Trenet wrote the lyrics of "La Mer" on a train in 1943 while travelling along the French Mediterranean coast, returning from Paris to Narbonne. He supposedly wrote the song in ten minutes, on toilet paper supplied by SNCF (National Corporation of French Railways). The music is based on "Heart and Soul", a popular song at the time, with music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Frank Loesser, published in 1938. He was assisted with the tune by Léo Chauliac. It was originally published by Raoul Breton.
It was not until 1946 that Trenet recorded the song. When it was released in 1946, it became an unexpected hit, and has remained a chanson classic ever since.
The song has been subject to many interpretations in French and in many languages.
Roger Williams recorded it as "La Mer (Beyond the Sea)" in 1956. In the 1960s, a cover was done by Cliff Richard with The Shadows. Dalida and Will Ferdy did covers both in 1976 and Daniel Guichard in 1983 and Graham Dalby and The Grahamophones recorded the song on the album Transatlantique in 1993. More recent versions include Kevin Kline (film, "French Kiss"-1995), Kristina & Laura, Manlio Sgalambro, Lisa del Bo, Biréli Lagrène, Patricia Kaas, and others.
"Beyond the Sea"Edit
English lyrics, unrelated to the French lyrics, were later written by Jack Lawrence and entitled "Beyond the Sea". This became a hit for Bobby Darin in 1959. The song has been recorded by more than 400 other artists in many languages.
The English version has been recorded by many artists, including Benny Goodman, Mantovani, Roger Williams and Gisele MacKenzie, but Bobby Darin's version released in 1959 is the best known by many, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song reached the top 40 twice prior to the Darin version (Goodman-1948, Williams-1955).
More recent versions include covers by Lawrence Welk, Martin Denny, Bent Thalmay, Dick Jordan, Helen Shapiro, Johnny Mathis, We Five, The Sandpipers, Sacha Distel, George Benson, Bobby Caldwell, Carol Welsman, Eric Comstock, Gene Nery, Robbie Williams, Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart, Miguel Bosé and others.
An Italian version with lyrics by Pasquale Panella and made famous by Sergio Cammariere
In 2008, it was covered in Dutch but with new lyrics Herman Pieter de Boer rather than the 1970 lyrics. It was performed as a jazz tune by Rob de Nijs.
IMDb lists twenty-five instances where either "La Mer" or "Beyond the Sea" have been used in various media, including:
- La Rafle (The Round Up)
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sung by Julio Iglesias (2011)
- Ein starkes Team: Das grosse Fressen (2009)
- Hello My Love (2009)
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) (2007)
- Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007)
- Saturday Night Live (2007)
- Man Of The Year (2006)
- Angel-A (2005)
- Beyond the Sea sung by Kevin Spacey (2004)
- The Dreamers (2003)
- Finding Nemo sung by Robbie Williams (2003)
- Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
- Bains-douches (2001)
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
- A Life Less Ordinary (1997)
- French Kiss sung by Kevin Kline (1995)
- Funny Bones (1995)
- Apollo 13 (1995)
- Bitter Moon (1992)
- L.A. Story (1991) (opening credits)
- Father of the Bride (1991)
- I Love You AB (1991)
- Goodfellas (1990)
- Édith et Marcel (1983)
- A Safe Place (1971)
- Le sang des bêtes (1949)
- Every Girl Should Be Married (1948)
- Derrick: Episode 7 "Madeira" (1975)
- The X-Files: Season 1: Episode 13 "Beyond the Sea" (1994)
- From the Earth to the Moon: Episode 1 "Can we do This?" (1998)
- Lost: Season 1: Episode 12 "Whatever the Case May Be" (2004)
- The Simpsons: Season 21: Episode 19 "The Squirt and the Whale" (2010)
- The song was featured in a film that was shot by Fabien Baron during the photo sessions for Madonna's Sex book.
- In the video game Suikoden IV, the opening animated sequence uses an arrangement of the song performed by Yasuhiro Kobayashi ("Coba").
- In the videogame BioShock and its sequel BioShock 2, the song is used throughout the game on jukeboxes and loud hailers. The song can only be heard in the special edition of BioShock 2.
- The song is used as the theme music for the South Australian Tourism Commission's Cellar Door television ad.
- The song is used anachronistically in episode of "Foyle's War" titled "The French Drop".
- The song was featured on a Scott Hicks commercial for South Australia's wine industry called "200 Cellar Doors".
- Charles Trénet's recording of 'La Mer' is choreographed in Matthew Bourne's 1989 ballet suite, "Infernal Galop", "a French dance with English subtitles", in which a merman seduces three matelots.