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Originally "Le Moribond" ("The Dying Man"), this was written and performed in French by Belgian poet-composer Jacques Brel in 1961.
The Canadian singer Terry Jacks was in the duo The Poppy Family with his wife, Susan. After their divorce, Terry worked on a session with the Beach Boys, where he suggested this song. The Beach Boys recorded it but decided not to release it. The Beach Boys' rejection - coupled with the death of a close personal friend of Terry's which made the song's theme more meaningful to him - finally sent him back into the studio.
Terry received permission, but not composer credit, for changing part of the song. He rewrote the last verse and rearranged the words and chords in the chorus in order to lighten up the song.
In 1973, the song was released as Jacks' second single ("Concrete Sea" was his first), and it was a huge hit, going to #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.
With royalties from this song, Jacks purchased a yacht, which he named "Seasons In The Sun."
Terry knew the song from an English-language version by Rod McKeuen, who translated the lyrics from the original French. That version of the song was recorded by The Kingston Trio in 1964. McKeuen is the credited writer on the song along with Jacques Brel.
Jacks' previous group, The Poppy Family, had a #2 Hot 100 hit with "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" in 1970, and also made #29 with "That's Where I Went Wrong" (both songs were written by Jacks). After "Seasons In The Sun" hit, he recorded anther Jacques Brel song with an English translation by Rod McKeuen: "If You Go Away." This one has the the French title "Ne me quite pas," which literally translates as "Don't Leave Me." It hit #68 in the US.
David Foster played piano on this song. Foster, a fellow Canadian, has contributed to numerous hits as a songwriter, producer and musician. A sampling of his credits:
- Producing the All-4-One "I Swear
- Writing and recording the original version of "Mornin'
- Co-writing the Chicago hit "You're the Inspiration
The B-side of the single was a song titled "Put the Bone In," which described a woman in a butcher shop, apparently begging the butcher to "put the bone in" for her because "her doggy had been hit by a car." Near the end, the lyrics say: "Put the bone in, she yelled out once more." (thanks, Rick - Cottonwood, AZ)
In the UK, Westlife had the 1999 Christmas #1 with their Double-A-side of "I Have A Dream" and their cover of this song. "I Have A Dream" was originally a #2 hit for Abba in 1979. When this topped the UK chart, Westlife became the first act since Elvis Presley in 1962 to have 4 #1s in the same year.
Nirvana did a version of this song, but it didn't appear until 2004 on the With The Lights Out out boxed set. (thanks, Chris - Dracut, MA)
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