“Dernier Sourire” was included into the B side of the Sans Logique single in 1988.
This moving song tackles the theme of the disappearance of a loved one. With simple words, Mylene evokes the passage of the state of living to that of death through a description an ill-person in the process of dying in a hospital room, and the injustice felt in this kind of situation.
Although many insinuate the song is about AIDS and how heart-breaking it is to lose the loved ones to the terrible disease, the truth might be much more personal to Mylene.
Mylene’s father Max Gautier died (unexpectedly) on July 11, 1986 (she was only 24!), and perhaps in the lyrics, she tells him some things she had not had time to say when he was alive? Who in such a young age thinks that they might lose their parent? She was just a rising star full of plans for the future and this sudden loss of her dad who as we know was her supporter and an ally, must have come as a total shock. No wonder, it took her some time to come to terms and grieve such a devastating loss. He was 61 year old.
It is very little known about Max Gautier. We know he came from well educated background and married Mylene’s mother Marguerite Martin with whom he had 4 children – Mylene is being a child # 3.
Born in Marseille (Mylène talks about it during her concert on June 14, 1996 there) on March 19, 1925. He was a bridge and road engineer. He was working on the construction of the Manicouagan dam in Canada when Mylène was born. In the last years of his life, he was an executive of the Coyne & Bellier company.
Marguerite outlived him by 30 years almost to the day and passed away in July 2016.
In 1992, Mylene re-recorded the song for the album Urgence, bringing together 27 artists for AIDS research, the profits of which were donated to the Institut Pasteur. A project initiated by Etienne Daho.
While doing the genealogy research on Mylene, I actually came across her family tree (how awesome is that!) Here is her mom and dad timelines. Did you know she is related to the Saint Claire clan on the paternal side? It is one of the oldest blood lines in Europe. I also love that “claire” means “pure, clear, transparent”
The St Claire family crest is also just amazed me. Look what it said on top “entends-toi” (Do you hear?)
The earliest mention of the St Claires is, of course, in France from where they took their name back in the 10th century.
Charles ‘the Simple’ of France offered Hrolf ‘the Ganger’ the Province of Neustria and his daughter Gizelle in marriage if Hrolf (known as Rollo in France) would cease his raiding of the French coast. That Treaty (912) was signed at Castle St Clair-sur-Epte and it is from that place the St Clairs take their name. Neustria soon became known as Norse-man’s-land or Normandy. Hrolf soon added Brittany and the Channel Islands to his Duchy.
His marriage to Gizelle was childless so all subsequent Dukes of Normandy (and St Clairs) are descended from Hrolf’s first wife, Popa, the daughter of Count Berenger of Bayeux. Within three generations St Clairs are to be found in every Province of France and Alsace.
The first St Clair to arrive in Scotland accompanied Margaret (later St Margaret) from Hungary in 1057. He was William ‘the Seemly’ St Clair.
The English Sinclairs arrived in force with their cousin, William ‘the Conqueror’ in 1066 and, again within three generations, are to be found with land in 43 English Counties and in Wales. Wow! no?
Ok but back to the song…it has “a classic accompaniment, a simple melody and no refrain”. After being chosen instead of “Que mon cœur lâche” to feature on Urgence , the song was especially re-recorded in a new version, becoming the anthem of people who come at the end of life and appeared to be as “a kind of cruel poem about the end of life and the injustice of death which blows too quickly our candles”.
Farmer performed the song first on 1 November 1989 on French television show Sacrée Soirée on TF1.
It was originally scheduled to be performed during the 1989 tour, but it was eventually replaced by “Puisque…”. It really takes a lot out of her to perform it…I hope Max is watching down at her and makes it all better…
The show takes place while Mylène is on tour with the Tour 89. She takes a few days off to participate. Sacrée Soirée was broadcasted on Wednesdays in prime time on TF1.
Mylène performs “Dernier Sourire” (Last Smile) and receives a diamond album from the hands of Jean-Pierre Foucault (more than a million copies sold) for the album Ainsi soit je… It is then the first diamond disc awarded to a French artist.
The choice of Last smile for this performance is a little surprising as the title is not on the album AINSI SOIT JE… But I am certain it had a special meaning to her. I am glad she made the song and sang the song at that very frightened times: the times of prejudice and blame to which AIDS victims were subjected to. I remember being a teenager in the 80s and how everyone around were saying that this disease (AIDS) is a punishment from God for being gay or having disorderly sexual conduct. I am sure you have heard it too. Of course, it is a shame on us as a humanity for condemning those who suffer out of our own very basic fears. Alas…
But Mylene – thank God – comes with compassion and offers such a profound human sadness and grief to those who suffer and die and those who has to keep on living after losing the love of their lives. At that time not many celebrities would come forward and admit that they lost their loved ones to AIDS.
