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French Pop Song of the Week: “Dans mon café,” by V. Paradis

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature on May 6, 2010


Rare among contemporary French singers, Vanessa Paradis has a following in the United States, partly because she is the longtime partner of actor Johnny Depp, with whom she has two children. Paradis and Depp divide their time between Los Angeles and the south of France and also have property elsewhere. Depp was the cover artist for Divinidylle, her 2007 CD.

Paradis, now 37, has been famous for years as a singer and actor in France. Her first hit, “Joe le taxi,” was released in 1987 when she was 14 years old, and it became a number one song in 25 countries. She was instantly a kind of French Lolita, adored and scorned by the French public. Years later she is now often seen as a chic French rocker.

Here is Paradis doing an acoustic version of “Dans mon café” (“In My Coffee”) from her album Bliss (2000). The concert took place on November 22, 2009, in the historic Parisian theatre La Cigale. Before singing, Paradis says,

Vous me donnez soif . . . [from someone in the audience: “à ta santé] . . . merci . . . Cette chanson est dédiée à tout ce qu’on le sait . . . l’incendie prend dans leurs cœurs. On va laisser le feu les envahir, sans faire des dégats, sans extincteur, sans eau.

(You make me thirsty . . . [from someone in the audience : “to your health”] . . . thank you . . . This song is dedicated to everything we know . . . the fire takes hold in our hearts. We’re going to let the fire invade us, without damage, without an extinguisher, without water.)

Below are the lyrics and a translation.

Dans mon café

Lyrics by Didier Golemanas

Tu es le clown dans mon café
Le ballon rouge sur mon nez
Le magicien auditionné
Au plus grand cirque jamais monté

Des trapézistes s’sont ramassés
Des lionnes, de tigres dépareillés
Tu es le seul dans mon café
L’seul numéro qu’j'peux pas sucrer

Mais qu’as-tu fait des plus futés
De ceux qui me faisaient du thé
Du lait dont j’aurais dû douter
Le bel autodafé
Le bel autodafé
Que t’as fait lá
Dans mon café

Tu es bien le diable embarqué
Pas besoin d’me l’faire remarquer
La cuillère a beau tourner
T’es toujours là dans mon café

Même si j’ai pas fini d’jongler
Si j’ai pas assez répété
Avec toi c’est les yeux fermés
Tous ces couteaux qu’tu vas m’lancer

Qu’as-tu fait des plus affutées
De celles qui t’as jamais plantées
Des feux de bengale de chak’ côte
Le bel autodafé
Le bel autodafé
Que t’as fait lá
Dans mon café . . .

You are the clown in my coffee
The red balloon on my nose
The magician auditioned
at the largest circus ever erected

Trapeze artists fell down
Lions, tigers mixed up
You are the only one in my coffee
The only one I can’t rub out

But what did you do with the smartest ones
With those who used to make me tea
With milk I should have mistrusted
The beautiful auto-da-fé
The beautiful auto-da-fé
That you performed
In my coffee

You are indeed the devil aboard
No need to make it clear
Even though I stir the spoon
You are always in my coffee

Even if I don’t finish juggling
If I don’t practice enough
With you the eyes are closed
All those knives you’ll throw at me

What did you do with the sharpest ones
With the ones you never thrust in me
Bengal lights on either side
The beautiful auto-da-fé
The beautiful auto-da-fé
That you performed
In my coffee . . .


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