The first French song I’ve ever learned

It was a Piaf song, but it wasn’t “La Vie En Rose.” It was actually “L’accordéoniste,” an upbeat song about a girl who listens to an accordion player playing “la java.” And I’ve got Alan Bennett and The History Boys to thank for it.

The backstory: Two years ago, I got hooked on the aforementioned play-turned-movie. First, I watched the film countless times, and then somehow I got to listen to the BBC radio play. My friend Chuck and I also rushed to Fully Booked to buy a copy of the play.

A scene in the movie (and the play) shows the boys acting out a night in a brothel for Mr. Hector (Richard Griffiths)–all in French and sans subtitles when we watched it in the cinema. Before that, Posner (Samuel Barnett), “the class singer,” sings the song “L’accordéoniste” by Piaf, accompanied by Scripps (Jamie Parker) on piano.

Barnett’s version is available in the film soundtrack, which I also listened to countless times, even more than the original by Piaf. Of course, Piaf’s version is superior, but as a student struggling with the language I appreciate the obviousness of Barnett’s English accent and his not-so-perfect diction. It’s a challenge to sing Piaf, what more a French song, for a non-native speaker like Barnett. And yet, he does it pretty well, doesn’t he? I have to admit I sound more like him (a very bad version of him, that is) when I sing the song because my pronunciation’s far from perfect and my accent leaves much to be desired. I know, I should listen to Piaf more…I particularly love how she punctuates “arrêtez” at the end of the song.

Anyway, it’s as lively and knee-jerking as “Milord”. Something for your LSS? I know, it’s in French, but if you happen to like it, you might end up singing along as I still do, too!


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