Collecting Brel (Vol. 2) – The Album

Collecting Brel English Translations

Here’s Volume Two in my series of English language Jacques Brel covers!

Take a listen below…

Track by track…

Le Diable (Ca Va)

The album starts with the first song I recorded for the albums, ‘The Devil’. I found that the lyrics in this track were relatively easy to translate, and the themes that Brel sings about are still relevant today – which made it easy to apply the song to a modern context. It also means that the track matches the modern instrumentation that I chose use.

La Dame Patronesse

One of my favourite humourous songs by Brel. In this rendition (the only recorded English translation of La Dame Patronesse that I can find!), I perform the song in a rock style. The lyrics here are as faithful to the original as possible, and only minor changes have been made to stick to the rhyme and rhythm of the song.

Mon Enfance

I have been trying to decipher the chords to this song for half a decade, but during this project and as I became more familiar with Brel’s chord progessions, I stumbled upon a sequence that I think is 95% accurate… Translating this song was another challenge, and liberties were taken with some of the imagery and rhythm. That said, I believe that the translation sticks within the themes and message of the original, which makes it rather successful.

Les Singes

‘The Apes’ has always been a favourite of mine, and I first translated it a number of years ago, and this new version improves on the instrumentation and production techniques. I introduced a simple drum rhythm which replaces the clatter of the original, and I chose to use electric guitar and bass to bring the instrumentation up to date. The simple backing track enables the listener to focus on the words, which are very close to the original text with only slight modifications to fit within the song’s original rhyme sequence.

Click here to read the full lyrics.

Regarde Bien, Petit

This song ranks among the hardest I’ve attempted to translate, which probably explains why it might be the only English translation of Regarde Bien Petite that exists! The title of the track has been approximated, but everything else about this mysterious song is as faithful as possible to Brel’s lyrics.

Les Bigotes

One of Brel’s most popular protest songs is played in a rock-waltz style, with English lyrics that aim to remain close to the meaning of the original song. A few changes had to be made to translate this song – the line about God being ‘under the feet of the bigoted’ has been changed to ‘behind the closed eyes of the bigoted’ in order to complete the rhyme.


One of Brel’s often overlooked masterpieces was this A-side taken from the film ‘Le Far West’. Here I’ve added strings alongside a simple piano line. As the song progresses, bass guitar joins the mix alongside flutes. I think the translation that I produced is touching, as well as fitting to the original meaning of the song.

The Gas

Another of Brel’s humerous songs, I’ve stripped back the orchestration on this to mirror the song as Brel performed it live. I have stuck to the original lyrics far coser than the Mort Shuman translation (I don’t understand how he managed to get the lyrics so wrong!), thankfully many of the words in the English language were similar to the French as this enabled me to translate Brel’s fantastic wordplay in the ‘divan’ verse…

I hope you enjoyed it! You can listen for free as much as you want, or alternatively support this page by buying the album. Click here to read about Volume 1 in the series…

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