J’attendrai is one of those songs that, when you first hear it, you want to play it on the guitar and sing it in performance. The melody is perfect. I have yet to see a performance of the song that didn’t glide with a gracious humanity.
Translated from French as — “I Will Wait” — J’attendrai was first made popular in 1938 by Rina Ketty and was written by Dino Olivier and Nino Rastelli. J’attendrai is the hallmark song for the start of World War II as people all over the world prepared for an uncertain and dramatic future:
I will wait night and day,
I will wait forever,
For you to come back, I will wait, [I will wait]
For the bird flying away
Comes to seek oblivion in its nest.
Time flies and runs,
Beating sadly in my oh so heavy heart
And yet I will wait for you to come back
The most resonant, historic, performance of J’attendrai belongs to magnificent Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and expert violinist Stéphane Grappelli.
For a more modern take, here’s Tchavolo Schmitt playing J’attendrai with his fine trio:
My favorite J’attendrai performance of all time — so far! — is this one by a lovely trio of musicians who honor the French ancestry of the song, the historic guitar swing of Gypsy Jazz, and then take the next step to add a more modern sound with the saxophone to give the whole song a deeper edge and a harder airiness that lifts the spirit of the listener:
It amazes me how only certain songs endure to become a classic; and they get there by resisting total transformation. As long as the melody endures, the rest of the song has a chance of standing against the test of timing and meandering tastes.
J’attendrai is one of those classic songs that grabs you from the present and drags you into the past. The power of J’attendrai in performance is in the everlasting yearning for a return to a more innocent time of love and compassion and you honor that emotion by keeping the direness of the separation alive — even in the quickening beats of a modern rendering of the up-down la pompe of a wailing Gypsy Jazz guitar.