Cornelis Vreeswijk – “Helena”.

Hey people! 🙂

Something I heard earlier today reminded me of this song and it made me wonder whether I’ve shared it on here. I was quite sure I must have, because I really like this song in Vreeswijk’s interpretation, but, a bit oddly I suppose, that turns out not to be the case so I’m sharing it today.

This song was written by Lars Forssell, one of the artists by whom Cornelis was quite strongly inspired, a very versatile writer, and member of the Swedish Academy, who clearly, like Vreeswijk himself, must have had at least some socialist inclinations, which I base solely on the songs he wrote that were interpreted by Cornelis as I’m not really familiar with Forssell’s other works. Cornelis recorded a whole album, called “Visor, Svarta och Röda” (Songs, Black and Red) with interpretations of songs written by Forssell.

This song, however, is not exactly Forssell’s original work, because it’s a translation or should we say an adaptation, of a song written and recorded by American musician Tucker Zimmerman called “She’s an Easy Rider”.

It’s kind of weird that I like this song, actually. It’s nothing exciting musically, it feels super hippie, it’s a lot of things that I’m just not, or that I don’t really necessarily look out for in music. While I think I understand people who feel the way Helena does, that freedom is basically not having roots and wandering more or less aimlessly through life without too many possessions or connections to bring you down, I’m more inclined to think that freedom is something a lot more internal, and that actually, some sense of having roots can be helpful in feeling more free, at least in my experience. I get it that there’s no one, “true” way of experiencing freedom, and Helena’s way must have been quite appealing to Cornelis from all that I know about him, but mine is vastly different, so it’s not like I find this song hugely resonating or anything. Yet I do like it.

And I think the sole reason is how evocative it is. Seriously, looking at the English original, it feels like it must have been the Swedish version that came first, because it’s so much more detailed, and gives us a much more sophisticated idea of this girl, well, she even has a name, which gives me a lot to work with as a name nerd. Listening to this, I can easily imagine this Helena girl and what she’s like. And I was mightily surprised when I learned that this is not originally a Swedish song and that it’s so much poorer in the original. The bonus point is due to the fact that Helena has been my all-time favourite name. I initially felt that it sort of clashed with the heroine’s kinda rebel personality, because that’s not at all the default image I get for the name Helena, which I perceive as very refined and girly and subtle, but I think that’s what makes it all the more interesting and kind of multi-dimensional, suggesting that either there might be more to her than meets the eye, meaning that there might be some other layer of her personality that is more like a Helena that she just doesn’t show the world, or that just like she’s generally a very unconventional person, she might also be a very unconventional Helena, different from most of her fellow namesakes.

And then we have a translation of a translation, because Cornelis not only recorded it in Swedish, but also decided to translate it to Dutch.

I can’t speak Dutch as of yet, and haven’t been able to find a good translation of the Dutch version, but based on some words that I think I understand via English or Swedish or because I know them, and because after all it’s a translation, I doubt it differs in any very substantial way from the Swedish version.

I was able to translate the Swedish one though, which should give you an idea of what it’s about.

 

Can you hear her out there in the distance

disappearing?

She is so free, Helena

And not imprisoned here like us

And not bound here like us

She is so free, Helena

All she has is the motor cycle

And an open road

She is so free, Helena

And the wind learns her song

And falls into her song

How free you are, Helena

She is not bothered by guardians

Or good advice

Because she’s free, Helena

And her rite is her destination

And her road is her destination

She is so free, Helena

No roads are short

On her journey with no destination

Free ofmoney, free of us and geography of the map

She is so free, Helena

And not imprisoned here like us

And not bound here like us

Can you hear here out there in the distance

Disappearing?

Yes, she is free, Helena

And not bound here like us

And not imprisoned here like us

How free she is, Helena

Swedish:

Dutch:

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