An ode to Paris. So many songs have been written by artists who have taken their inspiration from the romantic charm of the capital and its timeless districts. Take a tour of this city which is eternal and always in tune…
A ticket for jazz
To enter Paris via Porte de Lilas in the past, you would take the metro. Before doing so you needed to have your ticket punched (i.e. validated) by the ticket puncher, the famous Poinçonneur des Lilas in the eponymous song by Serge Gainsbourg. ‘Celui qu’on croise et qu’on n’regarde pas’ (‘The person that you meet but don’t look at’). This ‘other’ Paris has inspired singers from Edith Piaf to Mano Solo. Go down the tiled corridors and take a metro to your first stop: Châtelet-les-Halles, a ‘station balnéaire où il n’y a pas la mer’ (‘a seaside resort without the sea’), as sung by Florent Pagny.
Leaving the station, take the direction rue des Lombards, the ‘Swing Street’ of the capital. Guided by the trumpet sounds of Erik Truffaz or the piano of Herbie Hancock, you are at the heart of Paris’s jazz scene, where you might catch the sound of jazz sounds at the legendary Duc des Lombards.
It is with the same rhythms that Vanessa Paradis and -M- accompany you to the Seine, with their ode to romance from the film Un monstre à Paris. Enjoy watching the wake of the water as the bateaux parisiens glide past as you head to the Île de la Cité and cross one of the many bridges – the same ones to which Melody Gardot and Juliette Gréco dedicated their duo Sous les ponts de Paris.
Between two banks
Those bells that you hear in the distance are undoubtedly those of Notre-Dame. Dominating the Île de la Cité, the cathedral is one of the monuments that best embodies the romantic charm of Paris. A sentiment that is also perceived in the song Paris Bells, sung by Marianne Faithfull, about a melancholy stroll along the banks of the Seine, evoking a lost love ... Paris will never cease to be the capital of love and the songs it inspires often reinforce the myth!
It was in fact from the square in front of Notre-Dame that an old man tells of the love and beauty of the city to Joséphine Baker in Mon Paris (My Paris). This 'romantic village' which entranced the singer in J’ai deux amours (I have two loves) ...
Arrive on the Left bank
Continue in the direction of the Left Bank, the 'land of poetry and music’ sings Alain Souchon, with a slightly melancholic air. First of all take a stroll around the Latin Quarter and the Sorbonne, which should remind you of your student days, and then on to the Panthéon evoked in La Place des grands hommes by singer Patrick Bruel.
After passing through the Luxembourg Gardens, go down to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a district with a rich artistic, intellectual and musical history that inspired musical legends such as Django Reinhardt and Juliette Gréco.
From the Eiffel Tower to the Champs Élysées
Following the course of the Seine, you approach Paris’s most famous monument: the Eiffel Tower. Glittering at nightfall, it is the symbol of the French capital but also the theatre of burgeoning or failed love stories. That is how Lana Del Rey sees it in her song Paris, in which the pop diva asks the man she loves to take her to Paris. Throughout the song, she fantasizes about a romantic getaway for the two of them in Paris, imagining them ‘climbing the Eiffel Tower, out all night dancing until death’ … What a programme!
For others, love is celebrated when they are in Paris, as in the upbeat lyrics of Champs-Elysées, sung by Joe Dassin. This song probably has the most innocently romantic lyrics in the Parisian repertoire and accompanies you along the most famous avenue in France. All of which may give you the idea of strolling along the avenue with an open heart ‘through the night’ until the early hours of the morning.
An evening in Montmartre
At the end of the day, the Paris nightlife scene hots up! So head towards the Arc de Triomphe and take metro line 2, in the direction of Pigalle. This corner of Paris is undoubtedly one of the most eclectic in the capital, which explains why it is the most popular Parisian subject in the history of music. From Petula Clark to Serge Lama and Madeleine Peyroux, Pigalle is a favorite among lyricists.
You are at the foot of the famous Butte Montmartre, the opportunity for you to take a look at the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret revues celebrated in song in the eponymous film with the hit Lady Marmalade. Alternatively, enjoy the lively atmosphere of this district with its many bars and concert halls and rub shoulders with partygoers described by Patachou in the song Entre Blanche et Pigalle.
Montmartre is also of course the theatre of Môme Piaf! Her lyrics have their origins here and evoke the Parisian life of an era, from the atmosphere of the neighbourhood to chances encounters, from its ‘cafés crèmes du matin’ (white coffee in the morning) to its ‘marchands de marrons’ (chestnut sellers). In the Paris of Piaf, love is never far away. The city has its sorrows and many delights, and the singer misses the city when she is far away from it.
On the way back…
As day breaks, your tour of Paris in songs comes to an end. Il est 5 heures, Paris s’éveille and images of the city still parade in your head. Follow the example of singer Jacques Dutronc. At the time of day when newspapers were being printed and striptease artists were getting dressed again, he would go to bed.
With your head full of Paris, you deserve some rest after this singular journey in song.