Books for Everyone!

Year’s End 2021

Anchors Aweigh!

All of A Sudden My Heart Sings

This uniquely American song, from the uniquely American film of 1945, Anchors Aweigh, is an adaptation of a French song written in 1942. In this English version, Harold Rome wrote the lyrics to the original music by Henri Laurent Herpin.

That original music comes to us courtesy of “Ma Mie,” whose lyrics were penned by Jean-Marie Blanvillain, commercially known as Jamblan. The first recording of “Ma Mie” was performed by the very smoothly talented singer Jean Sablon, with the orchestra directed by Paul Baron. That very first release of this quintessentially French song was 28 May 1942.

In a rather rare reaction, I find the English adaptation vastly superior to the original French composition. And not only was that non-French version Made in the USA, it’s straight from Hollywood! The Tinseltown of 1958 was still a vitally prolific, oftentimes fun and fruitful force, but it was, nevertheless, a film industry well past its prime.

For me, the beautiful tone and soothing voice of the Frenchman Jean Sablon do not elevate this song, above even the most maudlin and loudly histrionic takes on this tune. Paul Anka had a monster hit with it in 1958; I think this overly produced recording obliterated any French memories that might have remained of the Sablon performance. It’s entirely possible that few auditory souvenirs of The Original survived intact.

The major problem with the French composition resides in the lyrics, maybe even the title.

“Ma mie”, means my crumb, or, affectionately, my love. This French tune tells a charmingly detailed but sardonic tale of a man who meets, every night, at seven of the clock, his beloved, a woman who greets him by saying, “Good night.”

The beloved is named Mimi, or, “ma mie”, which is a play on the sound of “mi”. This adored woman is a shorthand typist, back in the day when those skills were quite necessary in the office world before electronic gadgetry came along.

The English lyrics completely wipe out the amorous storyline, droll and witty as it might be. Gone are the softly cynical suggestions of a woman who might cheat on her amour, in which case, this man intones he’d drown or kill himself working. Those were the good old days!

This man melodically hints that he does not think he is in any danger of being killed by his “mie” . . . because they love each other so much.

In the truly French tradition, the original lyrics leave plenty of room for doubt, that existential doubt which, in 1942, was a chilly whisper on the Nazi-occupied Seine. Today, that doubt is a raging torrent of philosophical despair.

There was “quelque chose” — something — very magical about French music of the 1930s and 1940s. C’était de la vraie musique. It was real music. Sweetly nostalgic and tenderly yearning, for what, one can only fill in her own blank. That type of artistic ambiguity creates a classic, in song, in writing, in imagery.

Today, one longs for the Paris of yore, but is it truly a lost Paris that is sought? That precise sense of Paris . . . when the City of Lights was the elegant capital of love, of the world of romance.

Paris according to Victor Hugo was a labyrinth of decaying squalor and ages-old hypocrisy. Reading Les Misérables, in the original French, will quickly disabuse anyone of the notion of Paris as filled only with light, love, and le grand amour. The City of Light and the City of Love were, and are, equally the City of Sewers.

Of such diametrically opposed elements are life, and art, composed.

How is it then that we can come to any song with preconceived feelings of anything? Any listener, of a song, a poem, a speech, even a diatribe, must possess open ears, an open mind, and the open heart, all of which have become so dismally lacking in the present time, that it’s no wonder the past, with its irretrievable and unknown moments, becomes vastly preferable.

Far be it for me, novelist and writer of historical fiction, to opt for modernity, with all of its gaudy, cheap, gimcrack faux realities, starting with slickly artificial online personas, and ending, mercifully, with a crass, counterfeit commander-in-chief. I must nonetheless opine the world today becomes very vibrantly alive, with the worlds of yesteryear, if we can but open our eyes to the essential that never dies . . .

a soft voice and the allure of trust between two people, the loving kindness of a friendship of the heart, tout en douceur, l'amour d'un ami et d'un autre.

La douce vieille France, the beautiful old France, is much like the beautiful less-young America: a sublime idea that takes form in the reality of the world around us. That idea can be destroyed only if we permit it to be.

A song, in any language, may evoke hope and love, faith and delight and eternal longing, avant la souffrance, before the suffering — if we devote our hearts to follow the light that is love, today, yesterday, and tomorrow, and to sing. Spoken with the English lyrics of half a century ago, my heart, all of a sudden, sings.

All of a Sudden My Heart Sings

The secret way you hold my hand

To let me know you understand

The wind and rain upon your face

The breathless world of your embrace

Your little laugh and half-surprise

The starlight gleaming in your eyes

Remembering all those little things

All of a sudden my heart sings.

All of a sudden my heart sings

When I remember little things

The way you dance and hold me tight

The way you kiss and say "Good night"

The crazy things we'd say and do

The fun it is to be with you

The magic thrill that's in your touch

Oh, darling, I love you so much!

The secret way you hold my hand

To let me know you understand

The wind and rain upon your face

The breathless world of your embrace

Your little laugh and half-surprise

The starlight gleaming in your eyes

Remembering all those things

All of a sudden my heart sings.