Before going further, if you don't know the Brel original, you should listen to it here. Even if you don't read the whole article, it will help at the very least to hear how the song is supposed to sound.
Among other things, I've learned over time that, fascinatingly, there was another version of the Brel song but with different English lyrics that the Kingston Trio had recorded 11 years earlier, in 1963. The thing is (and this is what's odd), not only -- remarkably -- was it also translated by the very same Rod McKuen who later would adapt the Terry Jacks version of "Seasons in the Sun," but it too was called "Seasons in the Sun." And though it has lyric similarities in the Jacks version, it's much closer to the Brel original and, while not right, it's reasonably passable and not soul-crushing treacly. Here it is --
But here's the deal -- that wasn't the biggest discovery about the song. Just this morning, I got a terrific note from Magnus Kesselmark, who wrote from Sweden. Here's what he had to say. (I tweaked a few small things for clarity's sake) --
I simply had to check one important matter up and my worst fears were simply true. I think most of you are from USA or languages speaking English, but I am from Sweden where the native tongue is (surprise!) Swedish.
Once in the 60's to 80's, there was a Swedish hit list where only songs sung in Swedish were allowed - Svensktoppen. That meant that many songs from USA and England were translated into Swedish and performed by Swedish artists. So for instance, "This Old House" was BIG hit in Sweden back then (39 weeks on the list in 1964-65). How about "Seasons In The Sun"??
Well I have never heard any Swedish version but I had to check and YEPP, there it was (deep sigh!). A Swedish so called dance band (a music band specialised in a certain kind of music that is fabricated for dancing, performed by quintettes dressed in terrible pink suits).
The group Vikingarna (which means 'Vikings' - [you can read about them here]) made a version that appeared on the album Här Kommer Vikingarna (Here comes the Vikings 1972).
Below you will find their version of a Terry Jack's version and to me this is absolutely TOO MUCH. Using the worst possible version and making a Swedish danceband version is like .... no, I won't write that out:
Not speaking Swedish, the recording just comes off like a bland, pleasant, sing-songy number. Understanding the words, though, is another matter entirely. And not speaking Swedish doesn't completely help when one knows what the original song is and supposed to be. Yes, I assume it's pretty awful -- but then, it comes from the Terry Jacks version which must bear most of the responsibility.
What's intriguing is that Magnus says that the album was released in 1972 -- which means that it was released two years before Terry Jack's came out, which doesn't make enough sense to me. The video says 1974, though, so I have to believe that that's more accurate. It would seem almost a requirement that the Terry Jacks version came first -- because I can't see someone putting this out on their own, without a substantive reason... Like being forced to by blackmail. Only if you saw it was a hit elsewhere first, like in America, would that push one to attempt this.
The good news is that in the YouTube video he linked to, the dansband is wearing light blue leisure suits, and happily not the ghastly pink he suggested. In the end, if this is what the Vikings are, I understand why they are now extinct, defeated by disco...
So, tack så mycket to Magnus. And apologies for North America for foisting such a recording on an unsuspecting nation that deserved far better. (The good news though is that Terry Jacks is Canadian. Perhaps that's why the song is so overly-polite and treacly. Though we must at least take some responsibility in the affair for Rod McKuen.) Here it is, all the way from Sweden --