Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Seasons in the Sun

Recorded (in English) by The Kingston Trio (1963).
Adapted from “Le Moribond” by Jacques Brel & Rod McKuen (1961).
Also recorded by Rod McKuen (1964), The Beach Boys (1973).
Hit version by Terry Jacks (US #1/UK #1/CAN #1 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Seasons in the Sun’ is the English-language adaptation of a 1961 song, ‘Le Moribond’, composed by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with English lyrics by American singer-poet Rod McKuen (‘Jean‘). The original French-language song included sarcasm and references to the speaker’s wife’s infidelity.

“The Kingston Trio recording was the first cover version of McKuen’s translation in 1963. McKuen would include a performance of his own work on the 1964 album Rod McKuen Sings Jacques Brel.

“Terry Jacks had had considerable success in his native Canada as half of the duo The Poppy Family (‘Which Way You Goin’ Billy’, 1969) with his wife, Susan. He was friends with The Beach Boys, who asked him to produce a song for them – something Jacks was honored to do. Terry played them his arrangement of ‘Seasons in the Sun’ and suggested they record it, thinking it would sound great with Beach Boy harmonies and with Carl Wilson singing lead.

“‘The thing never got finished,’ Jacks would later recall (in a Songfacts interview). ‘Brian wanted to get hold of the tape and add some things, and the engineer would have to take the tape home at night so that Brian wouldn’t get hold of it. This went on and on, and I was almost having a nervous breakdown because I would put so much energy into this thing and the stress was really getting me. So I said, ‘I’m not going to be able to finish this. I can’t get you guys all in here together.’ So it never got completed [to the point of being released].’

“The sessions weren’t a complete wash for Jacks, however. He worked with Al Jardine on the backing vocals and came up with an arrangement he would use when he recorded the song himself in Vancouver in 1973, releasing it in 1974 on his label, Goldfish Records.

“The Jacks version is one of the fewer than forty all-time singles to have sold 10 million (or more) physical copies worldwide.”

Jacques Brel, “Le Moribund” TV performance (c. 1961):

Rod McKuen, “Seasons in the Sun” (1964):

The Beach Boys, “Seasons in the Sun” (1973):

Terry Jacks, “Seasons in the Sun” (1974):