“Le Temps des Cerises” is a 19th century French ballad and an old standard. The moment I first heard this song I had an inkling that I knew it, but I thought it was written for the movie Porco Rosso.
It turns out it was actually written much earlier, around 1866, and is deeply engrained in the French psyche (the song is strongly associated with the Paris Commune, though it pre-dates this event by several years).
No doubt it would have been known and sung by French soldiers and civilians alike along the Western Front. Certainly, in a town where French identity is as strong as it is in Armentieres, it would have been a well-known song.
This isn’t the first song I have associated with John’s life and discovered that the songs were very likely songs he knew. I seem to have a strong memory and tenacity for music across lifetimes.
The first song I had the feeling of knowing from a past life was the song “Henery the Eighth.” As a child in this life I had heard the Herman’s Hermits version on the radio, and I could perfectly imagine what the song had sounded like being sung in a pub by drunk Edwardian workmen. It turns out, the song dates from 1910 and was a huge music hall hit for Harry Champion.
As a very young child, the Burl Ives song “Lavender’s Blue” would make me cry. My mother in this life thought it was the sound of the violins hurting my ears; all I could articulate to her was that the song made me sad. It turns out it was an English folk song going back at least to Victorian times and I now suspect it may have been a song that John’s mother sang to him before her death in 1885; I still cried when I heard the song more than a hundred years later and never knew why.
Same with Scarborough Faire, also a Victorian song. I knew the Simon and Garfunkel version from a young age and it gave me a weird feeling, flashes of walking through ruined castles and abbeys but in a more modern age. This was the song that put the image in my head of a place I knew I had been but couldn’t nail down, the reason I asked to go to Mepkin Abbey (an active Cistercian monastery near Charleston, SC) on my 21st birthday.
Cwm Rhondda was a tune I’d first heard on “One Foot in the Grave” in a parody version. It sounded terribly familiar and I later discovered it was a melody first performed in 1907 and that John lived in a part of England barely outside of Wales where there is still a strong Welsh identity.
Maybe music will help me remember my current life more clearly too? It seems music has always been a trigger for me. I develop close emotional resonances with songs and I know a tune I once loved in another life when I hear it. I know it over a song that is simply a “favorite” or that I “kind of like.” It’s independent of whether I like the song too much or not. It’s a feeling of intense familiarity, sometimes good and sometimes unpleasant.
Maybe this is why I gravitate toward musicians and singers in this life. I’m engaged to one, actually. Maybe, if enough copies of his work survive, he’ll be my sign post to remember this life and what I’ve learned so far.