Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Donna Donna - Dona Dona

Seppo Hanski was for a short time one of the most popular Finnish singers in the 60's. He was actually a saxophonist and was more into jazz music, but started his recording career in 1965 cutting a tango tune. Later in the same yea´r his breakthrough came with the "Dona Dona", a song that became the biggest selling record for the latter part of 1965. Seppo had a couple of other big hits but unfortunately he lost his voice in tonsils operation and had to withdraw from the pop scene. The first popular English language version of the song titled as "Donna Donna" was done by Joan Baez on her debut album "Joan Baez" 1960. The original song was written as "Dana Dana" in Yiddish, for the musical play "Esterke" (1940-1941). It was composed by Sholom Secunda, a Jew living in the USA, and the song was written in days of Nazism. The original lyrics tell a story of how "calves are born and soon are slaughtered with no hope of being saved, only those with wing like swallow will not ever be enslaved". Undoubtedly describing the moood of the Jews under Nazis' rule. So quite a long shot from the Finnish version's beautiful poetic verses. I guess a few Finns knew about this background of the song at the time it was a hit.

Here's the pair:

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