Saturday, 4 February 2017

Maman Papa- Patachou's role in his first recording


The vital moment in the launch of Georges Brassens career came in in March 1951, when the popular young singer Patachou sang his songs at her cabaret,  She called the composer up onto the stage to sing - a nervous young man with a big moustache. The audience immediately recognised his talent and greeted him with acclaim 


Patachou and Brassens sang this song "Maman Papa" in duet on Brassens' first ever recording in 1952.  It was issued on on a 78 r.p.m. disc and their accompaniment was the orchestra of Leo Clarens.  

Patachou continued her support of Brassens' music and in December 1952 she released a long-playing record of her own rendition of a number of Georges Brassens songs.  The disc is entitled: "Patachou chante Brassens"



It was through Patachou that he had met the bass player, Pierre Nicolas, an accomplished musician.  He was to become Brassens' long- serving accompanist, who  gave him the solid support he needed to perform in public - always an ordeal for Brassens.

Fans of Brassens feel a deep sense of gratitude to Patachou and I have more to say about her below.





Maman, Papa

Maman,(1) maman, en faisant cette chanson,
Maman, maman, je r'deviens petit garçon,
Alors je suis sage en classe
Et, pour te fair' plaisir,
J'obtiens les meilleures places,
Ton désir.
Maman, maman, je préfère à mes jeux fous,
Maman, maman, demeurer sur tes genoux,
Et, sans un mot dire, entendre tes refrains charmants,
Maman, maman, maman, maman.


Papa, papa, en faisant cette chanson,
Papa, papa, je r'deviens petit garçon,
Et je t'entends sous l'orage
User tout ton humour(2)
Pour redonner du courage
A nos cœurs lourds.
Papa, papa, il n'y eut pas entre nous,
Papa, papa, de tendresse ou de mots doux,
Pourtant on s'aimait, bien qu'on ne se l'avouât pas,
Papa, papa, papa, papa.



Maman, papa, en faisant cette chanson,
Maman, papa, je r'deviens petit garçon,
Et, grâce à cet artifice,(3)
Soudain je comprends
Le prix de vos sacrifices,
Mes parents.
Maman, papa, toujours je regretterai,
Maman, papa, de vous avoir fait pleurer
Au temps où nos cœurs ne se comprenaient encor' pas,
Maman, papa, maman, papa.




Mama, Daddy

Mama, Mama, while doing this song,
Mama, Mama, I become a little boy again,
So, I am good at school
And to make you happy,
I get awarded the top marks,
What you want.
Mama, Mama, I prefer to silly games,
Mama, Mama, remaining on your lap,
And, with no word said from me, hearing your charming songs,
Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama.


Daddy, Daddy, while doing this song,
Daddy, Daddy, I become a little boy again 
And I hear you mid the storm
Use all your sense of fun
To restore some courage
To heavy hearts.
Daddy, Daddy, there never was between us,
Daddy, Daddy, tenderness or sweet words,
Yet we loved each other, though never was it avowed,
Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.



Mama, Daddy, while doing this song,
Mama, Daddy, I become a little boy again,
And, thanks to this artifice,
All at once I know
What your sacrifices cost you,
My parents.
Mama, Daddy, I will always be sorry,
Mama, Daddy, to have made you both cry
At a time when hearts still misunderstood each other,
Mama Daddy, Mama, Daddy.





The autobiographical content of this song


This is a very different and a very special Brassens song.  It is the first song that Brassens wrote, having been composed at the work camp in Basford in 1943. 

It is a plain and simple expression of deep personal sentiment.  It cannot be anything else, because he is telling his parents of his unending feelings of love and gratitude towards them and apologising to them for his public misconduct in a wild period of adolescence.  This behaviour disgraced the family and caused them so much distress and pain.  I have told the story of this incident in a short biography at The story of Georges Brassens and his Jeanne



Translation notes
1)               Maman - In Britain, at least, children of different social class have different names for their mothers.  “Mamma” (Pronounced “Mammah) is for the very posh.  “Mummy” is very middle class.  “Mum” or Mam” are used by the lower classes, to which the Brassens family belonged, but the words are not in the least poetic sounds and so some compromise is required.

2)                Humour – The English word “Humour” has two different meanings that are translated by two different words in French: “Humeur” amd “Humour”.
English meaning One = Sense of fun - translated in French “l’Humour” e.g “Il n’a pas le sens de l’humour = He has no sense of humour. - Je ne vois pas où est l’humour = “I don’t see anything funny in that.”
English meaning Two = Mood or temper- translated in French “l’Humeur” e.g. “être de bonne/mauvaise humeur to be in a good/bad temper.- Il n’est pas d’humeur à  étudier = He is in no mood to study.

3)                Artifice- The artifice is for him to become a young child again to know these existing emotions as a grown man.

