I reviewed Vol. 2 of this Brassens series by Pierre de Gaillande earlier (here), and Gaillande's PR guy, Garrett Baker, kindly assented to forward the predecessor CD because I was absolutely floored by both Mr. Brassens and Gaillande's re-evocation of the cheeky bad boy's work, a repertoire considered hallowed in France but barely known on these shores. Brassens was a cynical Humanist of an anarchist bent and wrote lyrics that cut straight to the nasty heart of things, well padded by musical scores a good deal more harmonically complex than at first seems to be the case. Ironically enough for such blatant and extremely explicit lyrics, Georges was an introverted individual, shy, not given to self-promotion, but the fame singer Patachou soon tumbled to his work and secured the man's soon-to-be fame.
As a perfect example of what to expect, and as point of proof of Brassens' highly sympathetic and often strikingly penetrating insights, the very first cut, The Princess and the Troubadur, relates the tale of a 13-year old rescued unconscious in baffling finery from a dry riverbed and, now known as The Princess, set down amid a squalid section of town. Then, enamored of a "cut-rate troubador":
One fine night, so help us, oh Holy Ghost,
But the troub is 30 and, though ensconced in a quarter where little is frowned upon, he possesses a conscience along with more than a trifling awareness of legal consequences, and so refuses the waif's coquetry a bit more bitingly than perhaps he should. She flees broken-hearted, and, the minstrel experiencing more of this baffling shithole we call Earth, "twenty years later, passing by the same room / He feels a twinge of regret deep down in his heart".
I'm telling you, FAME readers, that I could teach a Critical Analysis class for a month on Brassens' extraordinary breaking of taboos for the sake of the human heart, as well as his other subjects, but I'd probably be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a hot buttered rail for doing so…even just via words and literature. There are few people I value for estimable daring along with Lenny Bruce, Frank Zappa, Mort Sahl, S.J. Perelman, P.G. Wodehouse, and too few others, but George Brassens now joins that esteemed circle of sacred heretics. For more re: this guy, Mr. Gaillande, and the music, refer to the link provided in the first paragraph, as I've been here most concerned with getting across a more pointed idea of how unique this mild but outrageous rogue was. Back in its heyday, a book of Brassen's poetry would've been a hit in the Grove Press catalogue, and I hope to hell Monsieur Gaillande continues to covert Brassens ungodly brilliant work into the king's English because there's no one I've ever run across in anglophonic cloisters who comes even close to this Frenchman's staggering unorthodoxy.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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