Two and a half years after last being in Paris for my year abroad at university, I’ve come back for a few days to the ‘City of Light’ or, as Parisians call it, ‘Paname’.
During my year abroad, which you can read more about here, I found out about the singer Jacques Brel, and duly raided my Dad’s collection of Jacques Brel and Édith Piaf CDs when I got back to England.
This definitely helped me to cope with the fact that I would have to do my final year at university first before thinking about moving back to Paris!!
1. Place de la République – Cœur de Pirate
A nice cheery one to start us off… a song about lost love and heartbreak on the Place de la République (with a mention of Vincennes and Ternes for good measure). Listen to it here.
2. Les Champs-Élysées – Joe Dassin
Lovely and upbeat, this is all about chance encounters and what can happen if you find yourself walking down the Champs-Élysées.
3. Sous le ciel de Paris – Juliette Gréco
Another one of my favourites, this is all about how easy it is to fall in love with Paris (and to stay in love, even when it’s rainy and totally grim). You can watch it on YouTube here.
4. Revoir Paris – Charles Trenet
Ahh we definitely can’t miss Charles Trenet off the list.
If you’ve ever felt sheer delight at the thought of visiting Paris again (or when you arrive for a holiday in Paris and first see the Eiffel Tower/Place de la Concorde/Tuileries), this is for you. Enjoy 🙂
5. Les prénoms de Paris – Jacques Brel
Written almost ten years after Brel first came to Paris to try his luck as a singer in cabarets, this song is about visiting Paris whilst being in love. He takes the listener here on a tour of popular Paris landmarks from the Île Saint Louis to the Tuileries and Versailles.
The song, which tells the story of a couple’s relationship in Paris, gets faster and more joyful in typical Brel style, slowing down suddenly when the couple separate under a grey and rainy Parisian sky and the narrator has to return home.
All is not lost, however, as he describes his joy at suddenly finding a letter from his lover and hurriedly boards a Paris-bound train whose wheels ‘quiver with luck’ on his return to France.
6. Le poinçonneur des Lilas – Serge Gainsbourg
Gainsbourg, who is perhaps most well-known in the English-speaking world for his song Je t’aime – moi, non plus recorded with his girlfriend Jane Birkin, wrote a huge catalogue of other songs that are definitely worth a listen.
In this song, he puts himself in the shoes of a poinçonneur, whose job was to stamp metro passengers’ tickets, at Les Lilas station.
His days are spent in a dark underground ‘cloaque’ (‘cesspit’) where he reels off travel advice to passengers (‘pour Invalides, changez à l’Opéra’) and passes his time by reading extracts from Reader’s Digest. Don’t let that put you off 😉 – the music’s surprisingly jaunty for a song with such downbeat lyrics.
7. Il est cinq heures, Paris s’éveille – Jacques Dutronc
Paris in the early morning is rendered brilliantly in this song by Jacques Dutronc to a jazzy flute accompaniment.
The narrator sees the city come to life and wake up, with nocturnal life drawing to a close and Parisians beginning their day, from commuters heading to work and milkmen carrying their deliveries to a refreshed Arc de Triomphe ready for another day of being on show and a slightly more reluctant Eiffel Tower, suffering from a severe case of chilly feet after a long night.
Now your turn! What are your favourite songs about Paris?
Do you agree with the song choice on this (entirely subjective and personal) list?
And if you’ve enjoyed reading this, why not read my post here on my favourite current French-language musicians?