Don’t ask the sky

Sometimes a banal, everyday event, stands behind the creation process of a great work of art, songs being no exception: without explanation, such an event can trigger a channel of inspiration for the gifted artist. This is the story of the song “Don’t Ask the Sky” (mi ton rwtas ton ourano).

The time is around 1958-1959. Jenny Karezi, who is considered as one of most successful actresses in Greek Cinema, was about to start shooting a film in Crete. The film, “To nisi ton genneon”, The Island of the Braves, is about the resistance to the Nazi occupation of the island. On the eve of the early morning flight, she was at a party also attended by her musician and composer friend Manos Hatzidakis. He had promised her before to prepare a tape of a song for the film, especially for her. They chatted and she reminded him about the tape with the song. But he was wrapped up in jubilation, and so he told her with little regard, shrugging his shoulders, to pass by in the morning at his home and he will give it to her.

Indeed, the next day, very early in the morning, she knocked on his door, but in vain! The great artist was sleeping deeply.  After knocking time and again Jenny became stressed and began to turn away when she heard something from inside…  slippers dragging, then the door opens and the drowsy Hatzidakis appears. “What do you want so early in the morning, my Christian?” he cried out. “Did you see me in your sleep?”

“Hey you Manos, I came to get the tape, remember?” she says, having begun to lose patience. “I hope to have it ready for I fly out in about an hour…”
“Ah, well. Make a coffee till I get dressed and I’ll prepare the tape!”
“You will prepare… what you mean? You’re going to do it now?”
“Oh my poor woman… make some coffee and I come…”

Eventually, after Manos got dressed, while he was drinking his coffee and smoking his cigarette, seated in front the piano in brief ten minutes he created “Don’t Ask the Sky”

Word after word and we forget ourselves  

the pain took us and the night caught up with us

wipe the tear away with your handkerchief

that I drink the sun through your lips

 

Don’t ask the sky

the cloud and the moon

your dark gaze

has taken something from the night

 

Whatever found us and whatever made us sad

hit us sneakily like a knife

wipe the tear away with your handkerchief

that I drink the sun through your lips

 

Don’t ask the sky

the cloud and the moon

your dark gaze

has taken something from the night

Jenny Karezi sings in a scene from the movie:

A year later, in 1960, the movie “Never on Sunday” (Pote tin kyriaki) was released featuring lead actress Melina Mercouri, and enjoyed international success. The music was composed again by Manos Hatzidakis who won the Oscar for the title song. The melody of “Don’t Ask the Sky” was also featured in this movie, and in 1962 it reached the managers of the 18 year-old pop star Brenda Lee. They set it to English lyrics and “All Alone am I “was born; a hit for almost fifty years hence.

Here is Brenda Lee, so young and yet so mature:

It seems that the sky really can arrange fate. The miracle of the birth of this great song, which has been speaking to the hearts of so many people around the world for so many years, maybe would not have happened if Jenny Karezi had not pushed and pressed on Manos Hatzidakis that morning in a way that would now seem exaggerated. Why was it so urgent? I feel that there are things which are beyond our understanding, and this event is one of them. Maybe we should ask the sky….

Since then, the song is very popular in Greek music shows. Here is Dimitra Galani, singing together with the audience:

-The story is from the book “My life with Jenny” by Zahos Hatzifotios, and we edited it. The information on “All Alone am I” is from Wikipedia.
-The lyrics for “Don’t ask the sky” are by Giannis Yoanidis and Panagiotis Kokondinis
 -Thanks to Nata for the translations and to Shahaf for the English editing.

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