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The Flemish Women/Marathon/The USA--Jacques Brel


G'day, Folks! It's election day here in Ireland, so I'm in a particularly wicked mood and I thought I'd post this by way of celebration.

One of Brel's earlier numbers was "Les Flamandes" ("The Flemish Women") which wasn't especially appreciated in his native Flanders at the time. This song is available on YouTube, and the literal version of it goes something like this:


The Flemish women dance without a word
Without a word when Sunday bells are ringing
The Flemish women dance without a word
The Flemish women, they don't talk much
If they're dancing it's because they're twenty
And when you're twenty you have to get engaged
Get engaged so you can get married
And get married so you can have children
That's what their parents told them
And the verger and even his Eminence
The archpriest who preaches at the convent
And that's why, that's why they're dancing
Les Flamandes, les Flamandes
Les Fla-, les Fla-, les Flamandes

The Flemish women dance without flinching
Without flinching when Sunday bells are ringing
The Flemish women dance without flinching
The Flemish women, they don't flinch
If they're dancing it's because they're thirty
And when you're thirty it's good to show
That everything's fine, the children are growing
Like the hops and wheat in the field
They're the pride and joy of their parents
The verger and his Eminence
The archpriest who preaches at the convent
And that's why, that's why they're dancing
Les Flamandes, les Flamandes
Les Fla-, les Fla-, les Flamandes

The Flemish women dance without smiling
Without smiling when Sunday bells are ringing
The Flemish women dance without smiling
The Flemish women, they don't smile much
If they're dancing, it's because they're seventy
And when you're seventy it's good to show
That everything's fine, the grandchildren are growing
Like the hops and wheat in the field
All dressed in black like their parents
Like the verger and his Eminence
The archpriest rambling on at the convent
They've got the inheritance and that's why they're dancing
Les Flamandes, les Flamandes
Les Fla-, les Fla-, les Flamandes

The Flemish women dance without slacking
Without slacking when Sunday bells are ringing
The Flemish women dance without slacking
The Flemish women, they don't slack off
If they're dancing, it's because they're a hundred
And when you're a hundred it's good to show
That everything's fine,you're still in fine form
With fine hops and fine wheat in the field
They're off now to rejoin their parents
The verger and even his Eminence
The archpriest rambling on at the convent
And that's why one last time they're dancing
Les Flamandes, les Flamandes
Les Fla-, les Fla-, les Flamandes


This song was done in English with the title "Marathon" by Mort Schumann and company in the theatrical production "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris." This version would be better called an adaptation, rather than a translation. But this was a very good version of the song, and I don't want anyone to think I'm criticizing it, because I'm not. It's a fine adaptation--it's just not the way I would have gone about it myself.

At any rate this version is also on YouTube under "Jacques Brel Marathon", although the video and sound quality are poor, and it's hard to make out what the people are saying. But it's definitely worth a listen.

But I thought I'd give my own adaptation of this song, which I call "The USA", and you can see what you think.


Jill keeps dancing to a merry song
Life is a very merry marathon
Jill keeps dancing to a merry song
Night and day she's always going strong
She's happy because she's out of college now
Jack is looking for a big townhouse
They'll get married, have a couple of kids
'Cause that's what Mommy and Daddy did
Jack is a lawyer and he works so hard
To get him a wallet full of credit cards
Credit cards so they can go into debt
For air-conditioning and a TV set
USA, USA, US, US, USA

Jill keeps dancing to a merry song
Life is a very merry marathon
Jill keeps dancing to a merry song
Night and day she's always going strong
She's happy because they're in the suburbs now
Jack has a mortgage on a brand new house
She writes the folks how the kids have grown
In each bedroom there's a telephone
Jack is a lawyer and he works so hard
So he can buy the children brand new cars
He'll see them through the university
Set for life with a nice degree
USA, USA, US, US, USA

Jill keeps dancing to a merry song
Life is a very merry marathon
Jill keeps dancing to a merry song
Night and day she's always going strong
She's happy with how everything's worked out
Her agent sold the old family house
She's quite recovered since she packed poor Jack
Off to heaven with a heart attack
The grandkids are growing but they're far away
They come to visit every Christmas day
Come to visit where she sits alone
Knits in a corner of the old folks' home
USA, USA, US, US, USA

