Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)
|"Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"|
|Single by Doris Day|
"Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"[a] is a song written by the team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans that was first published in 1956. Doris Day introduced it in the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), singing it as a cue to their onscreen kidnapped son. The four verses of the song progress through the life of the narrator—from childhood, through young adulthood and falling in love, to parenthood—and each asks "What will I be?" or "What lies ahead?" The chorus repeats the answer: "What will be, will be."
Day's recording of the song for Columbia Records made it to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one in the UK Singles Chart. It came to be known as Day's signature song. The song in The Man Who Knew Too Much received the 1956 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was the third Oscar in this category for Livingston and Evans, who previously won in 1948 and 1950. In 2004 it finished at number 48 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
It was a number-one hit in Australia for pop singer Normie Rowe in September 1965.
The song popularized the title expression "que sera, sera" as an English-language phrase indicating "cheerful fatalism", though its use in English dates back to at least the 16th century. Contrary to popular perception, the phrase is not Spanish in origin, and is ungrammatical in that language.
The popularity of the song has led to curiosity about the origins of the title saying, "que sera, sera", and the identity of its language. Both the Spanish-like spelling used by Livingston and Evans and an Italian-like form ("che sarà sarà") are first documented in the 16th century as an English heraldic motto. The "Spanish" form appears on a brass plaque in the Church of St. Nicholas, Thames Ditton, Surrey, dated 1559. The "Italian" form was first adopted as a family motto by either John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, or his son, Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford. It is said by some sources to have been adopted by the elder Russell after his experience at the Battle of Pavia (1525), and to be engraved on his tomb (1555 N.S.). The 2nd Earl's adoption of the motto is commemorated in a manuscript dated 1582. Their successors—Earls and, later, Dukes of Bedford ("Sixth Creation"), as well as other aristocratic families—continued to use the motto. Soon after its adoption as a heraldic motto, it appeared in Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus (written ca. 1590; published 1604), whose text (Act 1, Scene 1) contains a line with the archaic Italian spelling "Che sera, sera / What will be, shall be". Early in the 17th century the saying begins to appear in the speech and thoughts of fictional characters as a spontaneous expression of a fatalistic attitude.
The saying is always in an English-speaking context, and has no history in Spain, Italy, or France, and in fact is ungrammatical in all three Romance languages. It is composed of Spanish or Italian words superimposed on English syntax. It was evidently formed by a word-for-word mistranslation of English "What will be will be", merging the free relative pronoun what (= "that which") with the interrogative what?
Livingston and Evans had some knowledge of Spanish, and early in their career they worked together as musicians on cruise ships to the Caribbean and South America. Composer Jay Livingston had seen the 1954 Hollywood film The Barefoot Contessa, in which a fictional Italian family has the motto "Che sarà sarà" carved in stone at their ancestral mansion. He immediately wrote it down as a possible song title, and he and lyricist Ray Evans later gave it a Spanish spelling "because there are so many Spanish-speaking people in the world".
In modern times, thanks to the popularity of the song and its many translations, the phrase has been adopted in countries around the world to name a variety of entities, including books, movies, restaurants, vacation rentals, airplanes, and race horses.
In film and television
The song originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much, where it appears diegetically and serves an important role in the film's plot. In the film, Day plays a retired popular singer, Jo McKenna, who, along with her husband (played by Jimmy Stewart) and son, becomes embroiled in a plot to assassinate a foreign prime minister. After foiling the assassination attempt, Jo and her husband are invited by the prime minister to the embassy, where they believe their young son is being held by the conspirators. Jo sits at a piano and plays "Que Sera, Sera", singing loudly in the hope of reaching her son. Upon hearing his mother play the familiar song, Jo's son whistles along, allowing Jo's husband to find and rescue the boy, just before he was to be murdered by the conspirators to the assassination attempt.
"Que Sera Sera" came to be considered Doris Day's signature song, and she went on to sing it in later films and TV appearances. In 1960's Please Don't Eat the Daisies, she sings a snippet of the song to her co-star, David Niven, who plays her husband. In the 1966 film The Glass Bottom Boat she sings a snippet accompanied by Arthur Godfrey on ukulele. From 1968 to 1973, it was the theme song for the sitcom The Doris Day Show.
