Doris Day premiered Que Sera Sera in a scene from the Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much Everyone knows this song because nearly everyone covered it. If you somehow missed it (the song I mean, although the movie is terrific), check it out. We’ll wait for you:
Doris Day made this her theme song, and nearly everyone knows it because nearly every singer has covered it. But none with more energy or brio than this techno version by the German Hermes House Band.
Que Sera does not convey an especially deep song and it probably will not hold up to intensive scrutiny. But two things to keep in mind:
In the movie Doris Day sings this song to her young son, a moment of optimistic 50’s domestic tranquility before the murderous events that her movie husband (James Stewart) inadvertently wades into. The casting of screen darlings Day and Stewart assured movie-goers that all would yet be well after the mayhem stared. And of course so it was. But Que Sera Sera perfectly established the mood of Eisenhower-era stability that Hitchcock so gleefully exploded with a plot involving assassination and geo-politics.
This German cover, on the other hand, seems to give voice to an utterly different conflict: between the always-improving life that “American exceptionalism” is supposed to provide and the everyday reality we experience circa 2000. Comparisons to The Decameron may be too strong. But this video (and the wonderful “staged” version, also by Hermes House Band; if you have a laptop look for it on youtube) sets the original affect of the 1956 version on its head: where Doris Day assured her young daughter that “what will be will be” was a expression of hope and assurance, her grandchildren seem (to me anyway) to interpret it as a last chance to party before the pink slip makes their student loan unpayable.
I freely admit that Hermes House Band, while German, doesn’t quite meet the Yankette’s standard for a proper Worldly Wednesday audio experience. No doubt when she returns from where she’s hiding out this week she’ll post a version played by Bedouins on the ud. But American’s most important export these days is probably “culture,” especially film and music. So at the tail end of “America’s Century” I’m calling a version of an American song performed by non-Americans “worldly.” There, I said it. Sue me.