Ella, elle l’a

Voici ma chanson pour un samedi — here’s my song for Saturday.

The year was 1987. We were living in Toronto when France Gall released this song, written for his wife by the incredibly talented and gone-too-soon Michel Berger. It became a hit in France along with several countries in Europe.

I must have listened to this song a hundred times before I realized what it was actually about. The song, whose title literally means, ‘Ella, she has it’, is a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the first lady of song, and an anti-racism anthem. Here are the lyrics, with a bit of a translation in English:

C’est comme une gaité, comme un sourire
Quelque chose dans la voix qui parait nous dire “viens”

Qui nous fait sentir étrangement bien
C’est comme toute l’histoire du peuple noir
Qui se balance entre l’amour et l’désespoir

Quelque chose qui danse en toi, si tu l’as, tu l’as

It’s like a joy, like a smile
that thing in her voice that seems to be saying “Come!”
that makes us feel strangely good
it’s like all the history of the black people
that swings between love and despair
that thing that dances inside of you, if you have it, you have it.

Ella, elle l’a, ce je-ne-sais-quoi
Que d’autres n’ont pas, qui nous met dans un drôle d’état
Ella, elle l’a Ella, elle l’a, cette drôle de voix
Elle a, ou, ou, ou, ou, ou, ou, ou, cette drôle de joie
Ce don du ciel qui la rend belle

She has it, the thing I know about
that others don’t have, that puts us in a funny state
she, she, she has it, she has that funny voice, that funny cheerfulness
that gift from up above that makes her beautiful, she has it

Elle a ce tout petit supplément d’âme
Cet indéfinissable charme, cette petite flamme

She has that extra bit of soul
that indefinable charm, that little flame.

Tape sur des tonneaux, sur des pianos
Sur tout ce que dieu peut te mettre…

Montre ton rire ou ton chagrin
Mais que tu n’aies rien, que tu sois roi
Que tu cherches encore les pouvoirs qui dorment en to
i
Tu vois ça ne s’achète pas

Hit the barrels, the pianos
and everything that god can put in your hands
show your laughter or your sadness
but if you are nothing or if you are a king
if you are still looking for the power that is sleeping inside of you
you see it can’t be bought

Ella, elle l’a… (etc.)

Around that time, my husband and I had the incredible privilege to see Ella perform live at the Imperial Room of the Royal York hotel in Toronto. It had to have been one of her final performances. She used a cane and was helped onstage by her manager. But once she began singing, her voice was as fresh as spring

On that note, here she is singing of my favourite songs.

15 thoughts on “Ella, elle l’a

    1. I can see how it was valuable for teaching with the messages of the lyrics, not to mention the lovely word play! Glad it brought back some fond memories for you… 😊

  1. Fully agree about Michel Berger . I love that song, this one from the same couple is not bad either “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0Z1FKH6ngE” .
    This poor France Gall never had a voice but she got the “it” to be loved by great composers . She won the Eurovision at 18 on a song by Serge Gainsbourg, the Master, and this naughty Serge gave her another hit the next year, “Les sucettes” . This one triggered a mini-scandal ( it was in 66 under de Gaulle), it started like this : “Annie aime les sucettes, les sucettes à l’anis …” She looked like a schoogirl sucking her lollipop and the best is she did not understand the “double entendre” meant by the sneaky Serge ! She confessed this many years later . Not wery smart, not a good singer, but she had a talent to inspire great Pygmalions .

    1. Naughty Serge! I can only imagine what he would have said about her sweet blonde innocence…. 😳 And I can see how she became a pop icon but personally, her sugary voice is not my thing. Berger’s lyrics, on the other hand, are poetry. And she was indeed lovely.

  2. Thank you for helping make my day with this song and video. For me there are two separate parts to the pleasure. First Ella: My sister bought the 45 Every Time We Say Goodbye when it was fist released in 60’s . On the B side it had Manhattan. She played it on the old record player that we had and asked us all to listen . Stereo sound was new thing then.. Her voice had a quality that could never be matched till this day.I must have been about 12 years old but i knew then it was so good I think we must have worn out both sides . i don’t know which side i preferred The A or B .However it was jazz nothing like the song that
    France sung.
    The second part of my pleasure and please forgive me if i am being politically incorrect ,was looking at France Gall and seeing the magic of French women. it lifts my old English heart and sends my pulse up just a notch,.

    1. I can totally relate and no offence taken! She was a lovely looking young lady and had a sweet voice. No match to Ella’s but she clearly inspired a great many French artists!

      1. Thanks for your understanding . Sorry about the poor grammar the post was made in haste . It had nothing to do with my racing pulse 🙂

  3. Not my favourite France Gall song (‘Plus Haut’ is) but I never realised it was about the wonderful Ella – that’s transformed it. How fabulous to have actually seen her!

    1. I know what you mean! It was only when I found out what it was about that I began to like it. Berger had a talent for writing catchy tunes and her style was a bit too syrupy for me.

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