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Czeslaw Niemen: Jednego Serca (Muza, 1970)

26 Aug

Czeslaw Niemen’s 1970 album Enigmatic is a fascinating recording on many levels, not least for its inclusion of an extraordinary sixteen minute setting of the Polish poet Cyprian Norwid‘s 1851 funeral rhapsody Bema Pamięci Rapsod Załobny, a version of which I hope to add here at some future date. For today, though, it’s another song from Enigmatic that finds its way into the spotlight, Jednego Serca (One Heart). This song is particularly intriguing for its prefiguration of much that would later be considered as the signature sound of Pink Floyd on their mega-selling concept LP Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. The resemblance is so strong, and Niemen’s song appeared so far in advance of its Western reflection, that it seems highly unlikely that Jednego Serca was anything other than a primary but unacknowledged influence. Niemen’s music had already found some support in international markets by this stage and Pink Floyd’s members had sufficiently eclectic tastes (it appears to be fairly well known that their early signature freak-out Interstellar Overdrive borrowed its basic chords from Ron Grainer’s Old Ned, better known as the theme to 1960s sitcom Steptoe and Son) that it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that Niemen’s composition played a role in redirecting their sound a few years after Enigmatic appeared. Whatever the truth of that chain of influence, though, this is a powerful piece of work in its own right, its simple lyric by Adam Asnyk performed by Niemen with his signature soulful delivery, accompanied by Alibabki and some of Poland’s finest jazz musicians: Zbigniew Namysłowski, Czesław Bartkowski and Michał Urbaniak are all in the Enigmatic line-up. Jednego Serca itself can be heard here, accompanied by footage from a Polish TV performance, and a version of the original lyric can be read here.

Jednego Serca (One Heart)

(after Adam Asnyk/Czeslaw Niemen, 1970)

One heart is so small, almost too small to find on earth.
I need a heart that would tremble knowing the love I’d give.

I will not speak among the silent, but stay calm,
learn the handwritten paragraphs that mark out our time.

I need lips, to drain this potion of all its powers,
eyes that would see myself glimpsed as a saint among stars.

These are mine: one red heart and two small white hands.
Might another’s arms wrap me when I fall asleep?

I’ll dream of an angel who can lift me in his arms to the sky.
The heart I need is small, but still too much to ask.

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