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The little stories behind the songs
Welcome to Paris Chanson’s podcast. I am Olivier. Back for this weekly rendez-vous together, dedicated to the little stories behind the most beautiful French songs.
This time, a song « magnifique ». La complainte de la butte.
It’s a classic again. The lyrics are from Jean Renoir (film maker, producer and second son of the painter Auguste Renoir), the music is from Georges Van Parys and the first singer to record it was Cora Vaucaire.
The song was heard for the first time in 1955, in Jean Renoir’s movie “French Cancan”, starring Jean Gabin. Cora Vaucaire is not in the movie but she is the voice of the main actress when she sings, the Italian Anna Amendola. Rufus Wainwright covered this song in the movie Moulin Rouge in 2001. As did a lot of French artists in the 60s 70s 80s 90s and, more recently in 2014 in ZAZ Paris album.
La complainte de la butte refers to “the hill of Montmartre”, one of the most famous places in Paris with the Sacré-Cœur at the top. It is a love song… with beautiful lyrics:
Les escaliers de la butte (The stairways up to la butte)
sont durs aux miséreux. (are hard on the poor)
Les ailes des moulins (the wings of the windmill)
protègent les amoureux. (protect those who love)
La complainte de la butte is one of those songs that instantly transport you to the Paris of the 50s.
So close your eyes and enjoy…