October 9, 1978 – Jacques Brel was born on April 8th 1929 near Brussels Belgium. He composed and recorded his songs almost exclusively in French, although he recorded a number of songs in Dutch as it was his original mother’s tongue.
Brel’s songs are not especially well known in the English-speaking world except in translation and through the interpretations of other singers, most famously Scott Walker and Judy Collins. The range of superstars who however have covered his work is amazing.
Others who have sung his work in English include Karen Akers, Marc Almond, Momus/Nick Currie, Beirut, Bellowhead, David Bowie, Ray Charles, John Denver, The Dresden Dolls, Gavin Friday, Alex Harvey, Terry Jacks, Alan Clayson, Barb Jungr, The Kingston Trio, Jack Lukeman, Amanda McBroom, Rod McKuen, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Spencer Moody, Camille O’Sullivan, Dax Riggs, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Laurika Rauch and Dave Van Ronk.
In French-speaking countries, Brel is also remembered as an actor and director. He has sold over 25 million records worldwide, including over 12 million albums and singles in France and Belgium. His most frequently recorded song is “Ne me quitte pas” (“Don’t Leave Me”), usually translated in English as “If You Go Away”, overall, there have been at least 400 different recorded versions of this standard in at least 22 different languages. He sadly lost his battle with cancer on October 9, 1978 and is buried on his favorite Marquesas Islands in the Pacific.
Here is – probably not even complete – a list of international stars who have covered his work:
The Kingston Trio
Thomas Lang (singer)
Duilio Del Prete
Secret Chiefs 3
Show of Hands
Herman van Veen