Translation of Le Bon Vin

One of the fun things about Google Analytics is that I can see what people who hit my site might have been searching for. And I’ve seen a couple of people come in now looking for a translation of Great Big Sea’s “Le Bon Vin”, which appears on the new XX album. Presumably they’re keying off of this previous post of mine, wherein I took a shot at transcribing the lyrics as I understood them. My French-speaking friend and fellow Great Big Sea fan Marie-Andrée then gave me her transcription of the lyrics, which told me that yeah, actually, I got most of them correct.

Here now is my take on a translation of the lyrics that Marie-Andrée provided. So if you’re an Anglophone Great Big Sea fan, hope this helps! (Or, for that matter, if you’re a Francophone GBS fan and you have trouble parsing Alan’s accent. Since he does have a heavy Newfoundland accent and that influences his French. And if you look in the liner notes for the album, at least on the boxed set edition, it says that the band had a Francophone from New Brunswick giving them French coaching. So Alan’s take on French may well sound very strange to French-speaking Canadians outside of Newfoundland or New Brunswick!)

A few quick notes going in:

“Bon bon bon” is I believe just getting used here for rhythm and cadence as opposed to being part of the actual lyrics. “Bon” is of course “good”.

“Bis” means “repeat”. I see this a lot in Quebec trad music, as a way to notate when a line is done call and response style. Here, I’ve used it to signify the lines that are first sung by Alan and then sung back by the rest of the band.

“Le Bon Vin” is in fact a Quebecois trad song, from what I was seeing Googling around. I did find longer editions of the lyrics, here and here. (That second link has chords, too!) However, Great Big Sea’s take is much simplified. They’re only sorta kinda doing the usual Quebec song structure of having a repeated first line and a second line, which then rolls over into the next verse to become that verse’s first line. (And I think they’re probably losing a lot of the actual narrative and context of the song, too, simplified as it is. But!)

Not entirely sure of the translation of the last line, but from what I’m getting it’s generally the friend of the viewpoint character snarking on this girl’s mob of lovers, so one could presume the recounting of her lovers makes up the “la canaille”?)

Anyway, here you go!

Le bon vin m’endort, l’amour me réveille (Good wine puts me to sleep, love wakes me up)
Le bon vin m’endort, l’amour me réveille encore! (Good wine puts me to sleep, love wakes me up again)

En passant par Paris, caressant la bouteille (bis) (Passing by Paris, caressing the bottle)
Un de mes amis me dit à l’oreille, bon, bon, bon (One of my friends told me in the ear)

Un de mes amis me dit à l’oreille (bis) (One of my friends told me in the ear)
Prends bien garde à toi, allons poursuivre la belle, bon, bon, bon (Take good care of yourself, (let’s) go pursue the beauty!)

Poursuit qui la veut, moi, je me moque d’elle (bis) (… pursue (the one?) that wants it, I don’t care about her)
J’ai couché trois ans, la nuit avec elle bon, bon, bon (I spent the night three years with her)

Elle a eu trois garçons, tous trois capitaines (bis) (She had three boys, all three captains)
Un à Bordeaux, et l’autre à La Rochelle bon, bon, bon (One in Bordeaux, and another in La Rochelle)

Un à Bordeaux, et l’autre à La Rochelle (bis) (One in Bordeaux, and another in La Rochelle)
L’autre à Versailles, à faire la canaille bon, bon, bon (Another in Versailles, to make the riffraff?)