Cornelis Vreeswijk – “Vaggvisa” (Lullaby) & Sarah Riedel ft. Nikolai Dunger – “Vaggvisa”.

Hey people! 🙂

So today I thought we’d listen to a lullaby. I love love listening to lullabies, and not just for sleep. They are very comforting and often have either a fair bit of folklore in them or hide something interesting in between the lines about the times when they were sung/written, kind of like this one although in this one I guess it’s not even hidden very deeply at all but rather straightforward.

This lullaby was written by Cornelis Vreeswijk (one of my faza people, if you don’t know yet) for his son, Jack, and recorded on his debut album in 1964, so exactly the year when Jack was born. It reminds me of very old Polish lullabies, which often go something like this in a nutshell: sleep, my little baby, while you have the time for such luxuries, and while you sleep, grow very big and strong and grow very quickly, so you can start working right away, preferably tomorrow, and help your poor old mother or father because that’s how life works and once you’re big and strong you’ll only get to sleep after you die. I suppose it may not be just a Polish phenomenon but simply something I happened to notice with Polish lullabies specifically.

This lullaby is kind of similar to that pattern, and, given that Cornelis had a lot of knowledge of European folklore and various motives in it and used them a lot, I wonder if he knew about that lullabies actually used to be very much like that in the past and whether this similarity was intended. Here, little Jack, who can’t have more than half a year, is already being made aware of how life generally sucks and is all about making money, so he should take his time to sleep now when he has it. I’m not sure how good a strategy that seriously is to convincing your child to sleep, I’d be afraid I’m going to raise a neurotic and a ruminator who won’t sleep at night because of thinking about all the shitty stuff that is awaiting him in the future, but perhaps that’s just me as I’m a neurotic ruminator myself.

Whether this similarity to old lullabies was or was not intended, surely his main inspiration behind it, just like a lot of his other music, were his strongly socialist views, which shows clearly and I guess especially when you know about his leanings in this direction, but also, since it’s a lullaby, here I feel it isn’t as much in-your-face with the socialism as some of his other songs are. I – being anything but socialist – really love it, which I can’t say about all of his works because I simply do not agree with a lot of stuff in them. Whether you are a socialist or not, I guess most of us agree that adulting is shitty and the idea of being a carefree baby who can sleep the time away, be taken care of, have everything he wants and be free (because for Cornelis, from what we can assume from his other lullaby, one is only free when one is asleep) is more appealing, at least to us escapists for sure.

I also really love this song musically. Vreeswijk, while highly regarded in Sweden for his lyricism, language skills, expression and guitar style, is not considered the greatest composer and I totally agree, usually those of his songs who were composed by other people sound better. Yet there are some absolutely mind-blowing exceptions (I’m thinking “Grimasch om Morgonen” for example, which I’ve shared on my blog before) and “Vaggvisa” is one of them, at least to me. It’s just a simple tune and there’s just Cornelis and the guitar, but there’s something very grand about it.

For comparison, I also want to share with you a cover version from the album Cornelis vs Riedel, where there are Cornelis’ poems in Georg Riedel’s jazz arrangements, sung by his daughter Sarah Riedel and Nikolai Dunger, and a few of his already published songs but with new melodies composed by Riedel. Even though I’m not a huge fan of jazz, I really love this album because there’s just so much real feeling in it, so much care put into it and it’s very friendly for a jazz layman like myself. Their version does not have the same lyrics as the one Cornelis originally wrote for Jack, but they are from the film Rännstensungar (Guttersnipes), where Cornelis played Johan Fahlen and sang this lullaby in this shortened and more neutral, less personalised version to Ninni – the main character. – One day I may also share this song sung by Jack himself.

Below is my attempt at translating the lyrics (the original ones), very literally of course, just to give you an idea what this is about. I’ve always found that metaphor here about working hard as the cat very amusing, ’cause since which time do cats work hard. 😀 I don’t think this is a legit Swedish idiom, never heard of it, and I doubt it especially that it’s “the cat”, so it looks like he means some specific cat. I wonder why is that, perhaps just for the sake of rhyming? As for the factory thing in the lyrics, among quite a few things that Cornelis did before becoming a singer and poet, he did work in a factory for a while.

 

  Sleep now, my little prince

When I turn the light off

Father is going to his machine

Mother shall guard the house

Sleep now, prince, you who can

Father he goes to the factory

Working hard like the cat

All night long.

The moon shines yellow and full

Up on the sky

Life is a money game

Nobody gets away

Complaining doesn’t help, comrade

Banners and placards

You can’t eat

The prince should know it.

