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Portugal's most famous song... the story of "April in Portugal"

Portugal's most famous song? "Coimbra," penned by Raul Ferrão and José Galhardo, had been recorded more than 200 times around the world. And, it is often called "April in Portugal." Here is the story...

The origin of "Coimbra" lies in late 1930s, it was written by Raul Ferrão, an electrical engineer who wrote music for musical reviews. But the song was not a big hit, and was forgotten until it was included in the 1946 film "Capa Negras" where Alberto Ribeiro crooned it to  Amália Rodrigues. Again, the song about the university town of Coimbra was not a break out. But, Amália liked "Coimbra" and recorded it and included it in her concerts. She toured Europe, and Coimbra became a favorite for its unique melody. It was renamed "April in Portugal" and recorded with new lyrics in French and English, performed by the likes of Lawrence Welk, The Dukes of Dixieland, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Eartha Kitt.  Sadly, the lyrics were not so good... 


I found my April dream in Portugal with you
When we discovered romance, like we never knew.
My head was in the clouds, My heart went crazy too,
And madly I said: "I love you."


But what of the of the original? It remains a nostalgic love letter to Coimbra, and its ancient University:


Coimbra is a lesson
Of dream and tradition
The lesson is a song
And the moon the college
The book is a woman
Only those who know will pass
And you learn to say "saudade."

Coimbra of the Choupal
You are still the capital
Of love in Portugal, still
Coimbra where once
With tears it was written
The story of the beautiful Ines
Coimbra of songs
So sweet they put
Our hearts, in the light
Coimbra of the professors,
For us, your singers
The fountain of love is you.


So what do Portuguese think of "April in Portugal?" A 1950's show tune called the October March proclaimed that "April in Portugal is nothing more than a song." And, that adds to the old saying "In April, a thousand showers.."



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