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Maryla Rodowicz: Żyj mój świecie (Muza, 1970)

16 Mar

Maryla Rodowicz was a hugely popular singer of rock and pop songs (often nicknamed, despite predating the point of comparison by almost two decades, the ‘Polish Madonna’ for her ability to adapt to every conceivable change in fashion through a long career) and her records, TV appearances and live concerts were successful not only in her native Poland, but across the USSR and in many other Eastern Bloc countries. Her strongest work is found in the material she recorded during the later 1960s and early 1970s, mainly gathered on her more folk/pop inflected LPs like Żyj mój świecie: Maryla Rodowicz i jej gitarzysci (1970: the guitarists in question being her early collaborators Tomasz Myskow & Grzegorz Pietrzyk) and Wyznanie (1972). Żyj mój świecie – the title track on that 1970 debut LP – became an early signature song. Although her presentation at this stage in her career suggested a singer-songwriter, her material was generally supplied by others. In the case of Żyj mój świecie, the music was written by Marian Ziminski (also a key member of Czeslaw Niemen‘s soul-influenced Akwarele [in English, The Watercolours]) and the lyric was written by Agnieszka Osiecka, also behind many other popular songs of the era, including Skaldowie’s Dojeżdżam (The Commute) released the previous year. The version here elaborates somewhat on the occasionally generic sentiments but remains faithful to the general shape and meanings of the Polish song: the Polish lyric can be read here and the song can be listened to here. It might also be worth noting that the flute sections are the work of Włodzimierz Nahorny, a celebrated jazz musician in his own right who also appears on Breakout’s sublime Poszłabym Za Tobą (1969).

Żyj mój świecie (In My World)

(Marian Ziminski/Agnieszka Osiecka, 1970)

I watch an ocean fleshed with red auroras.
Every sunset, all summer and autumn,
its dark waves glisten with salt and wet
as they swell behind the doors of the poor.

I have only this one half-broken world
I want to save from winds and storms;
I’ll protect the beauty its skin reveals
on broken walls, under cracked blue slates.

Cecilia has a white dog, the circus a lion.
There are cats in stone doorways, sleeping out.
A man can sing the simplest tune, or drag a sack
so weighed down with gold it brings him low.

I have only this one half-broken world
to save from rain and grey winter light.
I’ll protect the beauty its skin conceals
inside dark apartments, under cold blue skies.

Who is in charge? My answer: one with a gun
who trades in every dream for scrap.
I don’t own anything but my eyes and hands,
the voice you hear – but I do know this:

I have only this one half-broken world
to save from snow and winter frosts.
Who knows how? I’ll just say: “Let’s be alive –
hear breath catch in a poplar’s leaves.”

And I watch this ocean glow with red light,
every sunrise, all summer and autumn.
Its dark waves glitter with salt and spray.
Floods rise to wash all the doors of the poor.

Maryla Rodowicz


Skaldowie: Dojeżdżam (Muza, 1969)

21 Feb

Skaldowie’s Malowany Dym has already featured here and some background on the band can be found on that post. This song, Dojeżdżam (The Commute), hails from the same period in the band’s history but offers a jazzier proposition and a song that describes the familiar scenario of people travelling to work in the early hours. The song divides into two voices,  with the verses voiced by a young man and the choruses by a young woman – or, to be more exact, by the vocal ensemble of young women otherwise known as Alibabki. Dojeżdżam offers a kind of lyrical narrative, contrasting the sleepy early hour trudge narrated by the young man with the sunnier observations made about him by a girl on the same commute, and the story told is that all-too familiar one, in which two people who are attracted see one another on the same train every day but neither ever quite manages to speak to the other to make the attraction known. A fairly straightforward deferred love story, then, but also, perhaps, not unlike Nick Drake’s Poor Boy, from his second album Bryter Layter (1970) in its use of the uplifting choruses as a wry commentary on the slightly self-pitying verses. The music and arrangement is by Skaldowie founder Andrzej Zieliński while the lyrics are contributed by Agnieszka Osiecka (pictured), a Warsaw born writer who collaborated on songs with many key Polish artists, including Maryla Rodowicz (some of whose material will hopefully begin appearing here soon). Osiecka also worked as a poet,  prose writer and journalist alongside a broad ranging career in theatre, film and television. A transcription of the original Polish lyric for Dojeżdżam can be found here and the song itself can be listened to here.

Dojeżdżam (The Commute)

(after Agnieszka Osiecka/Andrzej Zieliński, 1969)

When I wake up the roosters are still asleep.
My cold bedclothes are buried in early grey light.
I yawn. Girls might ask me: Are you sad or feeling low?
You know, the way nobody ever does.

And it’s such a strange thing to be already out,
to be still asleep in this night-dazed dawn.
I’m stiff-limbed, aching, scan a rock-pool of gutter sky
for the starfish following me on this commute.

He’s trudging aboard this first morning train.
Exhaustion will seep through his whole long day.
Others smile at chessboards, read magazines.
He nods off on a seat right opposite me.

What else can we say when our minds don’t work?
The train’s shaking and we’re sitting still.
He’s bored, but has only himself to blame,
caught in the rain after leaving his umbrella at home!

I’m not afraid of these long dawn nights anymore.
I see her across the carriage almost smiling at me.
Yes, I commute. Can she tell me what a morning’s like?
We barely sleep between the last train and first.

And don’t tell me the summer’s almost here,
I once held its flowers in my hands for hours.
Tell me what makes her happy, those brown eyes clear?
Their warmth almost wakes me when I look at her.

Has he sensed the sunlight that’s not here yet,
the summer flowers – maybe a friend in me?
Look how late it is! We won’t speak now or say goodbye.
We know tomorrow we’ll both commute again.

I’m not afraid of these long dawn nights anymore.
I see him across the carriage almost smiling at me.
Yes, I commute. Can he tell me what a morning’s like?
We barely sleep between the last train and first.

Agnieszka Osiecka (1936 - 1997)