“les Copains D’abord” – georges Brassens

We’ve presented songs by Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf, all great French musical legends. Let’s add another to the list! This month we’ll be listening to ‘Les Copains d’abord’ by Georges Brassens.

Brassens was a French musician and poet and often put poetry from famous French writers to song. His style is rather folksy and acoustic, as he usually accompanies himself on a guitar, but that’s what makes the songs rather fun despite their sometimes dark subject matter. He also liked using rather colourful language in some of his songs, so perhaps be a bit careful if you choose to sing them aloud! ‘Les Copains d’abord’ is a song about long-lasting friendships, and has a distinctly nostalgic tune.

It’s a song that is reminiscent of the feeling you have when looking back on old memories with good friends. Brassens wrote the song for a film titled ‘Les copains’ in 1964. But the artist also put great importance in friendships, having some that lasted decades!

Discover more French music HERE.


Non, ce n’était pas le radeau
De la Méduse, ce bateau,
Qu’on se le dis’ au fond des ports,
Dis’ au fond des ports,
Il naviguait en pèr’ peinard
Sur la grand-mare des canards,
Et s’app’lait les Copains d’abord
Les Copains d’abord.

Ses fluctuat nec mergitur
C’était pas d’la littératur’,
N’en déplaise aux jeteurs de sort,
Aux jeteurs de sort,
Son capitaine et ses mat’lots
N’étaient pas des enfants d’salauds,
Mais des amis franco de port,
Des copains d’abord.

C’étaient pas des amis de lux’,
Des petits Castor et Pollux,
Des gens de Sodome et Gomorrh’,
Sodome et Gomorrh’,
C’étaient pas des amis choisis
Par Montaigne et La Boeti’,
Sur le ventre ils se tapaient fort,
Les copains d’abord.

C’étaient pas des anges non plus,
L’Evangile, ils l’avaient pas lu,
Mais ils s’aimaient tout’s voil’s dehors,
Tout’s voil’s dehors,
Jean, Pierre, Paul et compagnie,
C’était leur seule litanie
Leur Crédo, leur Confitéor,
Aux copains d’abord.

There are a number of clever turns of phrase that Brassens uses in this song, but one that is particularly important is the phrase ‘fluctuat nec mergitur’, meaning “is tossed by the waves, but never sinks”. The Latin phrase is the motto of the city of Paris and recent events have shown just how true it is. When we think of the number of terrorist attacks that have hit Paris in the last few years: the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the Stade de France bombing and the Bataclan attack, we see that the city of Paris has certainly suffered.

However, the solidarity and the compassion that the citizens have shown towards each other show that Paris is by no means a defeated city. Artists and internet-users in France reappropriated the saying after the 13th November attacks to show that they wouldn’t cower in the face of such terrorism.