As with literary epics, there are popular songs that rise to the level of an epic. November Rain has the length, the expanse of consciousness, the presence of higher reality beyond the mere lyrics.
Czesław Niemen (1939 – 2004) hailed from Poland’s pre-war eastern Borderlands, or Kresy. He was an ethnic Pole from present-day Belarus and sang with that regional accent. The 1960s were his peak years as a recording artist and he’s best remembered for the hippie aesthetic of that era. Nuclear annihilation weighed on everybody’s mind, whatever side of the Cold War divide one’s accident of birth. He was heavily influenced by American blues and jazz, as you’ll hear in this song.
At around 30 years old for reasons I don’t recall now, I got drunk in my apartment and played The Flowers Of My Land on repeat loop until all the lights went out. It’s a song worth taking another look at. Those flowers — are they a metaphor?… what is this land… what is this “my“…
The song is both trippy and jazzy, anachronistic and timless. That choral female accompaniment carries it over the threshold of epic.
Enjoy. The two verses end at 2:45, and that’s followed by a hypnotic two-minute saxophone solo. Then, like a burst of sunlight after 4:35, the chorus kicks in. The second verse is repeated and then the long choral outro becomes the heart of this song.
Kwiaty Ojczyste / The Flowers Of My Land
Czesław Niemen (1969)
Kwiaty nad Wisłą mazowieckie / Flowers on the banks of the Vistula river
Stokrotki, fiołki i kaczeńce / Daisies, violets and marigolds
Zielone wierchy nad Warszawą / Green treetops over Warsaw
Kwieciste nad domami wieńce. / Floral gardens around the homes.
Kwiaty znad Odry, gąszcze, róże, / Flowers by the Odra river, thickets, roses,
Stukolorowe pióra pawie / Colorful peacock feathers
W parkach Szczecina i Opola / In the parks of Szczecin and Opole
W małych ogródkach pod Wrocławiem… / In little gardens by Wrocław…
Kaliny, malwy białostockie, / Cranberry bushes, hollyhocks from Białystok,
Lubelskie bujne winogrady, / Lublin region’s lush vines
Dziewanny złote pod Zamościem / Golden mulleins near Zamość
I w Kazimierzu białe sady. / And white orchards in Kazimierz.
Kwiaty nad Wisłą, Narwią, Bugiem, / Flowers by the Vistula, Narew, Bug rivers,
Zbierane w słońcu, przy księżycu / Harvested in the sun, by moonlight
Kocham was kwiaty mej ojczyzny / I love you, flowers of my homeland
Nad Odrą, Wartą i Pilicą… / By Odra, Warta and Pilica rivers…