Charles Aznavour: La Bohème


Feb 6, 2023

Four different versions of “La Bohème” from the French-Armenian singer, lyricist, actor, and diplomat Charles Aznavour (22 May 1924 – 1 October 2018). I don’t know from what year the first version is (black/white), probably the late 60s. The second version is from 1968 and the third version is from 2004. And the fourth one is the German version.

La Bohème is a song written by French songwriter Jacques Plante and Armenian-French artist Charles Aznavour.

La Bohème

The song was first recorded by Aznavour in 1965. It is Aznavour’s signature song, as well as one of the most popular French-language songs and a staple of French chanson. It became an international hit song in 1965 and was in the TOP 10 charts of Argentina (No 3), Rio de Janeiro (No 5), France (No 1), Brazil, and other countries.

The song is about: a painter recalls his young age Montmartre, he remembers his artistic life, the early years when he was hungry but happy. According to Aznavour, this song is a farewell to the last days of bohemian Montmartre. He also recorded Italian, Spanish, English, and German versions, as well as a rare Portuguese recording. It is performed at virtually every one of his concerts.

Live in Paris, 2004.

The German Version of La Bohème

Thanks, Hendrik Krause!


La Bohème Lyrics

French lyrics

Je vous parle d’un temps
Que les moins de vingt ans
Ne peuvent pas connaître
Montmartre en ce temps-là
Accrochait ses lilas
Jusque sous nos fenêtres
Et si l’humble garni
Qui nous servait de nid
Ne payait pas de mine
C’est là qu’on s’est connu
Moi qui criais famine
Et toi qui posais nue

La Bohème x2
Ça voulait dire on est heureux
La Bohème x2
Nous ne mangions qu’un jour sur deux

Dans les cafés voisins
Nous étions quelques-uns
Qui attendions la gloire
Et bien que miséreux
Avec le ventre creux
Nous ne cessions d’y croire
Et quand quelque bistro
Contre un bon repas chaud
Nous prenait une toile
Nous récitions des vers
Groupés autour du poêle
En oubliant l’hiver

La Bohème x2
Ça voulait dire tu es jolie
La Bohème x2
Et nous avions tous du génie

Souvent il m’arrivait
Devant mon chevalet
De passer des nuits blanches
Retouchant le dessin
De la ligne d’un sein
Du galbe d’une hanche
Et ce n’est qu’au matin
Qu’on s’asseyait enfin
Devant un café-crème
Épuisés mais ravis
Fallait-il que l’on s’aime
Et qu’on aime la vie

La Bohème x2
Ça voulait dire on a vingt ans
La Bohème x2
Et nous vivions de l’air du temps

Quand au hasard des jours
Je m’en vais faire un tour
À mon ancienne adresse
Je ne reconnais plus
Ni les murs, ni les rues
Qui ont vu ma jeunesse
En haut d’un escalier
Je cherche l’atelier
Dont plus rien ne subsiste
Dans son nouveau décor
Montmartre semble triste
Et les lilas sont morts

La Bohème x2
On était jeunes, on était fous
La Bohème x2
Ça ne veut plus rien dire du tout.

La bohème…

English translation

I’m talking of a time
that those under twenty years old
couldn’t know
Montmartre at that time
hung its lilacs up
up till our window
And if the humble decoration (house)
that we used as nest
went unnoticed
(Well) there’s where we met
Me, who cried from hunger
and you, who posed nude

The bohemian,
that means that one is happy
the bohemian
we only ate one day each two

At the neighboring cafes
we were the ones
who waited for the glory
and despite our poverty
with our empty stomachs
we never stopped believing (that)
and when some bar
for some good hot meal
took a canvas
we recited verses
gathered around the stove
while forgetting winter

The bohemian
That used to mean that one is beautiful
The bohemian
and we were all genius

Often it used to happen
I received white nights
before my easel
retouching the sketch
of the stroke of a breast
the outline of a hip
and in the morning
when we finally sat down
before a cafe-creme
tired but satisfied
we weren’t too tired to stop loving each other
and to love life

The bohemian
That used to mean that one is twenty years old
The bohemian
and we lived our time

When by chance of the days
I’m going to make a travel
to my old address
I don’t recognize anything
nor the walls, nor the streets
that had seen my youth
atop a staircase
I look for the studio
where nothing has survived
in its new decorating
Montmartre seems sad
and the lilacs are dead

The bohemian
we were so young, we were so crazy
the bohemian
it no longer means a thing

La bohème…

La Bohème was first recorded by Aznavour in 1965 and became an international hit.
La Bohème was first recorded by Charles Aznavour in 1965 and became an international hit.

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