Seasons in the Sun
Writer(s): Jacques Brel, Rod McKuen (see lyrics here)
Released: December 1973
First Charted: January 5, 1974
Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 13 HR, 16 RR, 11 AC, 12 CL, 14 UK, 14 CN, 14Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, -- UK, 14.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 54.0 video, 55.01 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“Seasons in the Sun” originated as a French song called “Le Moribond” (“The Dying Man”). It was written in 1961 by Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel. As Terry Jacks explained it, the original version was “about an old man who was dying of a broken heart because his best friend was screwing his wife…He was saying goodbye to his priest and his best friend and his wife…[singing to her] ‘I’ve had a lonely life. You cheated lots of times but then I forgave you in the end, though your lover was my friend.’” SF
In 1963, American singer and poet Rod McKuen rewrote the lyrics in English to portray a dying man’s farewell to his loved ones. WK The Kingston Trio recorded it in 1964 and this is the version Jacks heard. He rewrote the song in honor of a friend who died from leukemia. In Jacks’ version, a dying man says goodbye to a childhood friend, his father, and Michelle, who seems to either be a daughter or niece.
In 1973, Jacks was working with the Beach Boys and suggested the song. According to Jacks, he could never get all of them together and it never got finished. As he said, “I would put so much energy into this thing and the stress was really getting to me.” SF Jacks recorded it himself, but sat on it. When listening to a tape at his house to find songs to release, a newspaper delivery boy heard it. He asked if he could bring his friends over to hear it. Thanks to their enthusiasm, Jacks decided to release it. FB
The song has been criticized as overly sentimental, even ranked by a CNN poll in 2006 as one of the worst songs ever recorded. WK That didn’t bother fans, though. Jacks’ version went to #1 in more than a dozen countries and was ranked the #2 song of 1974 by Billboard. It was the first song to be given a gold certification by the RIAA for sales of a million copies. SF It also became the biggest-selling single in Canadian history. SF
First posted 2/13/2021; last updated 4/3/2022.