Song Of The Day 4/19/2015: Claude François – “Cette année là”

Speaking In Tongues: English. The universal language. Not a bad choice for a universal language. None of those fussy umlauts or wispy diacriticals to get in the way. You rarely have to roll your tongue into the kinds of contortions that wreak havoc on microphone split screens. All the best songs are in English: “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Tea for Two,” “All About That Bass.” But there are remote villas and parishes Dow Chemical hasn’t yet been able to persuade to speak English, and those places have to have all the English hit songs translated into their own tongues so people could find out what was really going on in English-speaking countries who didn’t have lacrosse or the same sausage variations they did. So this week we’re lining up a bunch of foreign-language covers of well-known English songs. You might want to run them through Google Translate; I bet the results are a hoot.

First up is Claude François, who was from – let me look this up here – wait, Egypt? Well, yeah, but he spoke and sang in French. François sold a staggering 70 million records during his lifetime, which was cut short when he died in a freak electrocution in 1978. (He tried to straighten a wall lamp while he was in the shower. Truth.) He was the first French-speaking singer to play the Royal Albert Hall. Before that they were just forced to stand in the street. “Cette année la” (“This year”) was his version of the Four Seasons’ “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night).” It’s not a straight translation of the original, though: The words were re-written to be about 1962, and made references to the Beatles, Sputnik, Marilyn Monroe and West Side Story. Whereas the original was just about a New Jersey kid getting laid, something I’m sure the French don’t want to hear from us about.

In the video, note François’ excellent dancing. He keeps up with, maybe even exceeds, his backup dancers. I was first inspired to celebrate this song from another video that was edited to show him seamlessly dancing with multiple backup dancers and various sets, but not two days after I watched that video for the first time, it was taken off YouTube. I feel like the man who knew too much now. But thankfully, if anybody’s coming after me it’ll only be the French police, whom I believe I can outfox. Time will tell.

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