Bon, si bon

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard it. It was Sara Mosely’s  birthday party and we were in kindergarten.  We were playing musical chairs and an older girl was turning the radio – tuned to CHUM FM – on and off for the game. And then I heard it:

Well, I’m on my way
To the city lights
To the pretty face that shines her light
On the city nights
And I gotta catch a noon train
I gotta be there on time
Oh it feels so good to know she waits
At the end of the line

It was 1971 and the song was “Sweet City Woman,” by Canadian band The Stampeders, from Calgary, Alberta. Was it the banjo accompaniment or the lyrics that grabbed me? I wasn’t the only one who was transfixed by this song. It went to number 1 on the Canadian charts and number 8 on the American. The following year, it won a Juno at the Canadian music awards.

Sweet, sweet city woman
I can see your face, I can hear your voice
I can almost touch you
Sweet, sweet city woman
Oh my banjo and me
We got a feel for singing, yeah, yeah

Whatever it was, I didn’t want the girl to turn the radio off for the next round of musical chairs. I just wanted to listen.

Bon, si bon, bon, bon, si bon, bon
Bon, si bon, bon, bon, bon, bon
Bon, si bon, bon, bon, si bon, bon
Bon, si bon, bon, bon, bon, bon
So long Ma, so long Pa
So long neighbours and friends

That was it! Long before I learned French for the first time, here was a chorus in French and English. I had no idea that the peppy lyrics meant, “Good, so good, good, so good, good.” They sound a whole lot better in French, don’t they?

Like a country morning
All smothered in dew
She’s got a way to make a man
Feel shiny and new
And she’ll sing in the evening
Old familiar tunes
And she feeds me love and tenderness
And macaroons

Now let’s keep with the French theme for a minute. What if she was feeding him, not macaroons (as delightful as those moist coconut cookies are), but macarons, the French confection made of delicate meringue layers sandwiched together with something exotic? What if the mysterious Sweet City Woman was French, Parisian even? Since there’s no train from Canada to France, the mystery woman is more likely from Montréal. Still pretty exotic to a little girl from Stouffville, Ontario.

Sweet, sweet city woman
Oh my sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet city woman
Sweet, sweet city woman
Oh my sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet city woman

All I know is that every time I hear it, I’m six years old again. It’s part of the soundtrack of my life. I have it on the “Jogging” play-list on my iPod and whenever it comes up in the rotation, I can run a little farther and a little faster. And that is bon, si bon.

Sweet City Woman

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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6 Responses to Bon, si bon

  1. Cliff Gilbert says:

    I’m the one singing the chorus now.

  2. You’ve got company! “Soooo long, Ma, sooooo long, Pa.”

  3. What a hoot! I know that song. Did not know it was Canadian. How about “American Woman” by (Canadians) The Guess Who? That’s a keeper for me from 1970. “You can keep your war machines. You can keep your ghetto scenes.”

  4. Mariaroza Opperman says:

    Oh oh oh!! I think I may have received the wrong information way back……..Does Cliff like Macarons or Macaroons???? I baked the wrong things, pardon!! but who can resist coconut, non??? Sorry Cliff, now I owe you!!

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