As I waited in the bar of the Gore Hotel on Monday, I heard a song, sung in French, that struck me because the first four bars bars of the chorus are exactly the same as a song I wrote years ago.
Yesterday, when I was in the dentist's waiting room with Ben before he had braces fitted on his lower jaw, I heard it again so I asked what it was. Which is how I come to present Pink Martini's Sympathique for your listening pleasure above.
In 1994 in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, thinking that one day he would run for mayor. Like other eager politicians-in-training, he went to every political fundraiser under the sun… but was dismayed to find the music at these events underwhelming, lackluster, loud and un-neighborly. Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world – crossing genres of classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop – and hoping to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike, he founded the “little orchestra” Pink Martini in 1994 to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education and parks.
One year later, Lauderdale called China Forbes, a Harvard classmate who was living in New York City, and asked her to join Pink Martini. They began to write songs together. Their first song “Sympathique” became an overnight sensation in France, was nominated for “Song of the Year” at France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards, and to this day remains a mantra (“Je ne veux pas travailler” or “I don’t want to work”) for striking French workers.Well I never.
Their equivalent of my
You can keep the open air
Give me subway savoir fayre
Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas déjeuner.
I am clearer on the meaning of the latter than the former and it is in French. That is probably not good.
In my version I was trying to write a sort of Kander and Ebb vamp. It goes Cm, Cm, Cm/B♭, Cm/B♭, A♭, A♭, G, G. So now you know.
The issue of how much of a tune a passage that largely consists of the same note played on the beat represents may also be relevant.