Artists will say, there’s just something musical about Paris. And no, they’re not talking about cheesy accordionists panhandling by the Pont des Arts. Here are just a few of the best standards inspired by the City of Lights.
1. “Sous le Ciel de Paris,” performed by Edith Piaf
Though this song, which translated to, “Under the Sky of Paris,” was popularized by French chanteuse Édith Piaf in 1954, it was not Piaf who first sang or wrote the tune. The song was originally written for for a 1951 film of the same name and sung by Jean Bretonnière. But it was Piaf’s evocative warble, which earned her the nickname “la Môme Piaf,” or “Little Sparrow,” that made the song into a lasting musical emblem of Paris.
2. “April in Paris,” performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Like many jazz standards, this one was looted from a Broadway musical, 1932’s Walk a Little Faster. “April in Paris” has been performed by just about every jazz great out there, from Count Basie to Sarah Vaughan. But the song’s indisputable acme is the version by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, pairing Fitzgerald’s smooth contralto with the trumpety texture of Armstrong’s voice.
3. “J’ai Deux Amours,” performed by Joséphine Baker
Written for Josephine Baker, the “Black Pearl of Paris” in the 1930s, this song’s refrain goes, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris” (“I have two lovers, my country and Paris”). The song plays on Baker’s role as an American who developed a strong attachment to Paris after becoming a celebrated performer there, partially due to her exotic reputation as an American and a woman of color. She became so infatuated with Paris that she later changed the refrain to, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays c’est Paris.”
4. “I Love Paris,” performed by Ella Fitzgerald
This Cole Porter classic about loving Paris no matter the weather, no matter the season, was another borrowed by Ella Fitzgerald for a 1956 album titled, Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook. A line in the song even inspired the title of the Audrey Hepburn film, Paris When It Sizzles.
5. “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” performed by Tony Bennett
Written shortly after the fall of Paris to the Nazis in World War II, this ballad got kicked into the spotlight thanks to a bubble of wartime nostalgia. It features heavily in the Liz Taylor film of the same name, inspired by the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story “Babylon Revisited.” It was brought back into the public eye by a 2015 performance by the legendary crooner Tony Bennett.