Jean-Jacques Goldman – Comme toi – Translation, analysis, explanation, interpretation and meaning of the lyrics

Narrative analysis of 48 song lyrics in french
Narrative analysis of 48 song lyrics in french

 

This page is a translation extracted from our analysis of 48 French song lyrics.

For the original in french, check this page: Jean-Jacques Goldman – Comme toi.

 

 

Story&Drama analyzes Jean-Jacques Goldman’s masterpiece, a portrait of an ordinary girl and a discreet education in the memory of the Shoah.

Music video

Jean-Jacques Goldman - Comme toi (Clip officiel)

Lyrics and translation of Comme toi by Jean-Jacques Goldman

1

Elle avait les yeux clairs et la robe en velours
She had light eyes and a velvet dress

A côté de sa mère et la famille autour
Next to her mother and the family around

Elle pose un peu distraite au doux soleil
She poses a little distracted in the soft sun

De la fin du jour
Of the end of the day

2

La photo n’est pas bonne mais l’on peut y voir
The picture is not good but you can see

Le bonheur en personne et la douceur d’un soir
The happiness in person and the sweetness of an evening

Elle aimait la musique, surtout Schumann
She loved music, especially Schumann

et puis Mozart
and then Mozart

Refrain

Comme toi… Comme toi…
Like you… Like you…

Comme toi que je regarde tout bas
Like you that I look at softly

Comme toi qui dors en rêvant à quoi
Like you who sleep while dreaming of what

Comme toi…
Like you…

3

Elle allait à l’école au village d’en bas
She went to school in the village below

Elle apprenait les livres, elle apprenait les lois
She learned the books, she learned the laws

Elle chantait les grenouilles
She sang about frogs

Et les Princesses qui dorment au bois
And the Princesses that sleep in the wood

4

Elle aimait sa poupée, elle aimait ses amis
She loved her doll, she loved her friends

Surtout Ruth et Anna et surtout Jérémie
Especially Ruth and Anna and especially Jeremiah

Et ils se marieraient un jour peut-être à Varsovie
And they would marry one day perhaps in Warsaw

Refrain

5

Elle s’appelait Sarah elle n’avait pas huit ans
Her name was Sarah she was not eight years old

Sa vie, c’était douceur, rêves et nuages blancs
Her life was sweetness, dreams and white clouds

Mais d’autres gens en avaient décidé autrement
But other people had decided otherwise

6

Elle avait tes yeux clairs et elle avait ton âge
She had your light eyes and she was your age

C’était une petite fille sans histoire et très sage
She was a very quiet and wise little girl

Mais elle n’est pas née comme toi,
But she was not born like you,

ici et maintenant
here and now

Refrain

Jean-Jacques Goldman – Comme toi – Analysis, explanation, interpretation and meaning of the lyrics

The structure of this song is very special.

By its theme, Comme toi is presented automatically as hyper-dramatic: the story tells the unjust death of an innocent little girl.

This choice is obviously very symbolic, full of meaning and intentions from the author.

Jean-Jacques Goldman knows that there is no better way to move men, women, and children than to tell everyone about a healthy, normal, cute child who was sent to a concentration camp for a Jewish identity she didn’t even claim, at the age of 7.

1

Elle avait les yeux clairs et la robe en velours
She had light eyes and a velvet dress

A côté de sa mère et la famille autour
Next to her mother and the family around

Elle pose un peu distraite au doux soleil
She poses a little distracted in the soft sun

De la fin du jour
Of the end of the day

The first verse portrays a damsel who seems adorable, in omniscient narrator mode.

2

La photo n’est pas bonne mais l’on peut y voir
The picture is not good but you can see

Le bonheur en personne et la douceur d’un soir
The happiness in person and the sweetness of an evening

Elle aimait la musique, surtout Schumann
She loved music, especially Schumann

et puis Mozart
and then Mozart

Verse 2 confirms: here she is in the center of a family photograph that shows happiness in person.

