Sunday, November 15, 2009

like a David Hasselhof fan in Germany...

I was only in France for a few days last fall/winter, but Paris had a lasting impression on me. In doing a crude assessment of my ancestry, I've determined that roughly I am equal parts French, German, and Irish...and then a bunch of other stuff. During the first 26 years of my life I had never embraced my French heritage. I think this is partly because I could never pronounce any of their words (what's up with all the silent consonants?...coup, hors 'd oeuvres, Mardi Gras, etc...) and partly because of that post-9/11-freedom fries thing.

So when I decided to study abroad in Ireland for the Fall 2008 semester, it was more of a coincidence/convenience that I had the opportunity to spend some time in the City of Lights. My law school friends Tom and Marine were already in Paris working for the summer, and my friend Thomas was starting his study abroad program in Paris a couple weeks before my program in Ireland was set to begin. So this gave me a perfect excuse to go to Europe early, see the sights of Paris, and not need to know how to speak any French.

I ended up spending 8 days in Paris...5 in early September and 3 just before Christmas on my way home. I liked Paris much more that had expected. I've blogged about a couple of my favorite things already... and for example.

But one thing that I enjoyed most was French music. I loved it...even though I don't speak French. Since I didn't know what was being said/sung, the songs that really stuck with me weren't necessarily ones that I'd like if I were a frenchman or understood the lyrics. Just ones that sounded good to me... In fact, when I later told Marine about the songs I liked and asked her for the artist's names, I could almost hear her laughing all the was across the Atlantic. According to her, one song was for teenage girls to like, one was for old people to like....etc.

Nevertheless, you like what you like, so like a German who (inexplicably) loves David Hasselhof, here is my decidedly "uncool" list of favorite French music:

Cristophe Mae, "Mon p'tit gars"
This is the song which apparently was popular with the teenage girl crowd recently. It sounds like a pop-py love song but he's actually singing about his baby son. I heard this song on the radio at an internet cafe and had Thomas (who speaks French) write down some of the lyrics so I could find out what it was.

Michel Polnareff, "On ira tous au paradis"
On my last night in Paris before returning to the U.S., a group of us went to a sing-along at a local hole-in-the-wall bar. The place was packed...Christmas was less than a week away, the tiny bar was lit up with old-style Christmas lights, and of course good wine was flowing. There was a Bob Dylan-esque man with a guitar leading everyone in song...singing mostly folky French standards. Even though I don't know any French, it was fun to try and sing along and enjoy the festive mood. I liked this song so much I wrote down some of the lyrics to find it later. I'm not sure about the kazoo intro. As you can tell, it is great for singing along. The title is loosely translated at "Everyone will go to paradise/heaven."

Edith Piaf, "La vie en rose"
I heard this song first in Thomas' apartment at at going away party. The song is part of the "French Dinner Party" playlist on iTunes. I think the music sounds quintessentially Parisian. Edith Piaf is regarded as France's greatest popular singer. According to Wikipedia, legend has it that she was literally born on a street...onto the Paris. She was abandoned by her parents at an early age, lived on the streets and in a brothel during her early years, performed as a "street acrobat" with her father, and gave a commission (paid out of her singing proceeds) to her pimp boyfriend so that he wouldn't force her into prostitution. It's amazing that such a beautiful song can come from a person with such a troubled life. (Mind you, I have no idea what the words least they sound beautiful.)

Maurice Chevalier, "Ca sent si bon la France"
This song was also on the iTunes "French Dinner Party" playlist. Maurice Chevalier is where the stereotypical "huh-huh-HUH" image of a frenchman comes from. This song reminds me of French merriment. It is ironic that the only video version of this song I could find is set to images of rioting in Parisian suburbs. Oh well, you take the good with the bad. As a side note, I found that listening to the iTunes "French Dinner Party" playlist was perfect music to listen to while writing my seminar paper and studying for the bar exam earlier this year. I had no idea what the words meant because they were in French and it was lively enough to keep me awake.

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