As young teenagers in 1969 in secondary school, our lives were still wrapped in the mysteries of discovery about life and romance. One autumn day we heard on the radio and later on American Bandstand a song about a girl named Jean.
Jean was the title song from the British film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. It was based on the beautifully written 1961 book by Scottish author Muriel Spark. 25 year-old Maggie Smith in the starring role Of Miss Jean Brodie would win the Oscar for Best Actress at the 1970 Academy Awards.
The song Jean was written by Californian poet Rod McKuen who recorded it for the film. It was nominated for Best Original Song, but lost the Oscar to Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head from the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid by B. J. Thomas. Jean did win the Golden Globe.
It would be a 24 year-old from North Carolina named William Oliver Swofford who would catch my generation’s attention. Oliver’s version touched a chord in the teenage heart with his rich and soothing baritone vocals since we knew him from his hit single Good Morning Starshine from the musical Hair.
Starshine was still buzzing in our heads when Jean was introduced to our growing musical repertoire. Unlike Starshine Jean had a more subtle melodious tone, a romantic hue like the falling autumn leaves.
“Jean. Jean, roses are red. All the leaves have gone green. And the clouds are so low. You can catch them and so. Come out to the meadow, Jean. Jean, Jean, you’re young and alive. Come out of your half-dreamed dream. And run if you will to the top of the hill. Open your arms, Bonnie Jean. Till the sheep in the valley come home my way. Till the stars fall around me and find me alone. When the sun comes a singin’, I’ll still be waiting. For Jean, Jean…While the hills are ablaze with the moon’s yellow haze. Come into my arms, bonnie Jean…”
As we progressed and grew older in secondary school, we ran to the top of the hill and touched the clouds of romance and young love. We danced in the meadows of spring flowers, the daisies and bluebells. Roses are indeed red with the velvet kisses of love.
However, as we stood on those hills ablaze with the yellow haze of moon light and starlight, the stars of love did fall. We realized in our hearts what alone meant as our dreams of love faded like the starlight when the sun came singin’ in the East.
Our half-dreamed dream became a chord in our repertoire of life. It’s a chord which brings pleasant memories of young love lost on the night hills of youth.
May your top of the hill in your youth be one of joy and roses filled with love. If you are older, may those memories from the top of the hill touched by the moon’s yellow haze bring back those sweet and tender memories of your bonnie Jean.
G. D. Williams © 2013
Jean by Oliver