Dalena & Don Hồ: Oh My Sweet Love

I had always been attracted to French romantic ballads. The melodies were beautiful and French was exotic, but I never paid much attention due to the language barrier. I only began to appreciate French ballads more when I started listening to Dalena and Don Hồ’s Oh My Sweet Love in Vietnamese and English.

I didn’t (and still don’t) know who translated the lyrics into Vietnamese (no credit was given in the album sleeve), but I loved Dalena’s English translations. Musically, Dalena and Don Hồ were a perfect match. His smoky baritone harmonized with her sweet alto. They both sang in choir before becoming solo singers; therefore, they complemented and backed up each other like two lovely doves.

The opening duet track is an example of their wonderful collaboration. They covered Christophe’s classic “Main Dans La Main” and Dalena translated his lyrics as “Hand in Hand.” I transcribed her English version here:

I’ll love you and forever I’ll love you
You’ll always my first true love
My tenderness, my delight, and my pain
I possess you inside my heart

Someday we will be
Together you and me
Hand in hand will be ever in love
It’s so good to find
Love like yours and mine
Hand in hand through time ever in love

Her translation was so simple yet so sweet. Without knowing French, I assumed that she stayed as faithful to the original context as possible. Don Hồ followed up with a rock ballad “My Love Please Be Happy,” which was a translation from Art Sullivan’s “Adieu Sois Heureuse.” I still know the lyrics to these tunes by heart because I used to transcribe them to learn English and to sing along. Here is Dalena’s translation:

You, who had never wanted me
You, never took a chance to trust me
You, would not open your heart
You, always kept us apart

You, never tried to understand me
You, never interested in waiting
You, passed by without a glance
You, never gave us a chance

Goodbye, please be happy
Goodbye, I send you sadly
To the one that I see
Your heart chosen not to be

Goodbye, please be happy
Goodbye, and go with blessing
To the one that today
Soon will take far away

When I tried to google these songs to see if I can find her translations online, but I could not find any. I went back and transcribed them again so I could keep them here. It was a quick task because I still remember most of the songs. Here is “Oh My Sweet Love,” Dalena’s translation of Christophe’s “Oh Mon Amour”:

My love had eyes that see the sea
Through torrential rain falling fast
He lost a dream to cotton clouds
That hear him crying as they pass
The day and hour far beyond
Nothing but tears possessed his heart
The tears I caused

Oh my sweet love, please hear me now
Life waits for you to live somehow
Don’t be afraid somehow you must know
I am here to stay, I’ll never go
I’ll give to you all of my heart
All of my love, all of my life

Her lyrics were so straightforward that even with my limited English back then I could still understand the words. But there are some words that I still could not make out even today. In “Love is a Story of Love,” a translation from “La Vie C’est Une Histoire D’amour,” by Christophe, I could not figure out some of the words; therefore, I put brackets around them. She performed this song solo:

In spite of what you may be thinking
I tell you now that my heart is broken
For when you left the night decided never to end
Life for me had just begun when
You took your love and walk away, and
If there is a happy ending
On you it depends

But this is life, it’s the story of love
I love you, I need you forever
Yes, this is life, it’s the story of love
I love you, I need you and ever

As you turn to go away now
Remember this my dying day, how
You took my heart and [like] a way out
Left me for [dead]
You kiss goodbye so freely given
My love so easily abandoned
Though I really don’t understand [why]
Here what you said:

That life is a story of love
I love you, I need you forever
Yes, this is life, it’s the story of love
I love you, I need you and ever

“Tombe La Neige” by Salvatore Adamo is one of my personal favorite French ballads. I have heard countless Vietnamese singers covering this tune, but Dalena’s version still stands out from the rest. The rumba rhythm was just beautiful and her singing was so heartbreaking. I loved her English translation, “Days of Winter”:

I watch the snow fall
It brings memories of you
Our days of winter
Were the happiest we knew

Days we spent together
I thought we’d last forever
Fireside kisses linger
Sparking promise on my finger

Now I sit and watch the snow
I have nowhere else to go
While cold and lonely seeming
I’ve found happiness in dreaming.

I re-listened to this album and it brought so much memories. Don Hồ used to sing with ease and effortlessness. These days, he over enunciates every word, which makes his singing unlistenable at times. At least he is still an active singer. Dalena had already bowed out.