Versions of the song have appeared on a number of film and TV soundtracks, often juxtaposed with dark or disastrous events to create an effect of black comedy. For example, in the Simpsons episode "Bart's Comet", the song is sung by the citizens of Springfield in anticipation of an impending comet strike that will wipe out the town and kill them all. The song is featured over the opening and the ending credits of Heathers, a dark teen comedy dealing with murder and suicide.
As football chant
Que sera sera,
Whatever will be will be,
We're going to Wembley,
Que sera sera
This would be sung by fans following a victory that progresses their favoured team to the next round of a competition that will ultimately lead them to Wembley Stadium (typically the FA Cup, the finals of which have been held in Wembley since 1923). Variations have been reported substituting other venues, such as "We're going to Germany", in reference to a team qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.
Normie Rowe cover
|"Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"|
|Single by Normie Rowe and the Playboys|
|B-side||"Shakin' All Over"|
|Format||45 rpm record|
|Normie Rowe and the Playboys singles chronology|
Australian pop singer Normie Rowe's 1965 recording of "Que Sera, Sera", which was produced by Pat Aulton on the Sunshine Record label (Sunshine QK 1103), was the biggest hit of his career, "the biggest Australian rock 'n roll hit of 1965", and is reputed to be the biggest-selling Australian single of the 1960s. The song was "done in the style of "Louie, Louie" and the manner of "Hang On Sloopy", and given a "Merseybeat" treatment (in the manner of The Beatles' "Twist & Shout"), and was backed by Rowe's band The Playboys. It was paired with a powerful version of the Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' classic "Shakin' All Over", and the single became a double-sided No. 1 hit in most capitals (#1 Sydney, #1 Melbourne, #1 Brisbane, #1 Adelaide, and Perth). in September 1965, charting for 28 weeks and selling in unprecedented numbers, with Rock historian Ian McFarlane reporting sales of 80,000 copies, while 1970s encyclopedist Noel McGrath claimed sales of 100,000. Rowe scored another first in October 1965 when "Que Sera Sera" became his third hit single in the Melbourne Top 40 simultaneously. In 1965 Rowe received a gold record for "Que Sera, Sera" at Sydney's prestigious Chevron Hotel. In December 1965 the master of Rowe's version was purchased by Jay-Gee Records for release in the United States. In April 1966 Rowe received a second gold record for the sales of "Que Sera, Sera". In August 1966 Rowe won Radio 5KA's annual best male vocal award for "Que Sera, Sera". In 2006 Rowe released a newly recorded version, which was released by ABC via iTunes, and later adding "the whole digital mix with a radio mix and a dance mix".
In the decades since the song's original release, "Que Sera, Sera" has been covered by dozens of artists. A 1970 cover sung by Mary Hopkin and produced by Paul McCartney reached #77 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. A 1982 cover by Shakin' Stevens from his album Give Me Your Heart Tonight reached #2 on the UK charts.
As a result of the song's immediate popularity following the release of The Man Who Knew Too Much, versions were soon written in other languages. An early example was a Dutch version by Jo Leemans which reached the Belgian charts in December 1956. Versions of the song have also been recorded in Danish, French, Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, and Swedish, among other languages. These in turn have led some non-English speakers to adopt the saying "que sera, sera".
The song's lyrics have been referenced or modified in other compositions, such as the 1978 song "Baby Hold On" by Eddie Money, which features the modified refrain "Whatever will be, will be/The future is ours to see".
- "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" is how the title is given in the song's official sheet music, but it has been rendered in various ways in other sources. The order of the main title and parenthetical may be swapped, as when the song was nominated for the Academy Award as "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)". It may also be referred to as simply "Que Sera, Sera", or "Whatever Will Be, Will Be". The title sequence of The Man Who Knew Too Much gives the title as "Whatever Will Be". Rarely, the title is rendered with diacritics as "Que Será, Será".
- Front cover of Livingston & Evans sheet music.
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