Words and Music by Jack Lawrence, Charles Trenet & Albert Lasry
Some Of The Best Recordings
George Benson - 4 albums
Heard On Screen
For sheet music contact: www.halleonard.com
The Story Behind The Song
As with all of Trenet's songs this one was originally published by Raoul Breton in France with the title "La Mer" (The Sea). This was also the title of a lovely concert piece by Debussy. In previous years I had met M. & Mme. Breton on their New York visits and written English lyrics to their French hits. I never did direct translations; for one thing, my high school French was inadequate.
But I truly felt doing a literal translation was hardly creative so I would play the French song over and over until it became part of me. Then and only then would I start creating my lyric. In the past I had written lyrics to a couple of Trenet's French hits and when we finally met on one of his trips to the U.S. he complimented me on my work.
The Bretons came to my home in New York in '46 with recordings of "La Mer" and said that Trenet would like me to do the English lyric. I loved the unusual melody he had written but was not intrigued with his French lyric, which told about the different moods of the sea, and how they affected him.
Also, most of the recordings that had been made were somber and symphonic in feeling. I decided that my lyric would tell a different story — a romantic tale of a sea-faring lover and a land-locked lover waiting on a golden shore for his return.
I would like to quote from an article by Will Friedwald that appeared in the 2002 music issue of Vanity Fair. He wrote:
"Lawrence's words to "Beyond The Sea" constitute a lyric of the highest order. He started by adding that one word: beyond, and that drove the entire song. In the song's middle section Lawrence goes beyond "beyond" by using the word as the linchpin of a series of phrases, each with a slightly different meaning. "Beyond a star... Beyond the moon... Beyond a doubt" The word star arrives on an accidental C-sharp, which charges the phrase with unexpected oomph and gives the word an especially starry feeling. Changing the title, paradoxically, allowed Lawrence to remain phonetically faithful, at least, to Trenet's original: in Trenet's text each 8 bar "A" section begins with the words "La Mer"; in Lawrence's version each of these sections commences with "Somewhere" so that the English lyric has the same sonic feel as the original."
Thank you, Will, for the clarity of your explanation. It's so nice to know that the workings of one's mind are being appreciated by experts.
Let me continue with more of Will's article:
"For all the craftsmanship of Lawrence and Trenet, "Beyond The Sea" was not an instant hit in America. The early recordings were surprisingly heavy. Benny Goodman recorded it with a string orchestra in 1947 and Tex Beneke cut it with his Glenn Miller orchestra. (An air check survives of Beneke playing it with Ronnie Deauville, a crooner who was almost impossible to distinguish from the young Sinatra. This track has been circulated by collectors as a Miller-Sinatra recording). For ten years or so the song lay dormant."
One day at the publisher's offices I ran into a new young singer with a distinctive style. He was brash and a bit cocky but rather refreshing and his name was Bobby Darin. He didn't hesitate to tell everyone that someday he would be as popular as Sinatra. I gave him a copy of "Beyond The Sea" and asked him what he thought of it. He said he liked some of the recordings he'd heard but he felt the song lacked a definite beat. A few months later he sent me his latest album and there was "Mack The Knife" and "Beyond The Sea" done to a crisp with an infectious toe-tapping beat and Bobby's inimitable delivery. Everyone in the business will agree that Bobby Darin's version turned those two songs into mega-hits.
Through the years, after his untimely death, there has been repeated talk of one of the big studios filming THE BOBBY DARIN STORY. Recently, Kevin Spacey announced that for years he has been eager to star in that role. Some say he may be a bit long in the tooth to play that youngster but let's wait and see. After all, he's an Oscar winner.
Copyright © 2005 Jack Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.