There was an article in the New York Times this week that was about Parisians taking back the streets, going out to their favorite cafes, sharing beers, wine, and the ever-present cigarette. It was an act of defiance, and an affirmation of the French way of life.
This week’s show is a musical reflection of my love for France, French music and culture. The French tracks are interspersed with some timely cuts, ones maybe more familiar here. There have been many songs written in tribute to Paris; a few of them are featured here.
We start with the late Eartha Kitt, who first went to France as a young dancer with the Katherine Dunham Ballet Company in the late 1940′s. This started a love affair that lasted all her life. She is witty and her French is impeccable.
We follow that with an obscure cut by Martha Muffins, “One Day in Paris”, from an old LP issued in the 1980s.
Serge Gainsbourg‘s first big hit is next: “Le Poinçonneur des Lilas” from 1958. It tells the story of a disgruntled metro worker at the Porte de Lilas who punches metro tickets for a living.
Then it’s an ebullient track from the late Gil Scott-Heron with Brian Jackson, “Race Track in France.” It portrays Americans love of French culture, and the French love of American music as well.
Bertrant Gosselin is next with his “Hymne a la Pais” (Hymn to Peace) from a 1984 vinyl album released in Montréal, Vive la Bonne Semence (Long Live a Good Harvest).
Herbie Hancock reprises a Peter Gabriel classic, this time with John Legend and Pinksinging instead of the original Gabriel/Kate Bush duet. “Don’t Give Up” is a heartwarming affirmation in song.
The popular singer/entertainer Jacques Dutronc comes next, with a song about Paris waking up: “Il Est Cinq Heures, Paris S’eveille” (It’s 5 a.m., Paris is Waking Up”). He lists various neighborhoods; this is a classic song about Paris and you will hear the audience enraptured by it.
“Protection” by Massive Attack hardly needs an introduction. KCRW gave the British group its debut back in the 1980s, and it’s been a favorite among KCRW DJs ever since.
Juliette Greco then sings a classic waltz about Paris, “Sous le Ciel de Paris” (Under the Sky of Paris). At the time of this recording, in the early 1950′s, she was a popular left-bank bohemian, one that smote the heart of a young Miles Davis when he traveled there in the 1950s.
James Taylor recorded this beautiful song, “Secret O’Life,” in the KCRW studio back in 1994. It has a timeless message and I thought it fit today’s theme perfectly.
We wrap it up with Charles Trenet‘s 1947 classic “Douce France” (Sweet France), an evergreen love song to Paris.
I hope you enjoy this show. Vive La France!