S2-E06 Johnny tu n’es pas un ange

Dana Klein (Vaya Con Dios)

Pour ce 6e épisode, nous allons parler d’un Johnny. Non pas Halliday, même si nous allons voir d’où vient ce Johnny.

You can find a summary in English below.

S2-E06 Johnny tu n’es pas un ange
Pour écouter la version de Piaf, c’est par ici

La version de Vaya con dios est là
La version de Les Paul & Mary Ford c’est par là

La version roumaine par Maria Lataretu est ici (ou ci-dessous)

Dana Klein (la chanteuse de Vaya Con Dios) à la TV roumaine en 2014 est là (ou ci dessous).

For my Friends who don’t speak French a summary in English. I hope it can help to follow what I say :

For this 6th episode, we are going to talk about a Johnny. Not Johnny Halliday,  even if we will see where this Johnny comes from (allusion to the French movie « D’où viens-tu Johnny ? (Where are you from Johnny?) »).

Sample of  the cover by Piaf

Edith Piaf records this piece in 1954. It is placed in 4th position on the EP « la Goualante du pauvre Jean »  and will not remain one of the most famous songs of Piaf. Personally, the first version I heard was from the Belgian band Vaya Con Dios (1988).

Sample of  the cover by Vaya con dios

Apart from a more jazz, blues, jazz-gypsy side in Vaya con dios, the versions are close and the text by Francis Lemarque is the same in both versions.

The text is quite typical of the 50’s in France, still marked by the so-called « realistic song » where the roles of the man and the woman are quite caricatural: « The man will always know how to find / All the women of the whole world

To sing his praises

Or :

Since the world was born / Johnny! Johnny! / You must be forgiven for everything »

The music is signed Les Paul, a name that is surely not unknown to you.

Sample from « Johnny is the boy for me » Les Paul & Mary Ford 

Born in 1915 in Wisconsin, Les Paul is best known for his participation in the creation of the first solid body electric guitar from Gibson… The Gibson’ Les Paul. Impossible to name all the guitarists who have played on a Les Paul! The legend even says that Bob Marley would be buried with a Les Paul! 

Les Paul is also known for having created the first multitrack tape recorder. 

Of course, he is himself a guitarist. He began by playing in country orchestras, then he played jazz on the radio in Saint-Louis and then in Chicago. This is perhaps where he felt the need to improve electric jazz guitars which at the time were just electrified acoustic guitars. In the 1950s, he sang a duet with his wife Mary Ford. The duo enjoyed great success: radio and television broadcast, record success, one of the most important of which was entitled…Vaya con Dios (May God Be With You). The loop is almost complete ! Let’s go back to the song. 

The English text has no relation to the Lemarque’ one:  it is the story of a girl in love with a boy who does not notice her, but she knows that this Johnny is made for her. 

The music for this 1953 track is credited to Les Paul, but it’s actually inspired by a 1936 Romanian song called « Sani Cu Zurgalai » (« sleigh with bells »).

Sample  Maria Lataretu 

It is a very popular song in Romania, which we sometimes hear in gymnastics competitions for example.

In the Romanian text, it is a lover who, despite the winter snow, wants to find his beautiful:  « little sled  bring me back to my darling because her mouth is so sweet etc ». The music is signed Richard Stein who then became a lawyer and sued Paul for plagiarism. It was one of the first lawsuits for plagiarism in music. Stein won the case.

Personally, I find it amusing that the Vaya con dios version is ultimately the closest musically to the Romanian versions, in particular the most famous, that of Maria Lataretu in 1949. Did the group know the Romanian origins of the song? I don’t know but anyway, in 2014, Dana Klein (singer of Vaya Con Dios) sang « Johnny you’re not an angel » on Romanian tv accompanied by Romanian musicians. You can find that on the Internet.

From now on, if you are asked where Johnny is from, you can say: from Romania!

Before slipping Vaya Con dios between your ears, see you soon for a new episode of Ils Ont Repris Ma Chanson.