‘Le Mistral Gagnant’ by Renaud

A m’asseoir sur un banc cinq minutes avec toi
Et regarder les gens tant qu’y en a
Te parler du bon temps qu’est mort ou qui r’viendra
En serrant dans ma main tes p’tits doigts

Puis donner à bouffer à des pigeons idiots
Leur filer des coups d’ pieds pour de faux
Et entendre ton rire qui lézarde les murs
Qui sait surtout guérir mes blessures

Te raconter un peu comment j’étais mino
Les bonbecs fabuleux qu’on piquait chez l’marchand
Car-en-sac et Minto, caramel à un franc
Et les mistrals gagnants

A r’marcher sous la pluie cinq minutes avec toi
Et regarder la vie tant qu’y en a
Te raconter la Terre en te bouffant des yeux
Te parler de ta mère un p’tit peu

Et sauter dans les flaques pour la faire râler
Bousiller nos godasses et s’marrer
Et entendre ton rire comme on entend la mer
S’arrêter, r’partir en arrière

Te raconter surtout les carambars d’antan et les cocos bohères
Et les vrais roudoudous qui nous coupaient les lèvres
Et nous niquaient les dents
Et les mistrals gagnants

A m’asseoir sur un banc cinq minutes avec toi
Et regarder le soleil qui s’en va
Te parler du bon temps qu’est mort et je m’en fou
Te dire que les méchants c’est pas nous

Que si moi je suis barge, ce n’est que de tes yeux
Car ils ont l’avantage d’être deux
Et entendre ton rire s’envoler aussi haut
Que s’envolent les cris des oiseaux

Te raconter enfin qu’il faut aimer la vie
Et l’aimer même si 
le temps est assassin
Et emporte avec lui les rires des enfants

Et les mistrals gagnants
Et les mistrals gagnants



My Translation:
‘Le Mistral Gagnant’
(A note about the title: the ‘mistral’ is a well known wind that blows in the south of France. ‘Gagnant’ gives the idea of a wind that is gaining ground — advancing and taking things from the singer… it is difficult to express this with just one word as in French and so I have translated it in the song as “the advancing winds”.) 

To sit down on a bench, five minutes with you
and watch the people while they’re still there;
to tell you about the good days that are gone, or that will return,
while holding your little fingers in my hand.

Then to feed the stupid pigeons,
and pretend to kick them,
and to hear your laugh that crawls up the walls
and that, most of all, knows how to heal my wounds.

To tell you a bit about when I was a kid,
the fabulous sweets that we nicked from the shopkeepers,
Car-en-sac, Minto, and caramel for a franc.
And the advancing winds.To walk in the rain, five minutes with you,
and watch life going by, while it’s there;
to tell you about the World, while scaring you with my eyes,
to tell you about your mum a little bit.

And to jump in the puddles to get her annoyed,
to wreck our shoes, and laugh about it,
and to hear your laugh like one hears the sea —

it stops, then starts off again backwards.To tell you especially about the carambars of the past
and the coco boheres (these are all sweets; so are roudoudous)
and the real roudoudous that cut our lips
and screwed up our teeth.

And the advancing winds.

To sit down on a bench, five minutes with you,
and watch the sun going down;
to tell you about the good times that are gone, and I don’t care,
and to tell you we’re not the bad guys.

That if I’m crazy, it’s only about your eyes,
because they have the advantage of being two;
and to hear your laugh fly off as high
as the cries of the birds fly.

To tell you at last that you must love life,
and love it even if time is a murderer;
and takes with him the children’s laughter,

and the advancing winds.
and the advancing winds.

My thoughts:

This is a song that I completely fell in love with the first time I heard it. I was also fascinated by the lyrics, because they have a strange beauty and are full of French slang. I didn’t understand the slang the first time I heard it, but these words have now become very familiar to me, and I think they are so cleverly used in this piece. It is about fatherly love, and it’s so sad and sweet and (I think!) wise.

Lyrics are extremely important in modern French music, and I think that is perhaps why some of the great singers like Brel, Brassens and Gainsbourg have not travelled so well to the UK and elsewhere. It makes me sad because for me these songwriters are poets, just as much as Bob Dylan is a poet, and their lyrics are incredibly rich and rewarding.

I have tried to translate ‘Le Mistral Gagnant’ to the best of my ability, but of course, the lyrics are great in French because of the assonance and the rhyme etc… So you must listen to it, too. My favourite thing about this song, (and I think this is the great appeal of many of Renaud’s lyrics) is how very common slang expressions have been made poetic… I find it quite wonderful.


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lady Fancifull
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 18:23:01

    Thanks Emily, this whole post was a real bittersweet delight for the senses.


  2. Alex Pollock
    Nov 29, 2013 @ 21:46:56

    Hi Emily, for years I thought the Mistral Gagnant was about the cold, dry wind that funnels down the Rhone Valley into Provence but I found out recently that a Mistral Gagnant was a sweet from the old days in France where some of them contained a winning (gagnant) slip of paper that gave you another one for free. There have been lots of cover versions (the impromptu version by Maxime la Forestier & Vanessa Paradis is famous and very well done) and you’re right, its like so many French songs, its a beautifully written and the simple melody captures the bittersweet feeling perfectly. Think the father is reminiscing about the old days with his daughter but sad that time is passing and she is growing up so quickly – I think the song is a masterpiece.


  3. Pascal
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 22:43:25

    Do you know where the French music notes come from? Do, Ré, Mi… From a Latin Religious song, here: http://www.frenchspanishonline.com/beginnersfrench/school/leisure/music2.html


  4. moyrra
    May 03, 2014 @ 21:43:23

    Little infomation: A Mistral Gagnant was a kind of french candy. Some of them were “winning” (gagnant) and you could get another one for free. 🙂


  5. Ricardo
    May 09, 2014 @ 06:18:14

    “Le Mistral Gagnant” was indeed a little sweet, as described by the other posters. The name though, was inspired on a racing horse name, which by itself was named after the famous north africa wind, “Le Mistral”. 🙂


  6. Trackback: Melodia Zilei: Mistral Gagnant | Urban Zen Living
  7. marion
    Nov 20, 2014 @ 11:48:49

    Hey ! Thank you for this translation, but there is one mistake in it : “le mistral gagnant” is the name of a wind but in this song it is the name of a french sweet just like roudoudous or carambars 🙂
    (I’m French)


  8. Claudia
    Dec 17, 2014 @ 00:57:09

    thank you for the translation


  9. cloudoflace
    Feb 02, 2015 @ 20:23:21

    In love with this song! Thank you so much for this beautiful translation 🙂



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