Songs for Paris
Sometimes the only way I can communicate with the world is through music.
Music is my love. When I am feeling blue I play soulful music, when I am cooking I play dance music, when I am driving I blast my playlists and sing along for long hours because no one is listening, when I am getting ready to go out I play loud disco to get into the mood. I can be silly with music, I can get reflective with music, and always always always, music expresses for me things that I cannot put into words. Anywhere I am in the world the excellent frenchRadio Novais on playing through my computer.
On the evening of 13/11 I had my friends Blanca and Lilka over to dinner. We were talking about our choices of cities to live in. We were comparing London to Madrid, Paris to Los Angeles, Sevilla to Cadiz…..the quality of life, what you look for in a city, in its people. Spanish people are compassionate, my friend Blanca said, Parisians are grumpy but real, I said. London has lost its self, we both agreed on and in LA you find moments of deep connection with a beach city that still has a downtown soul.
I was trying to put into words my relationship with Paris, a city I have lived in for over 21 years, a city I love and feel at home in. My city.So what better than my “French Songs” playlist. During dinner I played some of my favorite songs, songs that remind me of my Paris and why I love it so much:“Cafe De Flore,” “Paris Paris,” “Si J’etaits Un Homme,” “Michele»…I did not know that a carnage was taking place in the city as I played those songs.
Yesterday I sat down in front of my computer to write my weekly post. My mind was blank and my heart too heavy. I had spent most of the day barricaded at home, reading the guardian.co.uk and liberation.fr and answering emails from friends around the world worried for my whereabouts. I sent whatsapps asking for news. “Everyone ok ? I am praying for Paris and you”.
I could not write a post. How could I ? Then I received an email from my friend, composerMatthew Herbert, with a youtube link to his musical homage of Paris. This is how I feel, the music said to me.Because I cannot write anything else, because words cannot express the feelings of loss, love and hope that I have for Paris right now, here are some of those songs. (Below: Cafe De Flore For Paris. November 13, 2012. Matthew Herbert).
Café De Flore is a song that is close to me for many reasons. It’s a long story, one which I will write about in another post. How it came about, why, how it nearly did not make it and how it became ahit.Below is the Trio Reprise version, and my homage to pianist Phil Parnell, a unique artist and a kind man who sadly passed away this year. Phil, this one is for you.
(Below: “Paris Paris”by the lateMalcolm McLarenfeaturing Catherine Deneuve).Another long story on how this song and album came about and one I will post soon. “Paris Paris”was Malcolm’s ode to Paris, one of the 10 wonderful songs in theParisalbum. We worked on this album for a year years, 1993 to 1994. We made a list of what Paris meant to us: its people, places, artists, icons, landmarks.The song “Paris Paris”is a love song to this city.
Below:Josette Kalifasings “Vingt Ans,”a song by Leo Ferré. The Paris attacks killed so many young people. Kids out and about on a friday night, in the Bastille and Republique… kids hanging out in the streets full of bistrots and music, and inside the Bataclan, my favorite concert hall in Paris. What shocked me the most when watching the videos and photos of friday night’s attacks was how young they were. They were only kids, they were twenty years old.
Josette Kalifa, another music artist friend of mine sings“Vingt Ans”(“Twenty Years Old”) by Leo Ferré. The song deals with what it means to be twenty years old. The kids that died in the attacks will never know. Some lost their lives and others lost their youth. Kalifa is a French singer with the voice of an angel. I met her through my friend Florence Maeght, who picked her up when she used to sing in the streets of Paris. My artists Blanca Li and Malcolm McLaren subsequently became close to her and we collaborated with her on many musical projects. I brought Kalifa to New York in 1995 and she sang this song.Whenever I was in the audience she would dedicate “Vingt Ans”to me.
Below Diane Tell. “Si j’etats Un Homme”.A beautiful melodic piece that makes you wish you could sing along even if you cannot speak French.
Below: Michel Fugain:“Une Belle Histoire.”Another classic.
Below: Malcolm McLaren featuring Loulou de la Falaise.“Jazz is Paris, Paris is Jazz”.From theParisalbum.A most emotional tribute to Paris, love and jazz.
Below: Jane Birkin“Comment Te Dire Adieu.”A thank you to my buddy Blanca for introducing me to this version.
Click here for the complete stream, there are 16 songs. Paris I LOVE YOU. Stand strong. This playlist is for you. *Principal photo:A still from Paris: Capital of the XXIst Century by Malcolm McLaren. A film assembled from an edit of thousands of XX th century commercials I went through in a film archive between 1992 and 1994 for a TV project that never was. Subsequently this 1993 TV project became an album called Paris in 1994.