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Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves) was first sung in French in 1945 by the French singer/actor Yves Montand as "Jean Diego" in Marcel Carné's film Les Portes de la Nuit. The movie, written by French poet Jacques Prévert, is a sad love story set in post-World War II Paris, February 1945. After Jean Diego, a manual laborer, sees his friend Raymond Lecuyer, newly released from prison, he encounters a tramp who calls himself Fate. The tramp predicts that Jean will soon meet and fall in love with the most wonderful woman in the world. His prophecy appears to come true as Jean meets Malou that evening. However, he quickly discovers that her brother Guy is the person who gave Raymond away to the Gestapo.

The English lyrics of Autumn Leaves by Johnny Mercer (1950) (in Beltane's WU above) are less melancholy than the French lyrics of Jacques Prévert. Many performers such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Barbra Streisand have recorded English versions, sometimes adding a stanza from the French lyrics in lieu of the repeated English stanzas. An instrumental version by Miles Davis and John Coltrane sounds beautiful without words.

I noded this in memory of my grammar school music teacher, Dr. Matte. Too generous for his own good, he gave us brats lollipops after practice if we behaved. While he taught me how to play the violin, he encouraged me to perform some piano solos during the holiday and spring shows. I still have some of his hand-transcribed music sheets for band and orchestra including Bon Jovi's You Give Love A Bad Name and the Beach Boys' Kokomo (heh!) besides this one.

Les Feuilles Mortes
Lyrics by Jacques Prévert, (1945)
Music by Joseph Kosma, (1945)


Oh! je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes,
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis,
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd’hui.
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié.
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi.
Et le vent du Nord les emporte,
Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais...

(Oh! I really hope you remember
Those happy days when we were friends.
In those times life was more beautiful
And the sun brighter than today's.
The dead leaves gather on the rake.
You see, I have not forgotten...
The dead leaves gather on the rake,
As do the memories and the regrets,
And the north wind carries them
Into the oblivion of the cold night.
You see, I have not forgetten
The song that you used to sing to me.)

Refrain
C'est une chanson qui nous ressemble,
Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais.
Nous vivions tous les deux ensemble,
Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais.
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment,
Tout doucement sans faire de bruit.
Et la mer efface sur le sable,
Les pas des amants désunis.

(It's a song that resembles us.
You, you loved me and I loved you
And we lived together,
You who loved me, I who loved you.
But life separates those who love,
Gently, without making a sound,
And the sea erases from the sand-
The footsteps of separated lovers.)

Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Mais mon amour silencieux et fidèle
Sourit toujours et remercie la vie.
Je t'aimais tant, tu étais si jolie.
Comment veux-tu que je t'oublie ?
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui.
Tu étais ma plus douce amie
Mais je n'ai que faire des regrets
Et la chanson que tu chantais,
Toujours, toujours je l'entendrai !

(The dead leaves gather on the rake
As do the memories and the regrets
But my love, quiet and loyal,
Always smiles and is grateful for life.
I loved you so much, you were so beautiful.
How can you expect me to forget you?
In those times, life was more beautiful
And the sun brighter than today's.
You were my kindest friend
But I only created regrets
And the song that you used to sing,
I hear it always, always...)