LES BAXTER : THE POOR PEOPLE OF PARIS
Birth Of A Song
The original title of the song is "La goualante de pauvre Jean" and it was written by French composer Marguerite Monnot just after the second worldwar. Lyrics were added by René Rouzaud. In 1954 Jack Lawrence adapted the song but the title was erroneously translated as "The poor people of Paris" because the word "Jean" was confused with the word "gens" ("people") which sounds exactly the same in french. ("Goualante" means "ballad")
In the Hitparade
A recording of the song by Les Baxter (Capitol Records catalog number 3336, with the flip side "Theme from 'Helen of Troy'") was a number-one hit on the Billboard Singles Charts in the US in 1956: for four weeks on the Best Sellers in Stores chart, for six weeks on the Most Played by Jockeys and Hot 100 charts, and for three weeks on the Most Played on Jukeboxes chart.
Facts and Figures
=> "The poor people of Paris" was the first French song to enter the American and British charts
=> In 1956 two instrumental hits appeared on the American charts and they switched positions between one and two for some weeks. The first was Nelson Riddle's "Lisboa Antigua" and the second one was Baxter's "Poor people of Paris"
=> Following the commercial success of the lush instrumental "Poor People of Paris", Capitol Records commissioned Les Baxter to create an entire LP expanding upon the global theme, and with "Round the World with Les Baxter" the arranger again proves his unparalleled skill for translating the sounds and textures of foreign lands into sublimely melodic travelogues that capture settings based far more in fantasy than reality.
A Personal Video Selection
La goualante du pauvre Jean ( French ) Music by Marguerite Monnot, Lyrics by René Rouzaud
Stakkels John ( Danish ) written by Robert Arnold
Zonder liefde gaat het niet ( Dutch ) written by Will Ferdy and Eugene Beeckman
The poor people of Paris ( English ) written by Jack Lawrence
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
This is in a category all by itself. The melody is simple and catchy, almost painfully so, and so Baxter throws every musical gimmick he can think of at the listener to jazz it up. It's all in here : harp, glockenspiel, muted trumpet, pizzicato strings, a disembodied chorus, finger snapping, and, God help us, group whistling ! Yes, the chintziest of chintzy effects in the world, when the musicians put down their instruments and whistle as one! We even get a 'cute' little fakeout from Mr Baxter in the middle, when everyone turns to their neighbour and says "Oh that fading out means the song is over" but no ! The show must go on .....
MORE ABOUT LES BAXTER
Click the below link to find out more about Les Baxter.
MORE ABOUT MARGUERITE MONNOT
Click the below link to find out more about the composer : Marguerite Monnot