If You Go Away

Posted on June 19, 2013 by Robert Ringer Comments (12)

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If you go away, on this summer day,
Then you might as well take the sun away.
All the birds that flew in the summer sky,
When our love was new and our hearts were high.
When the day was young and the night was long,
And the moon stood still for the night bird song.
If you go away, if you go away, if you go away.

But if you stay, I’ll make you a day
Like no day has been or will be again.
We’ll sail on the sun, we’ll ride on the rain,
We’ll talk to the trees and worship the wind.
Then if you go, I’ll understand,
Leave me just enough love to fill up my hand.
If you go away, if you go away, if you go away.

If you go away, as I know you will,
You must tell the world to stop turning till
You return again, if you ever do,
For what good is love without loving you?
Can I tell you now, as you turn to go,
I’ll be dying slowly till the next hello.
If you go away, if you go away, if you go away.

But if you stay, I’ll make you a night
Like no night has been or will be again.
I’ll sail on your smile, I’ll ride on your touch,
I’ll talk to your eyes that I love so much.
But if you go, I won’t cry,
Though the good is gone from the word goodbye.
If you go away, if you go away, if you go away.

If you go away, as I know you must,
There’ll be nothing left in the world to trust.
Just an empty room full of empty space,
Like the empty look I see on your face.
I’d have been the shadow of your dog
If I thought it might have kept me by your side.
If you go away, if you go away, if you go away.

Lyrics by Jacques Brel/Rod McKuen

© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., CARLIN AMERICA INC

 

My take:

This is Rod McKuen’s English adaptation of Jacques Brel’s French classic, “Ne me quitte pas.”  McKuen was a legendary poet and songwriter for many decades beginning in the sixties, and “If You Go Away” is arguably his best work.  The word dramatic doesn’t even begin to describe the powerful words McKuen wove into this magnificent song.

The lyrics reflect the words of someone sadly saying goodbye to their lover, all the while hoping that the lover will change their mind and stay.  The song is poignant and brilliant from the opening words — “If you go away, on this summer day, then you might as well take the sun away.”  Is there anyone around who can write lyrics like this today?  I think not.

It continues with the vivid, clever references “All the birds that flew in the summer sky, when our love was new and our hearts were high” and “When the day was young and the night was long, and the moon stood still for the night bird song.”  I don’t know of any other song that contains as many vivid, visual words as this one.  No question about it, McKuen was a master poet.

This melodic poem has not only been recorded by scores of major performers, but it seems as though each of them took license to change words, move stanzas around, and even leave out one or more stanzas.  However, I believe the lyrics I’ve posted above are as near to the original version as you will find.

Neil Diamond’s rendition of “If You Go Away” has always been my personal favorite, but, unfortunately, I could only locate a still YouTube version online.  So, instead, I’ve posted a video of the once super-sexy Shirley Bassey (and she ain’t doing that bad even at age seventy-six) performing the song.

The lyrics to “If You Go Away” almost make “Solitaire” and “Yesterday When I Was Young” sound upbeat by comparison.  I have to warn you, if you have a pulse, it’s bound to leave you drained.  That said, sit back, close your eyes, and relax — but to protect your ticker, try not to think about that long lost love of yesteryear.

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

12 responses to “If You Go Away”

  1. Helen Spingola says:

    A real heart-tugger….

  2. Gary Waltrip says:

    I remember reading Rod McKuen's poetry back in the Sixties. There was a collection titled "In Someone's Shadow." McKuen truly felt and expressed the slew of emotions that love brings.

    "Ne me quitte pas" literally means "Don't leave me." Thanks for the inspiration of this post.

  3. Ann says:

    I was warned. Had to stop mid-song. Too much to do today to have my heart broken again.
    I'll try again tonight with a glass of wine.

  4. Pitch says:

    Certainly a one in a million work of art. Here is the best cover of this song by the world's most definitive example of a World Class Lady>>>Patricia Kaas. By the way, this was from her movie with Jeromy Irons; "And Now Ladies & Gentlemen." A beautiful little gem of a movie about the overwhelming healing power of Love! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKUHc_knYBE

  5. Teri says:

    But "if you go away", it probably means you weren't needed anyway. Ya have to look at the bright side!

  6. Joyce Clark says:

    I cannot hear this song without sobbing!! Neil diamonds version that is.

  7. Wynn Free says:

    Years ago I wrote a song on the same theme – The End of the Rainbow is Blue

    I never knew what sorrow was
    Till you walked out the door.
    I never knew the lonliness
    of seeing you no more.
    I never knew the longing
    Of no one to come home to.
    No one ever told me
    The end of the rainbow was blue.

    I never thought the good times
    Would ever come to end.
    I never thought i'd ever lose
    The smile of my special friend.
    I never thought the day would come
    When my love would be refused
    No one ever told me
    The end of the rainbow is blue.

    When you're laughing in the springtime
    No one tells about the winter frost.
    While you glory in a love that's found,
    No one tells you bout the story of a love that's lost.

    I always thought that rainy days would
    End with loving you.
    No one ever told me
    The end of the rainbow is blue.

  8. Mike Hooker says:

    Hi, Robert,
    I'd never heard of this song before. But I liked it enough to buy Ms. Bassey's version and download it to my Amazon Cloud Player.

    Thanks for writing about it.

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