and Alan Tam as the vocal.
- Klaus Hoffmann recorded a German version of "Le Moribond", titled "Adieu Emile", in 1975.
- Too Much Joy recorded the song for their 1988 album Son Of Sam I Am, and it became a regular part of their live shows.
- Nirvana also recorded the song in 1993, which was released in the box set With the Lights Out in 2004.
- Westlife made their cover version in 1999 and included it on their album Westlife.
- Nana Mouskouri did a version of the song.
- Black Box Recorder included their cover as the first track on their B-sides compilation album The Worst Of Black Box Recorder.
- Spell (an ensemble composed of Boyd Rice and Rose McDowall) recorded a version in 1993, and titled their only album after the song.
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My first experience with Brel consisted of doing an unauthorized adaptation of 'Le Moribund', which I called 'Seasons in the Sun'... I subsequently learned that Brel had received my recording...
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