After all that hardass rock the last couple of days, I feel the need of something softer. Alors, profitons d’une très douce chanson française de Georges Moustaki… oh wait. I’m talking about Georges Moustaki, a francophone singer-songwriter of generally Mediterranean extraction who was hot stuff when I was in high school a hundred years back. This is seriously sweet sonorous stuff.
When I get into someone obscure (to 21st-century Anglophones) like Moustaki, I have a hard time mentioning just one song in a large body of work, so I’ll mention and link to a couple.
Did I say “generally Mediterranean”? Per Wikipedia, he was born Giuseppe Mustacchi in Alexandria to parents who were Italian-speaking Francophile Greek Jews from the island of Corfu. What’s kind of amusing is that his first big hit was Le Métèque, a word that means, more or less, “Wop” or “Dago”; it talks about him being a wandering Jew and Greek shepherd. No record company would take it, so Moustaki self-published on a 45RPM single and became a star. Mind you, he’d already carved out a nice niche by that point writing songs for all the big-name French stars; music was always good to him.
His songs always have acoustic arrangements with a south-Europe lilt. Moustaki has a soft baritone and often had soprano singing harmony with him, usually to beautiful effect. They were mostly about love, hopelessly romantic.
I’m going to feature two songs. The first, Le facteur, because it’s so simple and sweet, and has that heartbreaking soprano harmony. It’s about a dead seventeen-year-old and goes to a place so romantic I think it’s out of the English language’s reach: C’est lui qui venait chaque jour / Les bras chargés de tous mes mots d’amour / C’est lui qui portait dans ses mains / La fleur d’amour cueillie dans ton jardin.
Second, L'homme au cœur blessé, just because it was my favorite song for a while when I was in Grade Ten or so. It’s not even by Moustaki, but a cover of a tune by Theodorakis. What’s crazy is that I didn’t know that until I looked the song up just now, even though I’ve long been a huge Theodorakis fan, particularly of the soundtrack to the move Z.
Links · Spotify playlist. Le facteur on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. L'homme au cœur blessé on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. Live video of Le facteur and L'homme au cœur blessé (weak, but with Theodorakis and Melina Mercouri in the audience).