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La tendresse d’en haut

"A friend in need is a friend indeed"

 - (Linus) Charles Shultz 



words & music: Mike Ford 2017


Mille-neuf-cent-trente-trois I left my town

In the hard nickel belt

One too many mouths to stick around

To the open road I was dealt

Down to the big city

Like the others I did go

Et je prie pour un peu de la tendresse d'en haut


Partout, partout, y'avait des hommes comme moi

Stranded in the streets of Toronto

Bien peu d'amis, et pas de l'emploi

Only frozen stares, slush and snow

Down into the valley

Like the others I did go

Et je prie pour un peu de la tendresse d'en haut....


UN PEU DE LA TENDRESSE                





Dans la vallée dans les caves pour se chauffer

A dark oasis in the trees

Et la douce voix d'un cœur tendre qui descendait

One of my few pleasant memories

Down into the valley

Her basket overflows

Et je chante un peu de la tendresse d'en haut


In Woody Guthrie's autobiography Bound for Glory, he talks about moving from town to town during the depression, looking for any kind of work - and about times he was so hungry he'd just knock on the door of a house and see if there were any chores he could do for a bite of food.  He vividly describes a woman quickly grabbing some home-fried potatoes off the stove and giving them to him in a brown paper bag and shoeing him away...and how years later he could still see and small that grease-soaked paper bag in his memory, and could still feel the gratitude.

During the depression, many itinerant workers came down to Toronto from northern Ontario, among other places, looking for work.  They had nowhere to stay, so many camped out in the Don Valley.  When winter came, they were able to avoid freezing in an ingenious way. 

At the Brickworks, bricks would be baked in big ovens, and then would be placed in stacks to gradually cool down.  The homeless men found that if they slept on top of these just-backed bricks, they'd be warm, even though it might be 20 below outside.  When police first learned of this, they raided the place and chased the men off, or worse.  The owner of the Brickworks posted a sign (and open letter in the newspaper) declaring that these men where not to be disturbed - that they where there as his guests.  A true hero, he was.

My studies revealed other heroes as well.  It is said that on occasion, housewives who lived in houses at the top of the hill (in north Riverdale, along Chester Hill and other streets) would sometimes come down into Todmorden Mills with food for the homeless workers.  The image called out for a song!

The narrator in this song talks about the hardships of 1933, and how in the valley he just wishes for some tenderness from up above - at first to the heavens, that his fate might improve, and then celebrates the actual kindness that does arrive.  

Other Examples

One of the things we explore in our song workshops is that there are NO RULES in songwriting!  Whatever works to express what you'd like to express.  This applies to Rhyme, Meter, Melody, Song Structure, and so much more, including LANGUAGE.

La tendresse d'en haut expresses the thoughts of a Franco-Ontarian whose come to Toronto during the depression.  I wanted to reflect his newness tot he town by having his thoughts expressed in both English and French.  Check out these other tunes that use more than one language, to wonderful effect:

The Girl from Ipanema /Garota de Ipanema  by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, sung here in Portugese and English by Astrud Gilberto and João Gilberto.



by The Beatles - Paul McCartney using the only French he knows in an effort to communicate his feelings


Les Voyageurs

A song from my 'Canada Needs You' concerts - including many French expressions from the voyageur world.


Song Ideas