Here it is, a beautiful day on the first weekend of Spring.  I had intended to pick Madeline Peyroux’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” as the Song of the Week.  It is not particularly about Spring, but, to me at least, Madeline’s performance conjures a feeling of the season.  However, as I was looking on the internet to try to find the copyright information, I was reminded of her song, “The Things I’ve Seen Today.”

Madeline Peyroux has a name and a voice that make you certain she is a French chanteuse, and possibly a reincarnation of Edith Piaf.  In fact, she was born in Georgia (the American State, not the European country) in 1974.  She has described her parents as “hippies” and “educators.”  When she was a child, her family moved several times as her father, a college professor, accepted positions in Georgia, Southern California and New York.  Her parents divorced when she was 11 years old.  She and her brother then moved to Paris (the one in France) with her mother.  So there you have your French chanteuse.

Madeline seems to have been a rebellious child.  She did not fit in well at the French schools, so she was sent to an English boarding school – the kind with bars on the widows.  Upon her return to Paris she began hanging out with street musicians, and in her later teen years she toured Europe singing and playing guitar with various other musicians.

She recorded her first album, Dreamland, in 1976.  It featured covers of old standards by the likes of Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Edith Piaf.  Each of those – as well as others, like Ella Fitzgerald – have definitely influenced Madeline’s style; yet it is her own beautiful voice that makes the stylization work so well.

Madeline Peyroux is best known for her cover versions of songs written by others.  “The Things I’ve Seen Today” is an original song which she co-wrote with violinist/vocalist Jenny Scheinman.  It appeared on Madeline’s 2011 album Standing on the Rooftop, which did not sell very well in the United States.

Jenny Scheinman seems like an interesting person, about whom I would like to learn little more.  She grew up in Northern California in what she says is the “westernmost house in the continental United States.”  It was an isolated area where the few residents formed a high school with only six students so they would not have to send their children two hours away to the public high school.  That was where Jenny learned music.  She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and then began performing professionally.

She was influenced by an interesting family.  She said they lived outdoors in the summer and that her parents were folk musicians with whom she traveled extensively around the US and Europe.  Her grandfather was Telford Taylor, a brigadier general in World War II and the chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.  He was a vocal opponent of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s and of the Vietnam War in the 1960s.  Her uncle is Victor Scheinman who was a pioneer in robotics and teaches mechanical engineering at Stanford.

I think her activist grandfather would be proud of her for collaboration with Canadian musician/activist Bruce Cockburn for several years in the Bruce Cockburn Trio.

So, without further ado, here is Madeline Peyroux performing “The Things I’ve Seen Today.”

The Things I’ve Seen Today
By Madeline Peroux and Jenny Scheinman

The things I’ve seen today
don’t have a name
some memories
a word cannot explain

they last too long
or they fade too fast
beginnings change
and endings wane

they lack effect
and cause
at times they seem so poor
all they give is pause

the things I’ve seen today
I’d seen before
likely in that way
they’ll be back once more

some sunny days
the scene unfolds a trace
in this game where the player has no face
he plays a hand that lost
just to understand at any cost

the things I’ve seen today
don’t have a name
some memories a word cannot explain

but when I finally land
across that line
please remember me as one who tried her mind
every time.

© Pennywell Productions, Inc., under exclusive license to Universal International Music B.V., a Universal Music Group Company


  1. Very nice! I revisited Bruce Cockburn as well, whose guitar styling reminded me of John Fahey. Remember The Yellow Princess? Blew me away the first time I heard it… Thanks, Louis.

    • I think I remember (some days it’s hard) that Bruce Cockburn also reminded me of John Fahey the first time I heard him. He has been playing with virtuosity for a very long time. I was in Canada visiting friends in 1974 – the year of Madeline Peyroux’s birth – and it seemed that everyone up there in the Great White North was listening to his records (he had released 3 or 4 by then). I had heard some of his work before, but I became more of a fan after that trip.

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