Monday Musical Moment: Les feuilles mortes

Justin Langham   -  
Who doesn’t love this time of year?
I know that living in Houston means sometimes perseverance rather than enjoyment of weather, but there are a couple of times of the year where the city really shines. As the heat begins to dissipate and humidity slowly fades, often slower than we all would like, the leaves begin to change colors and the coolness of fall sets in, even in the heart of Texas… *clap clap clap clap*
Since last Wednesday, I have been spending time with my family in Louisville along the Kentucky/Indiana border, sampling some local cuisine, slow riverside living, and yes, a few of the local bourbons… Yesterday and today, while traveling down the southbound highways through Tennessee and my home state of Alabama, I was struck by the almost idyllic weather: the temperature hovering around the high 60’s-low 70’s, the sun shining gently on the hilly landscape of northern Alabama, and the still mostly green trees starting to show small but definied sections of orange coloring. I was reminded of how nice this time of year is, and of course, it also reminded me of one of my favorite songs! I bet some of you already know which one I am aluding to…
Many know the classic tune from the Great American Songbook, Autumn Leaves, composed in 1945 with lyrics by Johnny Mathis over a thousand recorded versions since, but you may not know that it was originally written by the Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and was first popularized with lyrics by French playwright Jacques Prévert. The original title is in fact Les feuilles mortes, or “Dead Leaves,” but I tend to like the poetic translation better! The text is one of remembrance and longing, equating memories to the leaves that fall from the trees, and paired with a simple melody that is truly timeless. The original text and translation can be found below the video.
The video I chose for today is famed Italian/French singer and actor, Yves Montand, who became famous by singing in a crooning style in many popular French films in the mid-20th century, similar to the way that Frank Sinatra achieved his fame in the States in that time. Their styles are also very similar, and like Sinatra, Montand approaches each lyric with sensitivity and tenderness that communicates the message of the text even if you do not know a word of French. I had never heard the original French lyrics, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back!
I hope you enjoy the music, and here’s hoping that the weather continues to be spectacular for us in Houston!
Oh, I wish you could remember 
Oh, je voudais tant que tu te souviennes 
Happy days when we were friends 
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis 
At that time life was more beautiful 
En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle 

And the sun is hotter than today
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu’aujourd’hui
Fallen leaves are collected with a shovel 
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle 

You see, I haven’t forgotten 
Tu vois, je n’ai pas oublié 
Fallen leaves are collected with a shovel 
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle 
Memories and regrets too
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi

And the north wind carries them away 
Et le vent du Nord les emporte 
In the cold night of oblivion 
Dans la nuit froide de l’oubli 
You see, I haven’t forgotten 
Tu vois, je n’ai pas oublié 
The song you sang to me
La chanson que tu me chantais
This song reminds me of us 
C’est une chanson qui nous ressemble 
You loved me, and I loved you 
Toi tu m’aimais, et je t’aimais 
We both lived together 
Nous vivions tous les deux ensemble 
You who loved me, I who loved you
Toi qui m’aimais, moi qui t’aimais
But life separates those who love each other 
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s’aiment 
Very slowly, without making any noise 
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit 
And the sea erases on the sand 
Et la mer efface sur le sable 
The footsteps of disunited lovers
Les pas des amants désunis