Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Beyond the Sea

First recorded (as “La Mer”) by Roland Gerbeau (1946).
Also recorded (as “La Mer”) by Charles Trenent (1946).
First recorded (in English) by Harry James & His Orchestra with Marion Morgan (1947).
Hit versions Roger Williams (US #37 1955), Bobby Darin (US #6/R&B #15/UK #8 1959), George Benson (UK #60 1984).

From the wiki: “‘Beyond the Sea’ is the English adaptation of a romantic love song (‘La Mer’, ‘The Sea’) popularized in 1946 by French singer Charles Trenet, most famous for his recordings from the late 1930s until the mid-1950s. In an era in which it was unusual for a singer to write their own material, Trenet wrote prolifically and declined to record any but his own songs.

“According to legend, ‘La Mer’ was composed by Trenent on-board a train in 1943 as he was gazing out of the window at the Étang de Thau, a lagoon in the south of France. He jotted it down on a piece of paper and in the afternoon he worked out the details with his pianist Léo Chauliac. That evening they performed it in front of an audience without much of an impact. Trenet explained in an interview that he was told that ‘La Mer’ was not ‘swing’ enough to be a hit, and for this reason the song then sat in a drawer for two years before being recorded for the first time in 1945 by Roland Gerbeau. Trenet would record a cover of his own song also in 1946.

“The song was given unrelated English lyrics by Jack Lawrence (‘All or Nothing At All’, ‘Linda’) in 1947 and was then recorded by Harry James with Marion Morgan under the title ‘Beyond the Sea’. (Trenet’s French version was a homage and ode to the changing moods of the sea, while Lawrence, by just adding one word ‘Beyond’ to the title, turned it into a song of mourning for a lost love.)

“The English-language version of ‘Beyond the Sea’ has been recorded by many artists since being first adapted and recorded by James and Morgan in 1947. Pianist Roger Williams charted in the US Top 40 in 1955. But, it is Bobby Darin’s arrangement, released in late 1959, that is the best known by many, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, #15 on the US R&B Chart, and #8 in the UK Singles Chart (in early 1960).

“George Benson recorded an R&B version of the song under the title ‘Beyond The Sea (La Mer)’ in 1984 for his album 20/20. A promotional single of the song charted in the UK in 1985.”

Charles Trenet, “La Mer” (1946):

Harry James & His Orchestra feat. Marion Morgan, “Beyond the Sea” (1947)

Roger Williams, “Beyond the Sea (La Mer)” (1955):

Bobby Darin, “Beyond the Sea” (1959):

George Benson, “Beyond the Sea” (1984):

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