If You Go Away

Original version

Alternative take

The Un triste dj remix


If You Go Away
Music with French lyrics written by Jacques Brel.
The English lyrics penned by Rod McKuen.

Released in 1967 on the Album And We Were Lovers and on a single. The UK album contained a version arranged by Ernie Freeman and the US and Spain album contained another arrangement by Marty Paich. This recording has also been released 1967/68 on an Italian 7″ single (UA 3144, “E’ Giorno” on the B-side). The song is available digitally remastered on many CD collections.
A new remix of this song by Mark Brydon from “Moloko” has been released in 2000 on The Remix Album…Diamonds Are Forever. Moloko is a British band founded 1995/96. In addition to Mark Brydon, Roisin Murphy belongs to it as vocalist, but because for this remix Shirley Bassey had already done the vocals a long time before, Murphy didn’t have to sing for this track.
Before Shirley Bassey, this song had been performed by Jacques Brel in French: “Ne Me Quitte Pas”. Later Rod McKuen wrote English lyrics to the song and performed successfully. Besides Shirley Bassey some other famous artists have performed this song. 1992 New Kids On The Block reached position No. 16 in the US Billboard with this song.
Jacques Brel wrote the original French version “Ne Me Quitte Pas” of this song. He was born in Belgian and became one of France’s most beloved and enduring musical figures as well as a composer of international renown. At the age of 23 on a whim he quit his job and relocated the family to Paris to pursue a career as a songwriter; living in abject poverty, he struggled to find takers for his compositions, finally realizing he would be best served by performing them himself. Because of his own experiences he showed a strong persona in his stage-show and became known as both romantic and embittered.
Some of his songs earned recognition throughout Europe, winning acclaim for their literate power and acute social commentary. His bleak songs exposed the injustice, hypocrisy and inhumanity he perceived as endemic in contemporary society. He never earned a hit record in America, but some of his songs after translation into English and performance by other artists, like this song for example and “If We Only Have Love” which has also been performed by Shirley Bassey. The last one is from a musical production “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well, and Living in Paris”.
In 1967 after Jacques Brel had given many performances, he retired from the concert stage. He then acted in some films. In 1978 Jacques Brel died of cancer.
Rod McKuen, who penned the English words to this song is a famous singer, poet and composer. He has composed more than 900 songs of which many are well known, like this one for example. His songs have been performed by many famous artists around the world. He earned more than 40 gold and platinum records worldwide. During the ’50s, McKuen had worked as a vocalist with Lionel Hampton’s band.
Besides pop/rock songs, Rod McKuen has written both film and classical music. His scores for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” have earned him two Academy Award nominations. His symphonies, concertos, suites and song cycles have been performed by orchestras throughout the world and are guaranteed to bring in large audiences. “The City: A Suite for Narrator and Orchestra” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. Another passion of the prolific singer/composer is writing poetry, which takes up most of his time. Rod McKuen has written more than 40 books. His poetry is studied in schools, colleges, universities and seminaries around the world. In his literary career, Rod McKuen earned the Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman Awards for poetry and the Brandeis University Literary Trust Award for his contributions to poetry. The lyrics to this song are a fine example of his poetry abilities.
After Rod McKuen had received the test-pressing of the album “And We Were Lovers” including Shirley’s version of his song, he wrote to Shirley Bassey:
Dear Shirley,
It’s been a bang-bang day. Too much work. Too much work undone. An hour ago, the test pressing of your album arrived and I used it as an excuse to begin unwinding.
Maybe it’s the scotch. Maybe it’s the time of evening and the fact that I’m by myself – whatever, i am unwinding and next to me is that probing, prying voice of yours – now warm, now cold as an iceberg, coaxing out my song and a brilliant programme of other tunes.
Thank You for singing If You Go Away. Thank you for doing something different with it. Also, thank you for singing everything you sing. Most of all, thank you for being beautiful always and in all ways – and tonight, thanks for helping me to let go.
I love you, Rod McKuen.


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 birds’ 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 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 hold in 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 you might have kept me by your side
If you go away, if you go away, if you go away
(Transcribed by Roman)