Terry Jacks – “Seasons in the Sun”

Photo credit: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images

A beautifully written song sprinkled with a touch of innocence. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for this song, even finding some of the lyrics a little sad. Although the Beach Boys were a dynamite band, I wonder what they would have sound like performing this song? Sometimes you must just take control of things and do them yourself if you want them to be done in a timely manner and how you envisioned them to turn out. I’m sure Terry never could have imagined that it would hit #1 on the billboard.

Originally “Le Moribond” (“The Dying Man”), this was written and performed in French by the Belgian poet-composer Jacques Brel in 1961. The American poet Rod McKuen translated the lyrics to English, and in 1964 The Kingston Trio released the first English-language version of the song. This is the version Terry Jacks heard, which became the basis for his rendition.

In a Songfacts interview with Terry Jacks, he said that after his version was released, he had dinner in Brussels with Jacques Brel, who told him about writing the song. “It was about an old man who was dying of a broken heart because his best friend was screwing his wife,” Jacks said. “He wrote this in a whorehouse in Tangiers, and the words were quite different. The song originally, he used to do on stage, and it was in a march form, like, ‘Bom ba DUM, bom ba DUM.’ Quite a different thing. This old man was dying of a broken heart and he was saying goodbye to his priest and his best friend and his wife, who cheated on him. Her name was Francoise, and it went, ‘Adieu, Francoise, my trusted wife, without you I’d have had a lonely life. You cheated lots of times but then I forgave you in the end, though your lover was my friend.'”

The original version by Jacques Brel is rather macabre, but Jacks had an earnest inspiration for his reworking of the song: his good friend developed leukemia and was given just six months to live. “He was gone in four months,” Jacks told us. “He was a very good friend of mine, one of my best friends, and he said I was the first one that he told. I remembered this song of an old man dying of a broken heart, and I liked some of the melody and there was something there. I rewrote the song about him.”

Before releasing this song, Terry Jacks had considerable success in his native Canada as half of the duo The Poppy Family with his wife, Susan. He was friends with The Beach Boys, who asked him to produce a song for them – something Jacks was honored to do. Terry played them his arrangement of “Seasons in the Sun” and suggested they record it, since he thought it would sound great with their harmonies and with Carl Wilson singing lead.

Terry flew to Brian Wilson’s house and they began working on the song. Wilson had always been their producer and could spend months working on a song if he wanted to perfect it. These were Terry’s sessions, but Brian tried to take over.

“The thing never got finished,” Jacks said in our interview. “Brian wanted to get hold of the tape and add some things, and the engineer would have to take the tape home at night so that Brian wouldn’t get hold of it. This went on and on, and I was almost having a nervous breakdown because I would put so much energy into this thing and the stress was really getting me. So, I said, ‘I’m not going to be able to finish this. I can’t get you guys all in here together.’ So, it never got completed.”

The sessions weren’t a complete wash for Jacks, however. He worked with Al Jardine on the backing vocals and came up with an arrangement he would use when he recorded the song himself.

In 1973, the song was released as Jacks’ second single (“Concrete Sea” was his first), and it was a huge hit and peaked at #1 in America for three weeks and also topping the UK chart.

Terry released this on his own label, Goldfish Records, and was amazed when it became the largest-selling single in Canadian history: more than 285,000 copies sold in a matter of weeks. Bell Records vice president Dave Carrico heard the record, flew to Vancouver, and snapped up the American rights. Bell released the song in the US, and on February 14, 1974, it earned its first RIAA Gold Award for sales of over a million copies. Eventually, it sold more than three million copies in the United States alone. Worldwide, the figure is over six million.

“Seasons in the Sun” is the story of a dying man, bidding farewell to loved ones who have shared his life. Shortly before Terry’s recording came out, Jacques Brel retired, at the peak of his popularity. Fans around the world were stunned, but the composer would give no reason. Finally, the truth was revealed: after a quiet, six-year battle against cancer, Brel succumbed to the disease and died on October 9, 1978.

 

Song Lyrics –

Goodbye to you my trusted friend
We’ve known each other since we were nine or ten
Together we’ve climbed hills and trees
Learned of love and ABC’s
Skinned our hearts and skinned our knees
Goodbye my friend it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere
Think of me and I’ll be there

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed
Were just seasons out of time

Goodbye Papa please pray for me
I was the black sheep of the family
You tried to teach me right from wrong
Too much wine and too much song
Wonder how I got along
Goodbye Papa it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
Little children everywhere
When you see them, I’ll be there

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone

Goodbye Michelle my little one
You gave me love and helped me find the sun
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground
Goodbye Michelle it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the stars we could reach
Were just starfish on the beach

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the stars we could reach
Were just starfish on the beach

We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone

All our lives we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed
Were just seasons out of time

Writer/s: JACQUES BREL, ROD MCKUEN
Credit: http://www.songfacts.com
Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Terry Jacks – “Seasons in the Sun”

  1. I had no idea that the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson were ever in the picture. That would have been interesting to hear that. This song is one of many songs that remind me of riding in my sister’s Vega in the mid seventies…in the hatchback was a case of oil she had to have to keep it running.
    This song makes my wife sad…I will suddenly start singing it just to do it.