The Worst Song Ever, Revisted
Much to my amazement, I still get a lot of comments and reaction to a piece I wrote three years ago. (Almost literally, to the day, just one month off -- March 26, 2013!!) It was "The Worst Song Ever," about Terry Jacks horrifyingly awful 1974 version of Jacques Brel's great song, "Le Moribond" (The Dying Man), translated pathetically by Rod McKuen as "Seasons in the Sun."
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.
As I wrote to Magnus, I great admired his perseverance tracking down his nagging fear. And having now listened to the recording by Vikingarna, and I think it's one of the few times it pays not to speak the good fellow's native tongue...
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 --
4/27/2016 04:07:21 pm
America can not shoulder the blame for this one (at least not entirely) since Terry Jacks and his recording are in fact Canadian.
4/27/2016 04:31:09 pm
Palakaloo, thanks for the update. And o huzzah! Some comfort. I've correctly my piece above...
Leave a Reply.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor