Song Lyric Sunday/Song Of The Day: “Desafinado”; “Jean”

This is the last week where Jim chose two letters of the alphabet and asked us to come up with a song for one or the other, which many of us took to mean "a song for each letter." That’s what I’ve done, anyway. In this case, the letters are "D" and "J."

My "D" song is "Desafinado," written by Antônio Carlos Jobim, with Portuguese lyrics by Newton Mendonça. Desafinado translates to "Out Of Tune," and Wikipedia tells us "[i]t was originally a response to critics who claimed that bossa nova was a new genre for singers who can’t sing." Two sets of English lyrics exist for the song: the first set was written by Jon Hendricks and "Jessie Cavanaugh" (a pseudonym for music publisher Howie Richmond, the lyrics used by Perry Como and others. The second set was written by Gene Lees and, while not a direct translation of Mendonça’s original lyrics, is based on the original. This is the translation sung by Frank Sinatra and Jobim on their album Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings and by singers as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald and George Michael.

Lyrics are from AZLyrics:


When I try to sing you say I’m off key
Why can’t you see how much this hurts me
With your perfect beauty and your perfect pitch
You’re a perfect terror
When I come around must you always put me down

If you say my singing is off key my love
You will hurt my feelings don’t you see my love
I wish I had an ear like yours
A voice that would behave
But all I have is feelings and a voice God gave

You insist my music goes against the rules
But rules were never meant for lovesick fools
I wrote this little song for you but you don’t care
Its a crooked song oh but all my heart is there

The thing that you would see if you would do your part
Yes, even if I’m out of tune I have a gentle heart
I took your picture with my trusty Rollaflex
And now all I have developed is a complex

Possibly in vain I hope you weaken oh my love
And forget those rigid rules that undermine my dream of
A life of love and music with someone who’ll understand
That even though I may be out of tune
When I attempt to say how much I love you
All that matters is the message that I bring
Which is my dear one I love you

My "J" song is "Jean." This song was written by Rod McKuen and his recording was used as the theme song for the 1969 film The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. McKuen was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was also recorded by William Oliver Swofford, who went by the name "Oliver." Earlier in 1969, Oliver had reached #3 on the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening chart with "Good Morning, Starshine", from the Broadway musical Hair. Oliver was surprised that they chose "Jean" as the follow-up, as it was a ballad in 3/4 time during the psychedelic era, but it reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #2 on the Hot 100, kept out of the top spot by The Archies’ "Sugar Sugar."

The lyrics, from AZLyrics:

Jean, Jean, roses are red
And all the leaves have gone green
And the clouds are so low
You can touch them, and so
Come out to the meadow, Jean

Jean, Jean, you’re young and alive
Come out of your half-dreamed dream
And run, if you will, to the top of the hill
Open your arms, bonnie Jean

Till the sheep in the valley come home my way
Till the stars fall around me and find me alone
When the sun comes a-singin’ I’ll still be waitin’
For Jean, Jean, roses are red
And all of the leaves have gone green
While the hills are ablaze with the moon’s yellow haze
Come into my arms, bonnie Jean

(Jean, Jean)
Jean, you’re young and alive
Come out of your half-dreamed dream
And run, if you will to the top of the hill
Come into my arms, bonnie Jean

And that’s Song Lyric Sunday and Song of the Day for January 17, 2021.

27 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday/Song Of The Day: “Desafinado”; “Jean”

  1. Wonderful soothing songs! I especially love Frank’s Desafinado as his music was always splendid to listen to!


    1. Frank had a tremendous voice, and no one did the standards better than him, with the possible exception of Ella Fitzgerald. I didn’t care much for Frank’s bossa nova work at first, but it’s growing on me.


  2. She did…. Jeanne and I had broken up long before her medical school and subsequent years. Haven’t seen her since high school graduation, that’s almost 50 years ago.


  3. Great selections this week, John. Both sets of lyrics are wonderful. “Jean” has always been a favorite of mine. It’s the only song I can somewhat play on the piano.


        1. Don’t they, though? I can’t hear that song without giving a thought to her. Found out she’s an anesthesiologist in Dallas. Always was way the hell out off my league…

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  4. I remember that song “Jean” so well even though I probably haven’t heard it in like 50 years. I guess they played it a lot on the radio back then. I sure didn’t own the record.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


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