Jill keeps dancing to a merry song
Life is a very merry marathon
Jill keeps dancing to a merry song
Night and day she's always going strong
She's happy with how everything's worked out
Her granddaughter has her a big townhouse
She'll get married, have a couple of kids
'Cause that's what Mommy and Daddy did
Young Jill is a lawyer and she works so hard
To get her a purse full of credit cards
Credit cards so she can go into debt
With all her shopping on the Internet
USA, USA, US, US, USA
USA, USA, this is the way in the USA


This adaptation was the product of my younger, more cynical days. What I'd do with the song now in my older, even more cynical days I'm not sure. But this is the atmosphere I grew up in in middle-class urban Texas. Whether the American middle-class has changed any in the meantime, I don't know. I get the impression it hasn't. But this song could be applied to lots of places now. Maybe even Ireland? I think so.

A note: I used the word "marathon" in my version, though of course it's not present in Brel's original. I thought I'd put it in just as a tip of the hat to Schumann and company.

Last edited by SenecatheDuck, Feb/25/2011, 12:26 pm


---
It's not the dress, it's the woman!
Feb/25/2011, 11:50 am Link to this post Send Email to SenecatheDuck   Send PM to SenecatheDuck
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: The Flemish Women/Marathon/The USA--Jacques Brel


Hi Seneca,

Once again, I'm glad you posted a literal translation along with your version. I think you did a good job updating Brel's version for a more contemporary American audience. Having the granddaughter herself become a lawyer at the end is very effective as is the line "USA, USA, US, US, USA." I kept thinking "I'm dancing as fast as I can," which I thought was from a song but which google tells me was a book as well as a movie title.

I think the middle-class in America has/is changing somewhat. For one thing, it is getting smaller. Upside-down mortgages, unemployment, pending budget cuts on the federal, state and local levels are all contributing to its diminishment. More twenty-somethings now live at home with their parents, etc. That doesn't mean middle-class aspirations have changed significantly yet, but they may more often fall into the category of a dream deferred.

Very good of you to share some of your wickedness with us. Thank you for posting.

Last edited by Katlin, Feb/26/2011, 5:10 pm
Feb/25/2011, 8:48 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: The Flemish Women/Marathon/The USA--Jacques Brel


Good stuff, old friend, and thanks. I remember the Schumann take well. Yours certainly can stand along side it. Any time you feel wickedly possessed enough to put up a Brel song I'll be your huckleberry.

I could only echo what Kat says about America's middle-class, effectively having entered its twilight years. For example, I learned this week that a full third of the population now rents. Partly it has itself to blame: bad choices on election day and risky behavior. Partly squeezed out in top down fashion, such as is the case in Wisconsin.

Thanks again.

Tere
Feb/26/2011, 2:54 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
SenecatheDuck Profile
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Re: The Flemish Women/Marathon/The USA--Jacques Brel


Thanks, Katlin and Terreson, for those kind words. I'm feeling much better now. I just watched von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic on YouTube playing Beethoven's Egmont Overture. Impossible to feel wicked after that.

On my last visit to the States, I met up with a cousin of mine, a guy I hadn't seen in donkey's years (Irish for "a coon's age"). He had heaps and heaps of old family photos, from which he kindly allowed me to extract a few. I found a couple of my sister and me in the mid-50's, one of them with our parents, one with our grandparents, who were born in the 1890's. Sent a chill up the old spine, they did. You look at those photos, you'd think we were living on another planet. Just a totally different atmosphere to today.

The last couple of times I've been to the States, it's felt very different to the times I remember. Don't ask me in what way. I don't think I could articulate it because I'm not even quite sure what the difference is.

This song is of course very flippant and wicked, and I'm not sure the American middle class really deserves it. But it chimes well with the feelings that I had growing up. Do middle class kids today get the same feelings from their milieu? I think I'd have to talk to a lot of them to find out. It's funny, though, when you're sitting on this side of the water, and so many of the reports you get from the other side are so downbeat. Maybe a song like this would mean something to some people.

---
It's not the dress, it's the woman!
Feb/26/2011, 5:01 pm Link to this post Send Email to SenecatheDuck   Send PM to SenecatheDuck
 


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