GRACIAS

The postcard (Artefactos, 1972) propped up on my bookshelf stared at me. An odd photograph, rather like an X-ray, it did not occur to me that the picture was of Violeta Parra Sandoval.

The Cervantes Institute in Athens sent the postcard to me years ago.

I knew Gracias a la vida, written in 1966 by Chilean folksinger Violeta Parra, but had always associated it with the Argentine Mercedes Sosa.Sometimes I used to teach the song in Spanish into English translation course.

My pedagogical purpose was to demonstrate that a seemingly simple song (basic vocabulary) may be translated but can the translation be sung. This question raises issues of poetry, poetic license, adaptation, assonance, phonetics, and more. (By the way, I often refer to the translation of a better known piece, La Bamba for similar purposes in the classroom.)

One thing that I learned in the classroom was that much depends on the rendition. Some versions sound like dirges. Besides Mercedes Sosa, the famous American folksinger Joan Baez recorded Gracias a la vida in the mid-1970s.

The melody is simple, repetitive, as are the words. There is definitely a message, which was enhanced by the political situation of Chile. However, chacun son goût. If you like folk music in general, you’ll appreciate this song.

Ironically, only two days ago I realized this song had somehow penetrated my psyche and my revised manuscript, of the story One Dress, One Day.  It actually revealed the ending to me. Was it the power of the postcard? I translated a few lines of the song for my heroine, Inma to sing them. In her quest for a mantra, the title seemed appropriate. Synchronicity? Gracias to Violeta Parra.

One bittersweet note: Violeta’s song thanks life and she took her own.

The Spanish version has be recorded by scores of Hispanic singers up to 2019 and remains under copyright (Warner). Naturally, what my heroine warbles in English is my own interpretation.

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Below are the Spanish lyrics and a link to a version of the song by the great Mercedes Sosa.

Mercedes Sosa – Gracias a La Vida – YouTube

Lyrics

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto 
Me dio dos luceros que cuando los abro 
Perfecto distingo lo negro del blanco 
Y en el alto cielo su fondo estrellado 
Y en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto 
Me ha dado el oído que en todo su ancho 
Cada noche y días 
Grillos y canarios, martillos, turbinas 
Ladridos, chubascos 
Y la voz tan tierna de mi bien amado

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto 
Me ha dado el sonido y el abecedario 
Con el las palabras que pienso y declaro 
Madre, amigo, hermano y luz alumbran

do
La ruta del alma del que estoy amando

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto 
Me ha dado la marcha de mis pies cansados 
Con ellos anduve ciudades y charcos 
Playas y desiertos, montañas y llanos 
Y la casa tuya, tu calle y tu patio

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto 
Me dio el corazón que agita su marco 
Cuando miro el fruto del cerebro humano 
Cuando miro el bueno tan lejos del malo 
Cuando miro el fondo de tus ojos claros

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto 
Me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto 
Así yo distingo dicha de quebranto 
Los dos materiales que forman mi canto 
Y el canto de ustedes que es el mismo canto 
Y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto

Gracias a la vida

Songwriters: Violeta Parra Sandoval

Gracias a la Vida lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

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Please don’t let me be misunderstood (again)

Remembering Barcelona, the wedding dress, its thief and his lover, I think of the Esmeralda disco version of Please don’t let me be misunderstood.

I was disappointed when the famous director Tarantino used the song in one of his films because it did not fit my memories of the piece. Music possesses tremendous power. I hear a song from my youth and feel like my cells are rejuvenated!

Not surprisingly, the base beat of dance music including old flamenco runs through One Dress, One Day, a playlist or soundtrack.  Radios in shops or restaurants during the day plus disco-bars  at night still added to the atmosphere of Barcelona in 1990. One-hit wonders or novelty songs could climb the charts then disappear, Yet for a short time songs could unite audiences then more than now.  Iphones, headphones, subscriptions to satellites through televisions have changed the popular music scene.