The verses on the music establish a special connivance between :

  • singer-songwriter Goldman,
  • his character as a music-loving girl,
  • the great historical figures of the music that are the mentioned composers,
  • and us, the listeners of the song that evokes all this.

Refrain

Comme toi… Comme toi…
Like you… Like you…

Comme toi que je regarde tout bas
Like you that I look at softly

Comme toi qui dors en rêvant à quoi
Like you who sleep while dreaming of what

Comme toi…
Like you…

The repetition of Comme toi brings a new character, toi, which we suspect is a child, otherwise we could not compare him or her to another child.

We therefore understand that this tu, which designates a child, is the addressee of Jean-Jacques Goldman’s song.

But this you also has the power to address us directly: as you who listen to the song, as you who comment on it…

This passage therefore features an adult talking about a child in an old image to another child who lives in the present.

3

Elle allait à l’école au village d’en bas
She went to school in the village below

Elle apprenait les livres, elle apprenait les lois
She learned the books, she learned the laws

Elle chantait les grenouilles
She sang about frogs

Et les Princesses qui dorment au bois
And the Princesses that sleep in the wood

Verse 3 shows a studious student learning popular culture without ceasing to be a child.

4

Elle aimait sa poupée, elle aimait ses amis
She loved her doll, she loved her friends

Surtout Ruth et Anna et surtout Jérémie
Especially Ruth and Anna and especially Jeremiah

Et ils se marieraient un jour peut-être à Varsovie
And they would marry one day perhaps in Warsaw

Verse 4 gives a series of elements which, put together, finally reveal the Jewish identity of this young girl:

  • three biblical names
  • and a city strongly associated with the Shoah, Warsaw, which was the scene of a heroic Jewish resistance.

5

Elle s’appelait Sarah elle n’avait pas huit ans
Her name was Sarah she was not eight years old

Sa vie, c’était douceur, rêves et nuages blancs
Her life was sweetness, dreams and white clouds

Mais d’autres gens en avaient décidé autrement
But other people had decided otherwise

Verse 5 gives her name and age: Sarah, 7 years old. For the first time, while everything was latent, the danger becomes explicit: other people had decided otherwise, a very gentle allusion to the decision of the Final Solution.

6

Elle avait tes yeux clairs et elle avait ton âge
She had your light eyes and she was your age

C’était une petite fille sans histoire et très sage
She was a very quiet and wise little girl

Mais elle n’est pas née comme toi,
But she was not born like you,

ici et maintenant
here and now

Verse 6 insists on the comparison: this happy little girl resembles you in every way, but she lived in another time.

The euphemism, the refusal to give more details, gives the song a certain universality. The writer does not pay a precise tribute to Anne Franck. It could be addressed to any similar victim, Jewish or not.

This theme is so strong that the lyricist Jean-Jacques Goldman does not need to set up any plot, except for the one that reveals to us by little touches the identity and the destiny of this girl. There are no triggers, neither acts nor crisis.

The story of this child is evoked but in a very blurred, very general, depersonalized way. And this absence of plot is not a problem, on the contrary: it leaves all the room to the emotion that invades the song from beginning to end, the simple sight of this portrait bringing tears to our eyes, or almost, because of all the horror of the unspoken: this little girl died in deportation. So you don’t necessarily need big dramatic devices like McKee‘s to make strong dramatic effects.

Who wrote the song “Comme toi”?

Comme toi was written by Jean-Jacques Goldman after he saw a photograph of a child in the family album. The song was released in 1982 on the album “Jean-Jacques Goldman (Minoritaire)”.

Write “like him”

You too, like Jean-Jacques Goldman but without Fredericks or Jones, want to write songs in this style? Try to keep these formal parameters:

Describe a situation that is very dramatic by itself, without building any plot around it.
Put a few “you” in the lyrics, marking the presence of someone familiar around: this will make it easier for the audience to identify with the lyrics.
Gradually reveal one or more pieces of information essential to understanding the basic situation.

In this style we have also analyzed the lyrics of C’était l’hiver by Francis Cabrel.

Did this excerpt interest you? Read the rest of our French song lyrics analysis.

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