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 Influence of jacques prevert on bob dylan

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michel sanvoisin


Nombre de messages : 85
Localisation : rue des moines, paris
Date d'inscription : 11/11/2006

MessageSujet: Influence of jacques prevert on bob dylan   Ven 14 Nov - 13:24

I just came across this post on a newsgroup dedicated to Bob Dylan : rec.music.dylan.

This is the direct link.

It dates back to June 10 1997 ! written by Man of peace/Manfred Helfert.

Otherwise a quick cut&paste...

Citation :
Has French poet/songwriter Jacques Prevert ever explicitly been
mentioned as a possible influence on Dylan's writing circa 1963?

Now we know about Rimbaud, we know about the film for which Jacques
Prevert wrote most of the script (Marcel Carnet's "Les Enfants du
Paradis") which is mentioned by Dylan as an influence on his own
"Renaldo and Clara" in a 1977 Allen Ginsberg interview (there's an
excellent article on both films in Dignity No. 9) -- but has Prevert
ever been mentioned as a possible influence on the lyrics of "A Hard
Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and even more on "The Times..."?

I literally stumbled upon Prevert lately -- a bilingual publication of
his poems and songs (French/German), copyrighted in 1962 -- is anyone
able to find out when English translations of his "Paroles",
"Spectacle", and "La Pluie et le beau temps" came out in the U.S.?

There's a poem entitled "J'en ai vu plusieurs..." (I've seen some..)
which strikes me as rather similar in structure and imagery to "A Hard
Rain's..." (judge for yourselves, accents missing in the following
excerpts, unfortunately):

J'en ai vu un qui lisait les journeaux
J'en ai vu un qui saluait le drapeau
j'en ai vu un qui etait habille de noir...

J'en ai vu un qui tirait son enfant par la main
et qui criait
j'en ai vu un avec une canne a epee
j'en ai vu un qui pleurait
j'en ai vu un qui entrait dans une eglise
J'en ai vu un autre qui en sortait...

And there are even more similarities (both in topic and lyrical
structure) between Dylan's "The Times..." and Prevert's "Les temps de
noyaux" (The times of the 'stones' -- as in "I gave my love a cherry
that had no stone").

Prevert's use of "noyaux" could also refer to the atomic bomb ("noyau
atomique" "atomic nucleus"). The song/poem shares its anti-war theme,
the notion of "It's always the old that lead us to the war, it's
always the young to fall" (Phil Ochs, "I Ain't Marching Anymore") and
a lot of the imagery/lyrical structure (including the title) with
Dylan's "The Times..." -- too many too be coincidental, IMHO.

Again, judge for yourselves from the following excerpts (and again,
the accents are missing, unfortunately):

Soyez prevenus vieillards
soyez prevenus chefs de famille
le temps ou vous donniez vos fils a la patrie
comme on donne du pains aux pigeons
ce temps-la ne reviendra plus
prenez-en votre parti
c'est fini
le temps des cerises ne reviendra plus...

Quand vous tiriez a la courte paille
c'etait tojours le mousse qu'on bouffait
mais le temps des joyeux naufrages est passe
lorsque les amiraux tomberont a la mer
ne comptez pas sur nous pour leur jeter la bouee
a moins qu'elle ne soit en pierre
ou en fer a repasser
il faut en prendre votre parti
le temps des vieux vieillards est fini...

Hommes honorables et tres estimes
dans votre quartier
vous vous recontrez
vous vous congratulez
vous vous coagulez...

Bouclez-la vieillards
cessez de remuer votre langue morte
entre vos dents de faux ivoire
le temps des omnibus a chevaux
les temps des epingles a cheveux
ce temps-la ne reviendra plus...

I think these excerpts should suffice to show the similarities (you
can almost sing Prevert's poem to the tune of "The times...") and I'm
CONVINCED that Dylan's "The Times..." was influenced by this poem by

After all, he was in touch with French singer Hugues Aufray around
that time. Suze Rotolo is credited by Scaduto with "heightening his
growing awareness of the poetry of Rimbaud, Villiers, Villon, Robert
Graves, Yevtushenko and Brecht" (p. 111, British Abacus edition) --
and one of the books on Suze's shelves could have easily been a volume
of the poems/songs of Jacques Prevert.

Now if anyone can come up with pre-1963 English translations of these
two poems in question, I would appreciate to get a copy of the lyrics!

Another long post from
Man of Peace

"Routes, Routes & Ramblings" Dylan Musical Roots and Influences
Website at http://www.yi.com/home/HelfertManfred/index.htm
"Ballads From Deep Gap" Doc Watson Website at

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