Relax now, little prince

You have plenty of time

Use it when there is a chance

Then there will be hurry

Then there will be trouble and battle

For piece work and overtime

Don’t worry for now

Just take it easy.

Sleep now, my little prince

When I turn the light of

Father is going to his machine

Mother shall guard the house

Here at mother’s you are fine

Mother has everything you want to have

For I can promise it

Now the prince shall sleep

   Cornelis Vreeswijk:

Sarah Riedel ft. Nikolai Dunger:

Jack Vreeswijk – “Lilla Regn” (Little Rain) and Georg Riedel & Sarah Riedel – “Lilla Regn”.

Hi people! 🙂

Today, I will share with you another poem-song written by Cornelis Vreeswijk. With this one, I am sure it was written by him and as it seems originally was intended as a poem and not as a song as it didn’t seem to have a melody. The interesting thing about this poem which later became a song though, that I want to show you, is what came out of that it didn’t have a melody in the first place. Namely now people who cover Vreeswijk have all the freedom in the world to create their own, and here we have almost two different songs, very different in style yet with the same (only slightly varying) lyrics.

The poem – maybe a little surprisingly for someone who would know about Cornelis and roughly about what kinds of things he wrote – is not political, not a protest, not about people/society, not about love, not about Ann-Katrin Rosenblad (his muse) and not even about drinking. It’s, as you can guess from the title, about rain. Little rain. He addresses it in a way that makes you think this rain is a child. It’s a gentle encouragement for it to fall. “Of course the Earth is heavy and cold, but rain anyway”. And when it finally has fallen, the birds are hesitantly starting to sing more and more.

I think it’s very nice, and the two totally different musical versions take two totally differing looks at it.

Jack’s version comes from the same album from which is his last song that I shared with you – “Till Den Det Vederbör” – also written by Cornelis. Jack composed the music to it (or so I assume it was Jack) and it feels very deep but also minimalistic.

And then there’s another version of it composed by Georg Riedel, who is a Swedish jazz musician, and sung by his very talented and sensitive daughter Sarah on their album Cornelis vs Riedel. I’ve already shared a song from this album much earlier that was also sung by Sarah – “Se Här Dansar Fredrik Ã…kare”. – This is a very carefully made, heartfelt and refined album and both Sarah Riedel and Nikolai Dunger (who is another singer on this album) do a great job, in my opinion, of conveying the feel of each of these songs, as if they really took a lot of time to truly feel them and could relate to them personally. It is a very jazzy album as both Georg and Sarah Riedel are jazz people, which is normally something that would discourage me more or less as I usually don’t have a strong connection with jazz music, but here it doesn’t bother me at all and is great since Cornelis himself also drew from and was inspired by jazz among other genres, and it was his more jazzy songs that convinced me that jazz doesn’t always have to be awful and incomprehensive.

And so I seriously don’t know which version I like more. I wonder which one would be Cornelis’ favourite. And how about you guys? Do you like one of these more than the other?

 

Sarah Riedel – Se Här Dansar Fredrik Ã…kare (Look Fredrik Ã…kare Is Dancing Here).

Hi. 🙂

Do you know, lovely people, what a nice holiday we have today? Ha! You surely don’t know. Unless you’re Swedish, or a freak like me, or maybe if you’re Dutch, or maybe, maybe if you’re from any Scandinavian country other than Sweden, perhaps you may know too. So I’m here to enlighten you!

Today, 8th August, is my previous crush’s – Cornelis Vreeswijk – birthday. But because as you probably already know, when I move on from one music crush to the next, I don’t leave the previous one, it only sort of fades, being dominated by a new crush, therefore technically you can say I’m still somewhat crushing on him. And, if by any chance you, my reader, are Swedish, I know it may be slightly or not so slightly weird to you, the more that he’s passed away quite a while before I was born, but… what can I do about it? Assuming that I’d really want to do something with it, but honestly I don’t.

So yeah, Cornelis would be 81 if he’d still be between us. I  hope he’s having a great birthday wherever he is now…

You’d think that if it’s his birthday, and I happen to be so fascinated by his music and poetry that I even want to try to translate it to Polish, then I should choose a song of the day by him, but I decided to do it a bit differently this time.

You see, despite Vreeswijk was Dutch, he’s been actually more known in Sweden than Netherlands, because he and his family emigrated there when he was 12. And he seems to be very liked there. Or anyway, very famous. I guess he’s to controversial to be very liked, people there seem to either love him or hate him.

And if you’re a famous musician, especially if you’ve left this mundane world, you can expect many other, famous and not famous, and maybe even infamous, musicians to be inspired by your music in any way. And so is also with Cornelis.

