Monday, December 28, 2009

What Can I Say Monday? "Cherchez La Femme"

"Cherchez La Femme" by the oddly-titled Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band is one of the more unusual--and memorable--hits of the mid-1970s.

The 1976 song is one part Big Band; one part Disco: an intelligently-written ditty of misfortune and heartbreak with a killer hook--"Cherchez La Femme"--and the sweet, twinkling vocals of lead singer Cory Daye. (Patti Austin sang background on the track.)

"Cherchez" was co-written by Buzzard band member August Darnell, who is playing bass in the above video, and his brother Stony. In the video, you'll note the group omits the middle part of the song which tells of Miggie Bonija, a woman tired of living in debt who nonetheless cheats on her hard-working man and, as Daye sings, she "goes next door, I know that she's just playing the whore." (Before Springer and Povich, kids, you couldn't really call a woman a "whore" on daytime TV.)

By the way, Darnell himself found success in the 1980s as Kid Creole, zoot-suited frontman of Kid Creole & the Coconuts:

"Cherchez" has held up over the years. Gloria Estefan did a remake in the 1990s. And in 2000, Ghostface Killah nicely borrowed from "Cherchez" for his "Cherchez LaGhost":

So what does the title mean? It's a French phrase that means if a man is in some kind of trouble, "look for the woman" to be the cause of it somehow. Writer Alexandre Dumas created the reference in the 1860s (he actually wrote "cherchons la femme") in the novel "The Mohicans of Paris," in a passage where a detective figures a woman was at the root of a crime. A Google search shows O Henry used the phrase in 1909, "Ah! yes, I know most time when those men lose money you say 'Cherchez la femme' - there is somewhere the woman."

See what you can learn by visiting the Soul Closet?


Piston said...

Maybe he'll find her,
maybe he won't.

Rumtoad said...

Interesting take on this song. Thanks!