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Harlem in MontmartreA Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars$

William Shack

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520225374

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520225374.001.0001

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(p.137) Appendix Zazou Chants

(p.137) Appendix Zazou Chants

Harlem in Montmartre
University of California Press

Je Suis Swing

Johnny Hess and M. Vandair (1938)

  • Negro music and jazz are already old machines
  • now, to be “in the note,” one must have swing.
  • Swing is not a melody
  • swing is not a malady
  • but as soon as you have gotten a taste for it,
  • It grabs you and doesn't let you go.
  • I am swing, oh!
  • I am swing,
  • zazouzazouzazouzazou hé!
  • I am swing, oh!
  • I am swing.
  • It's crazy! It's crazy how it makes me tipsy!
  • When I sing a song of love
  • I spice it with a lot of little thingumajigs around.
  • I am swing,
  • I am swing.
  • Zazou, zazou, it's nice as can be!


  • I was going to sing an opera, so I went to see the Director.
  • I wanted to sing Traviata in D Major.
  • First he asked me some questions:
  • “Are you a light tenor, singing bass or baritone?”
  • I answered: “Ah! not at all!”
  • I am swing, oh,
  • I am swing,
  • zazouzazouzazouzazou hé!
  • I am swing, oh.
  • I am swing.
  • It's crazy, it's crazy how it makes me tipsy!
  • When I sing a little tune
  • I frighten the concierge and the neighbors.
  • I am swing,
  • I am swing,
  • zazou zazou, I'm happy as can be!
  • I have a mistress named Beatrice, I am the father of her child,
  • with Simone, I've had two sons in no time,
  • and last month, with Zouzou,
  • I had four children at one go!
  • It's not that I do it on purpose, but what can you do …
  • I am swing, oh!
  • I am swing,
  • zazouzazouzazouzazou hé!
  • I am swing, oh!
  • I am swing.
  • It's crazy, it's crazy how it makes me tipsy.
  • A spirit revealed it to me:
  • It is the rhythm that makes you go wild.
  • I am swing, oh!
  • I am swing,
  • zazou, zazou, I'm having a wonderful time!

(p.139) Ils Sont Zazous

Johnny Hess and M. Martelier (1943)

  • Hair in wild curls
  • eighteen-foot-high collar.
  • Ah! They are zazou!
  • A finger like that in the air
  • a jacket that drags on the ground.
  • Ah! They are zazou!
  • They wear pants of an outrageous cut
  • that reach a little above their knees
  • and, in rain or wind they have an umbrella,
  • large dark glasses, and there, that's all.
  • They look as if they are sick of it all,
  • these little crackpots.
  • Ah! They are zazou!
  • One day, a good old notaire fresh from his province
  • arrived (in Paris) for the big business of executing two testaments.
  • He looked very dignified but as the fashion of today
  • is about the same as of 1900,
  • two young zazous exclaimed when they saw him:
  • “How distinguished he looks
  • with his eighteen-foot collar!
  • Ah! How zazou he is,
  • this good old notaire, jacket dragging on the ground.
  • Ah! How zazou he is!”
  • He didn't realize, this very distinguished notaire,
  • that he was, to such an extent, zazou
  • for all his clothes had come down from his grandfather
  • the jacket collar and all the rest.
  • He was very surprised
  • to be noticed like that
  • by all the zazous.


  • Back home, the notaire flabbergasted all his friends.
  • He walked the finger in the air at first but soon it became worse.
  • This malady was caught by his daughter, his wife,
  • his clerk, his dog.
  • In a word the whole family, all of them became zazou.
  • In the town, when they took a walk, people thought they were crazy.
  • When they saw them pass by,
  • the good people exclaimed:
  • “Ho, Ho! there come the zazous!”
  • After long reflection
  • the doctor in consultation
  • declared: “They are zazous!”
  • It is a disease a little peculiar,
  • pretty soon all symptoms will disappear
  • with a good cure of Polka from our grandmothers.
  • Then, looking at himself, he said: “Ho, Ho!”
  • My hair all in wild curls,
  • my eighteen-foot-high collar.
  • But … But … I am zazou
  • just like the notaire.
  • My jacket drags on the ground
  • but, then, I am zazou!
  • And if it is but a question of clothing,
  • then I am the most zazou among us
  • for my frock coat drags all the way to the ground.
  • I must admit:
  • the doctor had understood
  • that there resided the spirit of all the zazous.
  • Zazou.