There are a lot of Swedish artists covering his songs, or who are inspired with his style, making tribute songs, or trying to caricature his style or something.

A few years ago, when I started to explore Spotify, I also started to explore all kinds of covers of his songs, beautiful and cringy ones, and I’ve found a few that are still my huge favourites.

Including an album, called “Cornelis vs. Riedel”. It’s pretty jazzy, I’m not very big on jazz, but because of Vreeswijk I’ve got a very tiny little bit more liking and understanding of it, as it’s one of the genres he liked to incorporate in his music.

“Cornelis Vs. Riedel” is a compillation of Cornelis’s poems, with melodies composed by a Swedish jaz musician of Czechoslovakian descent – Georg Riedel, and sung by Sarah Riedel – Georg Riedel’s daughter – and Nikolai Dunger. With a few exceptions, these poems have never been sung by Cornelis, and the two ones that have been got completely new melodies from Riedel. With all his genius and versatility, I don’t think Vreeswijk had a particular talent for composing, so I found this very interesting.

And oh what I particularly love about this album is the expressivity, and all the emotions. I just love the vocalists for how they feel these lyrics, how they really involve in what they are singing about.

The song I want to show you is called “Se Här Dansar Fredrik Ã…kare”, very roughly translated Look Here Fredrik Ã…kare Is Dancing. Now who is this guy, Fredrik Ã…kare?

I must tell you, I wondered about it for quite a while since I got to know Cornelis’ music. He is often mentioned in his songs. I guess we need to just look at him as a fictional or half-fictional character, one of a few that we can meet in Cornelis’s songs and poems. However people say that his real life equivalent was Nisse Gustafsson – one of his sisters’ friend or boyfriend, or something like this. – Though I’ve also heard that Cornelis himself might be Fredrik Ã…kare, and I pretty much lean to it because it just looks like it could be him. Even in this song, for me it seems to be just about Cornelis.

Do you remember the song I once shared with you, also by Cornelis – “Balladen Om Herr Fredrik Ã…kare Och Den Söta Fröken Cecilia Lind” (The Ballad About MR Fredrik Ã…kare And The Sweet Miss Cecilia Lind)?

I look at this song I’m sharing with you today, as a sort of continuation to that one. Because in that song, as you might remember I wrote, there is a sort of party, people are dancing in the barn in the village, he – is meeting the nearly 17-year-old girl, much younger than himself, called Cecilia Lind, they fall in love with each other, are dancing together, people are indignant because it’s a shame that two people with such a difference in their age are dancing and lookk as they’re very cllose to each other, they say Cecilia’s too young for him. He accompanies her t her house and kisses her on their way home, and the story doesn’t have any speciffic or definite ending.

And then we have this song. We know that  the full moon is shining (why is there so much full moon in Vreeswijk’s lyrics? :O Swedes love sun, he seems to be much more inclined to the moon), just like at that rural party or whatever it was and however such things are called in English, and Fredrik is dancing on empty streets (so it’s the night time, right?) and we also get to know he’s dancing aimlessly and not going anywhere in particular. He is also tipsy and is hurting emotionally, or so I understand from the lyrics, though I’m not sure if that’s exact.

From  the second verse we also know he’s singing – about the stars, and about Cecilia Lind, and about all that he wants to forget and drown in a bottle of wine – pretty classic theme as for Vreeswijk.

Then the third verse is from the author’s perspective, saying that he has made a little song because then it’s easier to dance [when you have the music]. And that this song is about that you’ll never get what you want the most. And what you’ll get instead, you will be always disappointed with.

Reminds me strongly about Cornelis’ life, his struggles, and about what I know about his relationships with other people.

When I first heard this song, I actually cried – and as I told you a few times before it’s not that easy nowadays to move me this strongly, but I was very moved, also Sarah’s vocals themselves are very moving.

But what else spoke to me, was that in some more metaphorical way I felt like it’s also about me. I’ve told you before that paradoxically I feel like in some aspects my personality is pretty similar to Cornelis’, and that’s maybe why I like him and understand his music, and why it often speaks to me (excluding all the left-wing extremist ones, but even those are often quite true in a way 😀 ). I can’t find any other explanation, because objectively he’s not what I would call “my style”. OMG that’s all so weird! 😀

OK, so maybe, finally, after all that chit chat, time for the song? I guess so, I wrote way too much, but I wanted to give you some context, it’s stupid to listen to the song without its context if it’s deeper, and since there’s no language barrier here for me, if I can give you that context, then why not. Let me know what you think about it and how do you perceive it.

Unfortunately I’m forced to get the song from Spotify, I could’ve sworn I saw it like a year ago on Youtube, but now I can’t find it, so I don’t have much choice here.