“Happy Sad”

The word “saudade” (sow-DAH-djee) is at the heart of bossa nova. While difficult to translate, it means, roughly, a longing, yearning and sadness, all felt simultaneously. It’s often associated with homesickness, but it can apply to a feeling for a person or thing also. The most poetic translation I’ve seen for it is “happy sad.”

From the moment I first saw those two words together, I knew I wanted to write a song with that title. Without getting too analytical about it, I believe that my basic disposition is, and always has been, happy sad. I’ll sometimes see pictures of myself when I was a little kid, like three or four years old, and I have such a melancholy expression on my face. What could possibly be weighing on my mind? By all accounts, I was a pretty happy kid. But there was always an undercurrent of sadness there too.

I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to Brazilian music. French music too.

I wrote the melody to this song and tried to put words to it. Months passed. Nothing stuck except that title line. Finally, I gave the melody to one of my favorite collaborators, Boo Hewerdine. Accomplished pro that he is, he came back to me in a matter of days with the perfect lyric.

There’s an alternate version of this song with a lush string chart. But in the end, we felt like the combination of the trombone and the alto flute were a more complimentary color to Molly’s vocal, and the song.

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One Response to “Happy Sad”

  1. Rich says:

    Great explanation of the essence of bossa nova, happy sad.

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