The Most Beautiful Song



There were two simple notes
but one grand symphony--
that's how we found one another,
and together we made
the most beautiful song.

So soft and so quiet
and chosen with love,
but what would the song sound like
if one note all at once were gone?

I breathe in, and then I breathe out;
I let my eyes open and close;
and I hear all the singing and all the music:
none of it sounds like you.

It pops and spits,
it bends and breaks,
it howls and hisses,
burns and stings.

And everything's fine,
though the world's going wrong,
because it just keeps on turning without you,
yes, it does keep on turning without you.

I breathe in, and then I breathe out;
I let my eyes open and close;
and I hear all the singing and all the music:
none it sounds like you.
No, not at all like you.

And on a day like this one--
just like today--I feel so alone;
though I'm here singing for so many people,
my only wish is that you would be there.

There are two simple notes,
here in my fantasy,
and together they make
the most beautiful song.
Yes, we're still the most beautiful song.

Words and music by Anna Depenbusch
Translated by Frank Beck

One of my favorite songs from the singer/songwriter's latest album, Das Alphabet der Anne Depenbusch. As Karla Letterman says in her article about an April 2018 concert, 'Anna Depenbusch walks out on stage, takes a seat at the grand piano, gets started--and you're in the middle. In the middle of life.'


Stadt Land Fluss

Anna Depenbusch



Now I'm here, then I'm there:
My suitcase always packed to go,
So nothing holds me anywhere,
And there is nowhere I'm at home.
I need the rails beneath my feet,
The gentle rattle of the doors.
Solid ground no longer helps me;
My life keeps rolling like a train.

Stadt Land Fluss:
To there and back;
From inside to outside
And then inside out.
Stadt Land Fluss:
To there and back;
The world's a blur
Till I know where I am.

Every mile makes it easy
Both to forget and to forgive.
All the old ways I've abandoned;
There's no more baggage--I'm alone.
People say I need a goal:
Trust yourself and your gut feeling.
But what if nothing's out there
Because your only goal is you?
It comes and goes just as it wants to;
Only in motion is it still.

Stadt Land Fluss:
To there and back;
From inside to outside
And then inside out.
Stadt Land Fluss:
To there and back;
The world's a blur
Till I know where I am.

Between Hamburg and Berlin,
Between Munich and Schwerin,
Between Bremen, Cologne and Stuttgart,
Between Freiburg, Mainz and Puttgarden,
Between Oder, Elbe, Rhine,
Somewhere there I'll be, right now.

Shadows flicker on the curtains;
Leaves fly by but stay in place.
Walls of houses, lines of traffic;
Joni Mitchell paints the landscape blue.
Mirrored pictures in the windows;
I let my thoughts rise like a kite.
That's goodbye, in my own fashion.
In all your travels, remember me.

Stadt Land Fluss:
To there and back;
From inside to outside
And then inside out.
Stadt Land Fluss:
To there and back;
The world's a blur
Till I know where I am.

Words and music by Anna Depenbusch
Translated by Frank Beck

One of my favorite songs from Anna Depenbusch's new album, Das Alphabet der Anna Depenbusch. She's a songwriter with the knack of presenting life's contradictions, without trying to smooth them out.

The phrase 'Stadt Land Fluss' refers to a popular German game, often played in a car, in which one person names a letter of the alphabet and players compete to see how many cities, countries and rivers starting with that letter they can name in a specified amount of time. As such, the phrase is untranslatable. See the first link below for a live performance of the song from Darmstadt in April 2017.


Anna Depenbusch in concert--Darmstadt, April 2017 (Photo: Thomas Bieg)

Throw It Overboard


What’s going on inside this house?
Everything is in the way.
I can’t catch my breath here;
I need room to think.
I have doubts about it all,
and they're like Post-Its, sticking to my skin.
Come over to the window: we must—

Out, out, out—throw it overboard.
I must be light, light, light—throw it overboard.
Clear the ship, 'ahoy' to freedom—throw it overboard.
This dress of lead is not for me.
It’s not for me. No, it’s not for me.

Perhaps this is a test of how many tons of stress
can be laid across my shoulders before I lie down.
Well, today I will last longer, but I'll see you later:
let's cut loose and raise the anchor

Out, out, out—throw it overboard.
I must be light, light, light—throw it overboard.
Clear the ship, 'ahoy' to freedom—throw it overboard.
This dress of lead is not for me.

Don't call me anymore, and don't send mail;
My laptop's in the trash; my cell phone's in the loo.
I'm just surfing down here, naked at the beach.
You've got a lousy network, and you're

Just burnt out—throw it overboard.
I must be light, light, light—throw it overboard.
Clear the ship, “ahoy” to freedom—throw it overboard.
This dress of lead is not for me.
It’s not for me. No, it’s not for me.

Do I really need this car? (No)
Or these faucets made of gold? (No)
Do I need all these books? (No)
The alarm out in the hall? (No)
Do I need this sofa? (No)
And all these chic new shoes? (No)
Do I need to have white apples
On my chic new watch? (N0)
Do I need all this stuff? (N0)
And these bags made just for sports? (No)
I'm not into heavy haulage: we must--

Out, out, out—throw it overboard.
I must be light, light, light—throw it overboard.
Clear the ship, 'ahoy' to freedom—throw it overboard.
This dress of lead is not for me.
It’s not for me. No, it’s not for me.

I must be light, light, light—throw it overboard.
I must be light, light, light.

'Alles uber Bord'Word and music by Anna Depenbusch
Translated by Frank Beck

I've just received a copy of Anna Depenbusch's new album, Das Alphabet der Anna Depenbusch (Sony/Columbia), her first new recording in nearly five years--and it's been well worth the wait. Depenbusch's music combines pop and French chanson, with a little Kurt Weill mixed in. What's surprising to me is how much that combination of genres still has to say to us in 2017. I'll post translations of some other lyrics from the album as I do them.