There's a Swedish jazz sång, originally performed by Monica Zetterlund, that I find beautiful.
Sakta vi gå genom stan. (Beppe Wolgers, Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert, 1961)
The song is about a couple walking home, through the streets of Stockholm, in a bright summer night.
The other day I was humming it again and realized that one reason I like this song are the masterful lyrics. It was only then, as I was googling for the song, that I learned that this is actually a translation of a song originally performed by Nat King Cole: Walking My Baby Back Home.
Except that the original is not the same song and nowhere near as beautiful. In fact, it's frankly outdated. In the Cole version, a man is escorting a woman back home, but has to stay on the porch. They can't kiss, but the man can buy the woman a hot dog at least.
The Swedish version, even if it was written in the 60s, is more equal. In fact it's most often performed by a female vocalist, but either way, it's an equal couple and they are allowed to kiss. Most of the song is an ode to Stockholm in the summer, rather than focusing on conservative dating etiquette.
I felt that the beautiful Swedish lyrics deserve to be more widely known, so I have translated them back to English, and am publishing them below.
Some comments about the translation:
The Zetterlund version uses assonance. This means not just making the end of a sentence rhyme, rather a whole sequence of words might have the same vowel repeatedly, or the same pattern of vowels. Interestingly, such rhymes are common also in modern rap music too. I tried to bring this technique to the translation as well, and I feel it works rather well.
I eventually decided to write Stockholm out of the English lyrics. You can still substitute "the city" for "Stockholm" if you want. But personally I don't have any attachment to Stockholm, so when not sung in the Swedish language, it felt odd to keep it. The song clearly takes place in a large Nordic city though, as it takes place in a bright summer night where the sun is rising early. In fact, there is a "long bridge" in Helsinki, that one of the verses refers to, but you are free to imagine any other bridge there if you want.
When we walk slowly back home
- 202 views
Add new comment