LETTER TO A FELLOW SONG TRANSLATOR by Joel Sattler
I have been reading over your stuff time after time
and have been quite delighted by what I did find.
I am a fellow songwriter
who has made numerous "translations" of songs
and I found your insight quite delightful.
I put "translations" in quotes,
because what I am doing is not really translating,
but creating new interpretations
that can actually be sung in English.
As you are, I am sure, quite well aware,
a true translation of a song is usually unsingable.
This makes me a sort of "pirate",
but it's what I can do,
and I'm good at it.
I have to go all the way out,
out to left field to catch the ball.
I mean I sometimes change the meaning
to make the rhyme fine
and the beat neat.
You might find such an attitude as sacriligious,
but it works for me.
So, some of my translated songs
are pretty close to the original lyrics,
some have lines that are different from the original,
and some are completely different.
That is to say,
some are brand new lyrics for the original
I approach these songs from a perspective
in my opinion,
completely different than the way most people write songs:
most people who write songs are musicians.
I am not.
I approach this task from the position of being a poet:
a wordsmith as it were.
Evidently I hear these things much different than the composer does.
This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
To continue with the baseball analogy:
I’m like a batter who can’t hit,
but is as fast as greased lightning.
A “pinch runner” who can steal bases with ease.
Some of my heroes in this business
were people who seem to me to be just like me:
Johnny Mercer, Vinicius de Moraes, Leonard Cohen, etc.
The major difference is that these guys
could and did sing and make albums,
and I sing like a stuck frog.
what the hell…