Everyone knows that, in 1968, David Bowie – or rather David Jones as he was known then – wrote English lyrics to the French melody that would later become a global hit with Paul Anka’s English text. My Way. Anthony Wall at BBC4 says Bowie’s version was inspired by the British actor Anthony Newley (the italics are mine):
In his late twenties he [Newley] moved from teen pop into grander propositions, he wrote and starred in a new form of musical, a kind of British equivalent of Sondheim. The lyrics Bowie wrote in Even a Fool Learns to Love to Claude Francois’ Comme d’habitude echo the elegiac style and melancholic sentiments of Newley in that mode.
The publisher shelved Jones’ version. A few years later, Bowie used the beginning of the My Way melody in Life on Mars. (David Bennett’s YouTube video explains this in great detail. I’ve learned a lot from his channel.) An interesting fact, sure – but the story doesn’t end there.
In 2004-5, Life on Mars along with fourteen other Bowie songs was recorded by a Brazilian musician called Seu Jorge for Wes Anderson’s film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Seu Jorge stripped down the arrangements to the acoustic guitar and his own voice, and wrote lyrics very loosely based on Bowie’s.
As someone said, you know you’ve grown old when people (in Brazil) start calling you “Seu.” It’s a colloquial form of Senhor, so Seu Jorge is more or less Mister George.
…[Seu Jorge] captured the imagination of critics and viewers alike, thanks to his breakout role as Knockout Ned in Fernando Meirelles’ City Of God.
“Soon after that, Wes [Anderson] called me about playing in a movie for him. He started talking about doing some versions of David Bowie’s classics. I confessed to him I’d never heard these songs before,” Jorge laughs. “Songs like ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Changes’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’.”
Bowie praised Seu Jorge’s interpretations. Based on the lyrics in the comments section, here’s my inexpert translation.
Time after time the heart
What the mind doesn’t want to deal with
Nor has the power to follow
All the dreams I have ruined
And dropped from my hands
If the future lets me
I don’t want to live in vain
My love we are not alone
We have a world waiting for us
In the infinity of the blue sky
There can be life on Mars
So come to me, give me your tongue
So come, I want to embrace you
Your power comes from the sun
My dear, let us live this life
So come, or else I will lose who I am
I will want to move to a life on mars
My Portuguese is not nearly as good as I would like it to be, and I’m not sure I understand one of the lines correctly; other than that the text seems relatively straightforward. Frankly, I’m slightly underwhelmed, but any Brazilian artist in this new genre – nameless yet but difficult – would have to withstand comparison with his peers from the past. It’s high bar to clear.