Entitled Les Chansons Sous L’occupation, this brilliant Arkadia Chanson collection of classics and period pieces, sung by France’s greatest stars of the WWII era, brings together the best and most representative of the songs sung by the French to uplift their spirits during the dark days of World War II.
First among these melodies is Maurice Chevalier’s rendition of the somewhat sardonic Ca sent si bon la France, which pays tribute to some of the country’s less obvious charms. Though Chevalier himself was accused (and acquitted) of collaborating with the Nazis, his dexterous performance reminded fellow citizens what it meant to be French. In a similar vein, Charles Trenet’s La romance de Paris allowed his audience to remember the good days and left them optimistic those days would soon return. Bel Ami, sung here by the incomparable Corsican balladeer Tino Rossi, was another popular wartime tune. Named for a novel by Guy de Maupassant, it is infused with the spirit of the beloved French countryside.
The most optimistic of Frenchman would have had trouble reciting with conviction the words of Ray Ventura’s On ira pendre la linge sur la ligne Siegfried, (We will hang out the wash on the Siegfried Line) when there were Boches (Germans) making merry in the Moulin Rouge (The Siegfried Line was a chain of German fortifications in the north of France). Andre Dassary can hardly be commended for his call to rally round the Vichy flag in Marechal nous voila. On the other hand, it is inspiring to hear Fernandel advise a friend to ignore German propaganda in Faut pas Francine, ecouter les raconteurs. Germaine Sablon’s energetic performance of Le chant des partisans, a hymn to the glory of the Resistance movement, is even more uplifting.
One can overemphasize the political nature of many of these songs. The world situation may have dominated the landscape, but the voices heard here belong to artists, not journalists. These songs do not describe the times, but rather reflect them. Leo Marjane would have touched hearts with Je suis seule ce soir (I’m alone tonight), even in the best of times. However, the nature of the epoch transformed it into an anthem for a people trying to cope with humiliation and despair. Indeed, many of the more melancholy songs in this 19-song CD, such as J’ai chante sur ma peine and L’accordeoniste, acted as a sort of outlet for the nation’s grief.
When Paris was finally liberated in the summer of 1944, after four long years of occupation, the joy felt by the citizenry was immeasurable. That spontaneous release of gaiety is captured in Chevalier’s performance Fleur de Paris, and Paris Tour Eiffel. Paris had been returned to its rightful owners who began to put behind them the unpleasant experiences of the war and to try and regain the famed French effervescence. Many of the songs gathered here also made their way out of the ashes and accompanied France into the less-somber second half of the twentieth century. It is worthwhile, however, to remember from time to time just where these classics, such as L’accordeoniste, came from. Which is why, in addition to the pleasure it brings, this digitally remastered album, entitled Les Chansons Sous L’occupation also provides food for thought and reflection.
|1. Ca sent si bon la France||Maurice Chevalier||1940|
|2. On ira pendre notre linge sur la Ligne Siegfried||Ray Ventura||1940|
|3. Faut pas Francine, ecouter des raconteurs||Fernandel||1941|
|4. Bel Ami||Tino Rossi||1941|
|6. Ou sont-ils mes petits copains||Edith Piaf||1941|
|7. La romance de Paris||Charles Trenet||1941|
|8. Je suis seule ce soir||Leo Marjane||1941|
|9. Marechal nous voila||Andre Dassary||1941|
|10. Lili Marlene||Suzy Solidor||1942|
|11. Sur le chemin du retour||Raymond Legrand||1942|
|12. J’ai chante sur ma peine||Lucienne Delyle||1943|
|13. On m’appelle Robin des Bois||Georges Guetary||1943|
|14. Quand un facteur s’envole||Charles Trenet||1943|
|15. Tiens, tiens, tiens||Ray Ventura||1943|
|16. Lorsque demain tu reviendras dans ton village||Elyane Celis||1944|
|17. Le chant des partisans||Germaine Sablon||1944|
|18. Paris Tour Eiffel||Jacques Helian||1944|
|19. Fleur de Paris||Maurice Chevalier||1944|
This brilliant collection, sung by France’s greatest musicians of the WWII era, brings together 19 of the best & most representative French Chansons meant to uplift the people’s spirits. Features Chevalier, Piaf, Django, Sablon, Trenet, and many more