Covers we missed 3: Ain’t Talkin (Le feu Au Coeur)

I don’t know what it means either: an index to the current series appearing on this website.

For more details on this new series on cover versions of Dylan songs that were not previously considered in the last series, please see the intro to the previous article in this series.


by Jürg Lehmann

Ain’t talkin’… There is of course Bettye LaVette with her vivid interpretation, but I would like to draw attention to another version (as far as I can see the only one noteworthy apart from LaVette): Bertrand Belin with his Le Feu au Coeur

I’ll go into a little more detail here because the song is in French.

Basically, I have a big problem with translations of Dylan songs, although I can’t judge many creations because I don’t understand the language – the numerous Scandinavian covers for example (Näslund, Wiehe, Forsberg, Larholm, Arve-Gunnar Heloy to name just a few), the Czech (Robert Krestan&Druha trava), Polish (, Dutch (Ernst Jansz), Catalan (Gerard Quintana, Jordi Batiste) etc.

I am sure that all these people made a great contribution to the reception and popularity of Dylan in their countries and languages. This also applies to the most important Dylan interpreters who have translated into languages that I understand and speak: Wolfgang Niedecken into German, Francesco de Gregori into Italian, Hugues Aufray into French.

But it’s like Robert Frost said: Poetry is what gets lost in translation and if you want to preserve the poetry in Dylan’s songs, you have to be your own poet. I don’t know any singer who can really do that (not even de Gregori). In my opinion they often fail because they stay too close to Dylan’s text and they disregard the poetic melody in their own language (if you translate ghost of electricity as Geist der Elektrizität into German, you are literally killing the song).

The art must be to find a balance between the original text and your own interpretation. I think that’s exactly what Belin has achieved (the title alone announces something distinctive, autonomous: fire in the heart), his text is very beautiful poetry, the musical performance is perfect.

I did a little experiment to illustrate my thoughts, and that was to translate Belin’s text back into English (actually AI did it, not me):

Dylan Belin Back translation from Belin
As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden
The wounded flowers were dangling from the vines
I was passing by yon cool and crystal fountain
Someone hit me from behindAin’t talkin’, just walkin’Through this weary world of woe
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
No one on earth would ever know

Comme la nuit, je m’avance dans ce jardin

Aucune fleur debout, pas de parfum

À la fontaine, au chant glacé de son eau

Je sens l’ennemi dans mon dos


Je me tais, j’avance

Dans ce jardin noir de bleu

Le feu au cœur, j’avance

Tous ignorant tout de ce feu


Like the night, I walk through this garden

No flowers standing, no perfume

At the fountain, at the icy song of its water

I feel the enemy at my back



I keep silent, I move forward

In this blue-black garden

Fire in my heart, I move forward

All unaware of this fire

The poetry is again lost in the re-translation, of course, but the point here is to show how Belin writes his own lyrics and still stays in Dylan’s song.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything from Belin on the subject of translation (maybe we should try to get an interview with him…). I only found something on his facebook account about the creation of Le feu au coeur: J’habitais à Porto lorsque l’album Modern Times de Bob Dylan est sorti. Il est vite devenu une sorte de compagnon qui m’aidait à supporter la solitude dans laquelle je m’étais moi même plongé, venu chercher les conditions nécessaires à l’écriture de mon premier livre ‘ sortie de route ’. La chanson Ain’t Talkin’, en particulier transportait me par sa grâce et la profondeur obscure de son propos. Une épique clameur du monde. Une chanson monde.

It was Syd Matters’ invitation to sing at the Philharmonie de Paris concert on the occasion of the Dylan exhibition that gave me the idea for this adaptation. Since then, I’ve never stopped singing it. C’est chose faite.

(I was living in Porto when Bob Dylan’s Modern Times album came out. It quickly became a sort of companion, helping me to cope with the solitude into which I had plunged myself, in search of the conditions I needed to write my first book, ‘sortie de route’. The song Ain’t Talkin’, in particular, transported me with its grace and the obscure depth of its message. An epic clamour of the world. A world song. It was Syd Matters’ invitation to sing at the Philharmonie de Paris concert to launch the Dylan exhibition that gave me the idea for this adaptation. Since then, I’ve been thinking about recording it. And now it’s done).

If you want to write something about Belin’s (musical) biography, you can find many articles on the internet. Here is a link to a song from his last album: In Heaven feat. Erik Truffaz):

Tony’s note: and in case you want more here is the aforementioned Bettye LaVette

The covers we missed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *