Reader Marc pivots off our track from Thursday by Willie Nelson:
Although I do love “City of New Orleans” (sadly, I’ve never ridden the train nor visited the city), I didn’t hear it until some time after I heard—and fell in love with—a song by Joe Dassin set to the same tune: “Salut les amoureux” (“Hello, lovers”).
It’s about a couple who are going for a walk to have The Break-Up Talk. At first neither of them has anything to say. Then, as they talk, they imagine that their relationship might be rekindled—but “we’re past that age; we don’t believe in fairy tales anymore.” At last, having settled their break-up, they pass the local café, where the proprietress sees them walking together and calls out “Hello, lovers!”
Joe Dassin had an interesting story; he was the son of Jules Dassin, a Hollywood director who moved to Paris after being blacklisted by HUAC. (Jules became famous in France for Rififi and Never on Sunday; moved back to Hollywood after the Red Scare died away, and was nominated for an Oscar for Topkapi.) Joe, having spent his teenage years in Europe and his college years in Ann Arbor, somehow emerged as one of the biggest French pop stars of the ’60s and ’70s. More than a few of his hits were French lyrics set to songs that were popular in the U.S. at the time; sometimes they were fairly straight transpositions—The Doors' “Mosquito Song” became “Le Moustique”—but others were, like this one, complete re-imaginings.
This isn’t my favorite Joe Dassin song—that would probably be “Mon village au bout du monde”—but I like it a lot.
The English-translated lyrics to “Salut les amoureux” are full of wisdom and pathos: