23.1.12

"Ne me quitte pas"



It has been said that it was in this modest bar, “Au Rêve”, on the northern slopes of Montmartre that Jacques Brel wrote one of his most famous songs, “Ne me quitte pas” (Don’t leave me, "If you go away"). He observed the apartment of the young lady Suzanne Gabriello, just in front, on the other side of the little square. (Actually, it seems that he was the one who left her and Brel declared also that “this is not a love song, but a song about the cowardice of men”. )
The song was first registered in 1959. This video shows Jacques singing it at his last performance in Paris at “L’Olympia” in 1966.





Suzanne was an actress and singer, mostly comic, parodying. She was born in 1932 and died in 1992. She’s buried in the Saint Vincent Cemetery, just around the corner. Jacques was born in 1929 and died in 1978. His grave is far away, at one of the Marquesas Islands, where he spent the last years of his life, sick and half retired.
The song has been performed by a number of artists. Here is the Nina Simone version.




... and here are some links to English, German, French versions by Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Shirley Bassey, Julio Eglesias, Sting, Ray Charles, Marlene Dietrich, Celine Dion...


I have already made a post about the small Saint Vincent cemetery. As we can see on the below map it’s situated close to the Montmartre vineyard (see previous posts) and the cabaret "Lapin Agile" (see previous post); we can see the roof behind the wall and the tomb of Maurice Utrillo, who painted the cabaret a number of times. 

26 comments:

Olivier said...

Bien vu cette promenade dans le Paris d Brel

Eli said...

wow! The apartment where I stayed in October was so close - I saw the bar (but it was never open!) but didn't realise it was a landmark.

Owen said...

Hi Peter ! Thanks for this fine story... I haven't been in that cemetery for ages, will have to go again and take a look, to refresh my memory...

rauf said...

oh i've heard too many versions of this song Peter in English too. English title is 'if you go away' The one i loved most was sung by Daliah Lavi.

Its very difficult to imagine what locals do in Paris, a city swarmed by the tourists from all over the world. A bar for instance will have more tourists than locals. At least the cemetery is filled by the locals. But some foreigners have invaded the local cemeteries too, like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison.

Hope you are doing fine Peter.

Virginia said...

Oh Peter, that is one of my favorite French songs and I have it on my blog as well. I"ll just take a few minutes to hear Jacques and Nina before I turn off the computer for the night. Next trip, I'd like to see this for myself!
V

Maria O. Russell said...

Very romantic and philosophical of M. Brel for his song´s title and his quote about men...

I love the name of the bar!

I love this post!

French Girl in Seattle said...

Dear Peter. There are so many things I like about this post! Jacques Brel was a favorite performer of mine, and this song, one of his most moving. I knew the story behind it but had never seen the place where "le Grand Jacques" wrote it, of course. As for the cemetery, I have never been. Maybe during a later trip. I wish you would write a similar story about my favorite Brel song, "Amsterdam," even though that one may take you out of Paris for a while... ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

ALAIN said...

C'est souvent difficile de voir si un texte littéraire reflète la vie de l'auteur ou s'il s'agit d'un simple exercice de style. C'est également vrai pour les textes des blogueurs

Pierre BOYER said...

Merci...
Bonne journée,

Pierre

Studio at the Farm said...

Thank you, Peter. I have always enjoyed Jacques Brel's voice and lyrics.

Adam said...

Excellent post. I didn't know the connection between the song and the bar, but it's nice to know that it is still standing (and seemingly hasn't changed much since that time...)

SusuPetal said...

Funny memories....my father hated this song, it annoyed him so much and every time it used to come on the radio (especially the Finnish version), father used to cry out loud: Oh, leave him already! Such whining!!

Cergie said...

Le taphophile n'est jamais très loin en toi...
Je me souviens très bien de ce moment où Brel est décédé et beaucoup sont sans doute dans ce cas.
Je pense qu'on ne peut pas écrire ce qu'on n'a pas ressenti vraiment ; au moins un instant, celui où on compose...

M said...

Peter, I have always loved that song ... whether in English or Frenchand actually sung it for a talent show in High School. Thank you for the history behind it and the photographic tour of the area. It was a wonderful reminder of the day we spent there with Genie last April. Bises, Marie

Shammickite said...

Ahh... Jacques Brel... and that wonderful song. Thank you, Peter, for another fascinating bit of Paris history.

Nathalie said...

Merci pour le lien - une des plus belles chansons qui soit sur "la couardise des hommes". Elle est bouleversante. A chaque fois.

Ravie d'être allée te découvrir barbu chez Owen - ça te va bien :)

PEDROHUELVA said...

na entrada magnifica , como siempre, tocayo Pedro


saludos desde Andalucia.


http://camaraymicrofonos.blogspot.com/

Starman said...

I hear this song frequently by various artists on Chante France (online, of course).

claude said...

C'est sans aucun doute une des plus belles chansons d'amour qui ait été écrite. Il est bon de voir que certaines belles chansons françaises aient des résonances à l'étranger, mais je crois qu' l'interprétation de Brel est la plus belle car pour lui c'est du vécu.
C'est une chansons qui va aussi aux voix forte comme celle de Céline Dion ou Barbra Streisand. Je n'ai pas trouvé la version par Piaf. Je doute fort qu'elle ait chanté cette chansons.
C'est bien de nous la faire réentendre par les uns et par les autres.

Catherine said...

Another fascinating post tucked away in a corner of Paris....how interesting

Peter said...

Claude: Tu as raison, c'était une "fausse" Piaf. J'ai supprimé le lien.

arabesque said...

i don't know a lot of french songs but J. Brel is indeed one of the legends. i have yet to listen to his old tunes but its the lyrics that are touching.
nice post here. ^0^

Carla said...

Thanks for such a beautiful and informative post Peter....I love Brel's version at the L'Olympia probably because it was the last time he would perform but the emotion and those eyes!! Bravo
Carla

Claudia said...

Mesmerizing post.

Trotter said...

Great homage to my favourite singer in French language; maybe my favourite singer period!!
There was a time when I knew all his great hits by heart...

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