Sunday, July 19, 2009

Songs lyrics

I remember a book from several years ago that listed some of the many song lyrics that have been misunderstood by listeners, usually with humorous results.
The title of the book referred to an old Credence Clearwater Revival song that said, “There’s a bad moon on the rise”, but a lot of people heard it as “there’s a bathroom on the right”. I was one of those, but only at first.

Thank goodness for the internet because now we can look up those words that are sung indistinctly or in a foreign language and not embarrass ourselves, well, myself anyway. I love to know the lyrics to songs because they are often charming, moving or just beautifully written.

An example of a funny song is Sur Le Pont D’Avignon, sung by WSK. It says:
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse tout en rond
Les beaux messieurs font comme ça
Et puis encore comme ça.
Les belles dames font comme ça
Et puis encore comme ça.

That sounds great but what they are really saying is:
On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there, we all dance there
On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there in a ring.
The handsome gentlemen do like this
And then like that.
The beautiful ladies do like this
And then like that.

And it goes on.

A sad one is Dennis Placzkowski singing Minuit Chretien.
The tune is O’ Holy Night and the words are of a little boy talking to God. His mother died and he wonders if she still loves him and asks if God will send her back.
He says, “Tell her, please, that at school I learn my lessons, I wash my hands and do the things she wanted…”
Dennis sings it with a convincing feeling that always makes me a little misty. Oddly, I can't find these lyrics on the internet. That title shows a different set of words.

A lot of songs use poems and set them to music, like Jerusalem which Ben Phillip sings on Libera’s New Dawn CD. It was written by William Blake during the days of the industrial revolution.

And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green,
And was the holy lamb of God on England’s pleasant pasture seen?
And did the countenance divine look down upon our clouded hills,
And was Jerusalem builded here among those dark satanic mills?

Libera kindly provides their lyrics on their web site.

Another good thing about knowing the lyrics is that, while I can’t sing, I can still lip-sync.


  1. The lyrics that Dennis is singing to the tune of "O Holy Night" (or, "Minuit Chretien") were written by the former director of the choir, W.A. Krollop...probably, specifically for Dennis to sing. And, while he's certainly in my (ever changing) Top-10 list of boy-sopranos, I do wish he'd simply sung the song as originally written; I'm still a traditionalist. ;-)

  2. That's good to know, David. That's why I could't find them on the internet anywhere. I've never heard the other version of Minuit Chretien but I'm looking for it.
    Dennis had such a wonderful voice and brought something special to his singing. I've ordered the DVD of L'Or Des Anges, which of course features Dennis. I'm hopping up and down with anticipation.
    BTW, nothing wrong with tradition.