But as time went on, we learned about George Michael and his partner Anselmo who died in 1992 leaving George heart-broken and never fully recovered from the loss – hope they together now at last
We learned about Mylene’s close friend Jean-Paul Gaultier who also suffered a personal loss of his boyfriend and business partner, Francis Menuge in 1990 to AIDS. And many many more…
Including Freddie Mercury who left us on November 24, 1991.
Only a few years earlier (in April 1987), Princess Diana opened the UK’s first purpose-built HIV/Aids unit that exclusively cared for patients infected with the virus, at London Middlesex Hospital.
In front of the world’s media, Princess Diana shook the hand of a man suffering with the illness.
She did so without gloves, publicly challenging the notion that HIV/Aids was passed from person to person by touch.
She showed in a single gesture that this was a condition needing compassion and understanding, not fear and ignorance. We lost over 32 million people to AIDS since it started. Let’s never forget them please
The song was sung during the Mylenium Tour; when performing on stage, Mylene wore a white transparent dress and used no choreography accompanied only by Yvan Cassar on the piano, in the end she began to cry (just like she did when singing Rever and in some extend the songs are connected as if evolving into each other)
The video I and sharing here is beautifully synchronized with English translation curtesy of Mylene’s big fan and the owner of YouTube channel Peter Ferrera who also happened to live in her home town Montreal and is a biggest supporter of this project since the very day it started. Check his work out – its truly amazing!
The song is beautiful in its originality and leaves no dry eyes in the house (including Mylene herself). Her such a strong attachment to her vulnerability becomes the signature starting with En concert of 1989. I recall it very well (watching very poor-quality video) and crying my eyes out every single time. But those are the good tears. It what makes us humans. And that is why we relate to her so well. She is like me and you, she cries, grieves and loses the loved ones…
Dernier Sourire was sung on all Mylenium Tour dates in 1999 and 2000.
Stage arrangements: Yvan Cassar.
As I said earlier, I can’t help but seeing a future Rever in this song which is yet to materialize out of her fertile soul. She only gets better! She only gets deeper and more seasoned (along with Boutonnat)
The title Dernier Sourire never appeared in its studio version on any album.
“Dernier Sourire” was covered by Michał Kwiatkowski on a weekly program of Star Academy France, in 2003, but his version was not released as a single.
When you listen carefully to this song, you can hear Mylène singing “la couteau dans mon plaie” (instead of “le couteau dans ma plaie”). Perhaps, she wanted to be distinct from Serge Gainsourg and the song “Le couteau dans le play écrite” written for Jane Birkin in 1987.
Especially since Mylène very regularly cited Serge Gainsbourg among her favorite singers in the 80s and also attended one of his concerts at the Zénith in Paris in 1988.
Or, perhaps, we will never know unless Mylene one day will tell us… Mylene??
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lyrics with translation
Sentir ton corps,
Tout ton être qui se tord,
Souriant de douleur,
Sentir ton heure,
Poindre au coeur d’une chambre
Qui bannit le mot tendre,
Sentir ta foi,
Qui se dérobe à chaque fois
Que tu sembles comprendre,
Parles moi encore…
Si tu t’endors,
Si c’est ton souhait,
Je peux t’accompagner…Qui te condamne ?
Au nom de qui ?
Mais qui s’acharne à souffler tes bougies ?
Est-ce te mentir ?
Est-ce te trahir ?
Si je t’invente des lendemains qui chantent…
Vois-tu le noir de ce tunnel ?
Sais-tu l’espoir quand jaillit la lumière ?
Ton souvenir ne cessera jamais
De remuer le (la) couteau dans mon (ma) plaie
Feel your body,
Your whole being writhing,
Smiling in pain,
Feeling your time,
Pointer in the heart of a room
Which banishes the word tender,
Feel your faith,
That slips away every time
That you seem to understand,
Talk to me again…
If you fall asleep,
If that’s your wish,
I can go with you…Who condemns you?
In whose name?
But who is trying to blow out your candles?
Is it lying to you?
Is it betraying you?
If I invent a bright future for you…
Do you see the darkness of this tunnel?
Do you know the hope when the light comes?
Your memory will never stop
To stir the knife in my wound