Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another great Brazilian noir song

Last year I nominated "Ocultei," recorded by the Brazilian singer Elizeth Cardoso, for a place among the great noir songs ever. There's something about the last verse, which runs tremulously thus (tentatively translated from the Portuguese by your humble blogkeeper):

"And my most ardent desire
May God pardon me the sin!
Is that another woman by your side
Kill you in the hour of a kiss."
If you think that looks good on your screen, you should hear Elizeth sing it, her voice melting from dreamy resignation to trembling passion, jealousy and anger.

This week, I finally paid attention to my second-favorite song on the album, "Só Voce, Mais Nada," which I think means "Only You; Nothing Else." Translating even more shakily than before, I hear the first verse as:

"Only you, nothing else
In the silence of the night
The emptiness of the street
When nothing happens
Only you go on."
The first song covers obsession and doom. The second has atmosphere down, I'd say.

What new noir songs have you heard since last year's list? And what makes noir noir for you?

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

You can actually read Portuguese. Amazing. I have nothing to add here but I will stop back and see what songs people come up with. I'm locked back in the Jo Stafford days as to noir music.

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elizeth Cardoso's career would have overlapped with Jo Stafford's. I think she first hit in the 1940s and may have been singing as late as 1980. I have been listening to a lot of Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter the last couple of weeks, which means lots of Anita O'Day and Helen Merrill in addition to Billie Holiday and many more. And you know something? That Mel Torme could sing. And arrange.

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

It's not noir per se but one of my recent favorite crime fiction songs is Never Going Back to Memphis by Shemekia Copeland who is a great blues singer. The song is from her new album.

This link is of a live performance of the song.


December 16, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

Obviously not new, but recently heard and not previously mentioned:

Pepper she's having fun
She thinks she's some man's son
Her perfect loves don't last
Her future died in someone's past
Poor Mary, she's uptight
She can't turn out her light
She rolled Susan in a ball
and now she can't see her at all

Dropout, she's in a fix
amphetamine has made her sick
white powder in the air
She's got no bones and can't be scared

Here comes Johnny Bore
He collapsed on the floor
They shot him up with milk
And when he died sold him for silk

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian: Thanks. I'll listen to that as soon as my computer finishes running some updates -- unless I listen to "Chelsea Girls" first and get too apathetic to do anything.

"Never Going Back to Memphis" is a fine title. I imagine Shamekia Copeland belting it out after a heist gone wrong and Parker staring at her as she starts singing.

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, that Parker -- Richard Stark's.

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, listening to Nico sing is-- oddly fascinating. "Chelsea Girls" is too beautifully horrible or horribly beautiful to be what I'd think of as noir. Or maybe Nico sang in the flat style of hers because she just couldn't sing.

December 16, 2009  
Anonymous solo said...

Thanks to your tip I've been listening to Elizete Cardoso on YouTube. Great stuff. I particularly liked Barracao de Zinco. Two ladies doing similar stuff in more recent times are Susana Baca from Peru. 'hnavarro' has put her song Maria Lando on YouTube and it helpfully puts the lyrics (in Spanish) on the screen and if you haven't seen it already do check out Angola by Cesaria Evora, also on YouTube. It's the live in Paris version and has a guitar solo that's as good to watch as it is to listen to. Both these songs are in languages I don't understand so I can't vouch for their noirness but if noir is a mood or an emotion, then these songs have that mood in spades.
But if you want good old-fashioned noir you couldn't do better than Thin Lizzy's version of Whisky in the Jar.
As I was goin' over the Cork and Kerry Mountains
I saw Captain Farrell and his money, he was countin'
I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier
I said, "Stand and deliver or the devil he may take ya"

I took all of his money and it was a pretty penny
I took all of his money, yeah, and I brought it home to Molly
She swore that she loved me, no, never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman, yeah, for you know she tricked me easy

I think this has the noir essential of a hapless male lawbreaker undone by a scheming woman.

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

I think this has the noir essential of a hapless male lawbreaker undone by a scheming woman.

Never Going Back to Memphis flips the gender roles on this idea

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, I couldn't find clips of the two songs I mentioned. I'm glad you found others you like, and I'll look for them.

Thanks for the recommendations. I had not heard of Susana Baca. I had heard and liked Cesaria Evora. As for not understanding the languages, "Ocultei" pulled me in before I understood the words. It's all in the way Elizeth sings them. Figuring out the words much later was just an extra jolt of electricity.

Did you follow any of the earlier discussions here or elsewhere about noir songs? I cited "Whiskey in the Jar" as a fine crime ballad, but in a version by Luke Kelly and the Dubliners. Two corresponents preferred Thin Lizzy's version. As it happens, both those correspondents are Irish; what the hell do they know? For my money, Luke Kelly is one of the great singers of our time.

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, I've heard the term "homme fatale" in discussion and on panels. That's what comes of hanging with people like Megan Abbott, Christ Faust and Vicki Hendricks.

December 16, 2009  
Anonymous solo said...

Links for Cesaria Evora and Susana Baca:



I missed the previous mention of Whiskey in the Jar because it wasn't on last year's list. I see from a later post you had to come all the way to Ireland to find it for yourself. Luke Kelly was indeed a great singer but I'm more a rock and roll type myself, so it's the Lizzy for me.

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the links.

I think my Irish friends were kids when Thin Lizzy's version hit, and the song opened their eyes to the possibility that Irish music could be something other than uncool guys sitting around gently harmonizing in Aran sweaters.

As for me, anyone who substitutes "Molly" for "Jenny" loses big points.

December 16, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I never thought I would be mentioning the cheese fest which is Poison, however I do like this song title "I Hate Every Bone In Your Body But Mine."

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's funny in an enjoyably puerile way, perhaps a good title for a song in a hard-boiled spoof if Ellroy ever writes another spoof like "Gravy Train."

December 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, that song really has the hard-boiled atmospherics down:

Walked across the room
In a neon light ...

December 17, 2009  

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