The Eurodisco hit never loses its flavour. You can hear the pounding of feet and hearts. The older version by the Animals was sung on the Ed Sullivan show! So many artists performed this song. Nina Simone lent her distinctive sound interpreting the song more as a protest about racial tension.  Few people would recognize it as the same composition in the late 70s with its traditional Spanish beat.

Besides the Flamenco flavour, nostalgia, even a bit of kitsch, the lyrics suit Francisco (aka Calif) who stole the gown. Somehow the double-crossing con was not an angel but did possess charm. I have made him an endearing character. Through these lyrics, that street-savvy con artist and thief could be speaking to Inma about his love or lust.

Baby, do you understand me now
Sometimes I feel a little mad
Well don’t you know that no-one alive
Can always be an angel
When things go wrong I seem to be bad

I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

If you want a surprise or blast from the past: https://www.bing.com/search?q=please+don%27t+let+me+be+misunderstood+lyrics&form=EDGEAR&qs=AS&cvid=be4bca088dfd4869b8503c83eea376f4&cc=CA&setlang=en-US

The lyrics merit another reading.

Baby, do you understand me now
Sometimes I feel a little mad
Well don’t you know that no-one alive
Can always be an angel
When things go wrong I seem to be bad

I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

Baby, sometimes I’m so carefree
With a joy that’s hard to hide
And sometimes it seems that
All I have to do is worry
And then you’re bound to see my other side

I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

If I seem edgy, I want you to know
That I never mean to take it out on you
Life has it’s problems and I get my share
And that’s one thing I never mean to do

Cause I love you
Oh, oh, oh, baby, don’t you know I’m human
Have thoughts like any other one
Sometimes I find myself alone and regretting
Some foolish thing, some little simple thing I’ve done

I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

Yes, I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

Yes, I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

Yes, I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

Songwriters: BENNIE BENJAMIN,GLORIA CALDWELL,SOL MARCUS
© WARNER CHAPPELL MUSIC FRANCE
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind

https://www.amazon.ca/Santa-Esmeralda-Dont-let-misunderstood/dp/B00005UNZJ

 

ABBA & Inma

“Waterloo” EUROVISION, 1974

Everyone knew ABBA from that famous appearance on the Eurovision show in 1974. Inma knew the whole rags-to-riches story.

“Any TV talent show would be terrific exposure. It could get her to the Eurovision song contest so she could represent Spain. Not shy, Inma knew she would give it her all. One lucky break and she could make it big, like Julio Iglesias or ABBA. Everyone knew how they got their start singing on Eurovision.”

Inma still loved ABBA because most of the group’s songs were catchy with repetitive lyrics and plenty of oohs and ahs that she could ad lib, even echo as if a back-up singer. English was her second language, too.  It was encouraging to think that other people got famous singing in their second language. Inma would do it, too. She really needed a stage name. ABBA stood for Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid. Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad.

Her name and initials, Inmaculada  Concepción López de Pérez, were useless. ICLP CLIP, Inconlope or Icolopa? Sound like antelope!  Inma wanted something with star quality but easy to recall, like Blancanieves. First she thought of Noëlla or Blanche de Noël.  These were the only French words that she believed came close to her baptismal name Inmaculada Concepción. Inma sounded common; Concha, worse, and Connie, too American.

Inma sometimes wore form-fitting jumpsuits like ABBA once did. The eighties had been more about shoulder pads and legwarmers. She had grown up in that decade so by 1990 she tried to modernize her stage appearance.  A Dietrich, masculine look never failed. By now, Madonna had replaced ABBA as a model, but the customers at the Centenar bar still belted out ABBA hits like “Mamma mia”, “Fernando” and “Dancing Queen”.  She could perform, get them warmed up to Karaoke then serve more alcohol. There was an art to it:  start slowly, build to a crescendo then get everyone up, spinning and emoting.  The louder, the thirstier and the better her sales.