Friday Factory Tune: Dans le Port d’Amsterdam

In the Port of Amsterdam, there are fewer sailors who drink, fewer who drink since Jacques Brel wrote this song. The decades since have seen dramatic advances in container shipping and harbor automation.

Here’s another version and one with the off-color subtitles. The Rod McKuen lyrics were dull in comparison.

Brel came from a manufacturing milieu, as this Socialist biography relates.

Brel was born in Brussels, the Belgian capital, in April 1929. His father, Romain Brel, had worked some 20 years for the import-export corporation Cominex, during which time he spent several years in the Congo, then a Belgian colony. In 1926, he returned to Brussels and, in 1929, held a post on the company’s board of directors. Shortly after, Armand Vanneste, his brother-in-law, offered to partner with him in founding Vanneste & Brel, a company making cardboard….It was into this well-to-do Brussels bourgeois family that Jacques Brel was born.

A very popular song to cover, e.g., Dresden Dolls and Marc Almond, who also did a credible synth-pop cover of the Brel song (via Scott Walker) “Jacky.”

In related compositioning, we offer this horrible video of Elvis Costello’s first waltz (we think), “New Amsterdam.”

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