Patachou (1915 -2015)





Patachou, whose real name was Henriette Ragon, was born in 12th arrondissement of Paris in 1915.  First working as a secretary, she was forced during the war to work in a factory,where she met her future husband, Pierre Billon.

The war over, in 1948, the couple bought a cake shop/tea shop, close to La Place du Tertre in Monmartre, adding a restaurant for which they engaged an accordionist to lead their customers in song.

It was soon noticed that the patronne had a very good voice, and one customer, Maurice Chevalier, encouraged her to do take up singing.  This she did using the nickname that Henriette had been given earlier “Lady Patachou”. Her first concert tour was great success and she recorded her first record in 1950.
Their restaurant became a real cabaret which hosted many contemporary stars.  We have told of the arrival of Georges Brassens there already.

By the mid-1950s she was a popular singer, appearing at major venues not only across France but in Britain and America- North and South.

At this time she was also enticed into filming, appearing in Renoir’s “French Cancan” in 1954.

After years of successful international concert tours, she began in the early 1980s to concentrate more on acting both in cinema and on television appearing in 14 productions between 1986 and 2003.

She died on the 30th April 2015 shortly after her hundredth birthday

Patachou was one of the outstanding personalities in French show business in the second half of the 20th century.  Her particular gift was a vibrant singing voice and her ability to convey the dramatic undertones.

She was for decades the ambassadress of French song and so I was amazed when I put together these biographical notes  that the Internet was assailing me with reports about her "banned  song".

This was a song called either “La Chose” or "Les ratés de la Bagatelle", which she recorded in 1959, but which was banned on French radio because the subject was different ways of making love.



In fact this is a gently amusing song that would not shock a modern audience. I am using it to illustrate the art of the great Patachou.





Y a ceux qui font la chose
En regardant l' plafond
Ou en comptant les mouches
Qui sont su' l' guéridon


Y a ceux qui font la chose
En pensant à l'argent
Et ceux qui n' pensent à rien
Parce que c'est fatigant.


Y a ceux qui font la chose
En s' demandant pourquoi
Et ceux qui font la chose
Comme s'ils étaient en bois



Ceux qui pendant la chose
Se mettent à bégayer
Et qui s'étonnent après
D'avoir des quintuplés


Y a ceux qui font la chose
En chantant une chanson
En battant la mesure
En tapant du talon


Y a ceux qui font la chose
Toujours un peu distants
Parce que c'est l' seul moyen
Pour avoir des enfants


Ceux qui pendant la chose
Poussent des cris violents
Pour que les voisins croient
Qu'ils passent un bon moment


Y a ceux qui font la chose
Sans passion ni désir
Parce que c'est le seul truc
Qui fasse vraiment maigrir


Y a ceux qui font la chose
Pour battre des records
Tous ceux dont les appâts
Ne sont qu'un livre d'or.


Y a ceux qui font la chose
Avec des accessoires
Qu'ont besoin d'une trompette
Ou bien d'une balançoire


Ceux qui lorsque la chose
Est déjà terminée
Se demandent si la chose
Va bientôt commencer


Y a ceux qui font la chose
Pas pour les sensations
Une seule fois dans l'année
Pour les allocations

Ils ont l'oeil triste,
le cou tendu
Les ratés de la bagatelle
Ils font la chose en pardessus
Les ratés du fruit défendu
Car tous ceux à qui
La chose ne fait rien
N'aiment pas ceux à qui
La chose fait du bien
There are those who do the thing
Looking at the ceiling
Or counting the flies
Which are on the coffee table


There are those who do the thing
Thinking about money
And those who think of nothing
Because it's tiring.


There are those who do the thing
While they’re wondering  why
And those who do the thing
As if they’re in the woods



Those who during the thing
Begin a strange stammer
And after are surprised
To produce quintuplets.


There are those who do the thing
While they're singing a song
Beating out the rhythm
By striking with their heels


There are those who do the thing
Always somewhat far off
Because that's the sole way
For them to have children.


Those who during the thing
Emit violent screams
So the neighbours might think
They’re having a  good time.


There are those who do the thing
Without passion or desire
‘cause it’s the sole device
That really makes them slim.


There are those who do the thing
To get in record books
Those for whom the attractions
Are just in winning gold.


There are those who do the thing
Using accessories
Those who need a trumpet
Or else a garden swing.


Those who when the thing
Is already over
Are wond’ring if the thing
Is going to start up soon.


There are those who do the thing
Not for the sensation
But one single time a year
For the state benefits

They're sad of the eye,
Stiff of the neck
Those who miss right out at this  game
They do the thing with overcoats on
Those who miss  the forbidden fruit
Because all those for whom
The thing does not matter
Don't like those for whom
The thing does you good.

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