Monday, July 20, 2009

Music Monday; Seasons in the Sun

So far on Music Mondays, I've always played songs that have brought back happy memories or ones which generally make me feel upbeat. But if you remember from my first Music Monday post I thought my participation in MM would also be an interesting opportunity for me to look back over my life whilst remembering some of the music which has accompanied me along the way. That's why today I thought I'd play a song that I dislike - well perhaps "dislike" is too strong a word - but one which has always made me feel uncomfortable, if not sad. The song is question is Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks.

Seasons in the Sun was a world wide hit in 1974. In the UK it was no 1 in the pop charts for 4 weeks in April of that same year. It's a melancholic song in which a dying man says goodbye to his family and friends; an usual theme for a successful "pop" record. The original music and lyrics were actually written by Jacques Brel (1929 - 1978) a Belgian singer-songwriter, actor and director whose own recordings have sold over 25 million but whose songs have also been covered by artists as diverse as Marc Almond, Westlife, Nirvana and Shirley Bassey. However, in many of these recordings the translators/artists have put their own spin upon the songs. This is very much the case with Seasons in the Sun where Terry Jacks substituted a verse about infidelity for, perhaps, one with even more poignancy.

The original verse by Jacques Brel;

Good-bye, my wife, I loved you well
Good-bye, my wife, I loved you well, you know,
But I'm taking the train for the Good Lord,
I'm taking the train before yours
But you take whatever train you can;
Goodbye, my wife, I'm going to die,
It's hard to die in springtime, you know,
But I'm leaving for the flowers with my eyes closed, my wife,
Because I closed them so often,
I know you will take care of my soul.

The Terry Jacks version;

Goodbye, Michelle, my little one,
You gave me love and helped me find the sun,
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground;
Goodbye, Michelle, it's hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky,
Now that the spring is in the air,
Whiff of flowers ev'rywhere,
I wish that we could both be there!

As you can see, the lyrics have some strong emotional elements. I was a still a young child when the song was released so perhaps it's surprising that I remember it so well. However, the combination of the soulful lyrics and simplistic music seemed very vivid at the time. They struck a chord with me; one which I found particularly hard to deal with.

The reason for this was my first real exposure to death. My grandmother, who I'd adored, had died in the September of the previous year. It had come as a huge, profound shock to me. Earlier, in the spring of 1973, we'd gone on a wonderful vacation together. It had been incredibly exciting and even though I knew my grandmother had been ill in following months, I thought there would be many more wonderful family holidays. I had no idea she was going to die. Like the innocent child I was, I thought she was going to get better.

So when my father gathered us around the kitchen table, cream buns at the ready, and told us she had died I was absolutely floored. It took me weeks, months, maybe even years, to get over her death. Sometimes I would weep into my pillow at night without anyone knowing. My sadness at her loss was compounded by the fact that I never had the opportunity to say goodbye to her and tell her I loved her. So, as you can imagine, when Seasons in the Sun came out in the spring of 1974 it was almost unbearable for me to listen to and even now, 35 years on, the song still has the power to stir those early, painful, childhood memories.

It is difficult enough dealing with death as an adult but my own childhood experiences have led me to believe that it is essential to prepare children for what awaits them by helping them to understand death and the process of dying. Not only how it might affect them individually, but as part of a family and as part of the wider world. How we are all part of that huge Circle of Life.

With my own children I have talked openly about death, not the unpleasant intimate details which would be too much for little minds, but about illness, ageing and, inevitably, the concept of life after death. I believe it helped to put the loss of 3 of their grandparents last year into perspective and has enabled them to remember them with joy and not with sadness. I hope too that when my time comes, they'll be able to do the same for me.

Well here's Seasons in the Sun. And if you've recently been bereaved you have my sincerest condolences but instead of listening to Terry Jacks I suggest you listen to Kool and the Gang and remember to Celebrate The Good Times.

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.


  1. I actually like the song. It is one of the few songs that really moves me deeply (the other being, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver") in a spiritual way.

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean Georgie.It's too good a song to really dislike; it's just all those associations. Some of Brel's songs are fab - he was obviously hugely talented - and in touch with his innner self. Of course, I'd say that was rare for a man - but then I've read your latest post! Very funny indeed and so true of men in general!

  3. My sisters and I used to sing this with tears streaming, enjoying the depth of misery and emotion. The flip side of the 45 version of this was even worse. Here's what I remember: "Put the bone in, he asked her, at the store 'cause my doggie's been hit by a car. -And I do want to bring her home something. Put the bone in he asked her once more." The melody adds some non-nuanced drama to the whole thing. Enlightening stuff, huh?
    I'm in full agreement with you on lessening the surprise of an expected death by NOT hiding its approach from children. Rather than protecting feelings, the second approach seems to minimize the value of them.

  4. Heather, I am so glad I never bought the record and listened to the flip side! All that misery would have been hell; It must have been a stack of fun married to Terry Jacks!

    I'm not sure why my parents dealt with it like they did (or maybe my memories are skewed.) But I think possibly it was just self defence -my grandmother was very well loved. Although my father was reticient about discussing such issues, my mother was always very open about death and dying particularly in later life. I guess sometimes it's just hard for everyone:(

  5. Oooo, I love this new layout Mrs. T!

  6. Thanks Tami - I think this is my favourite so far; fresh and fun. And since it took ages to reinstall all the gadgets (still in process) I think it will be staying for a long, long time!

  7. This is a song that holds a lot of memories for me, too. I really like it in a bitter-sweet way.

  8. Why hello Flying Saucer Jones! Yeah, it's definately a bitter sweet song. The theme to M*A*S*H is another one that makes me feel a bit blue. I'll think I'll play something funky next time though:)


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