A lot of things immediately springs to mind when one thinks of Charlie Chaplin. Filmmaker, actor, comic genius, a controversial figure. But the one thing that many people often forget about the man is that he was also an accomplished musician. A track called Smile, composed by Chaplin, has now become a classic, thanks to its numerous covers by popular artists over the years.
However, what is interesting is that Smile was originally only an instrumental song. To be more specific, it didn’t have any lyrics. But one listen, and you cannot help but be drawn in by the hopeful and haunting melody of the number. Smile was first featured in the 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times. The scene features Chaplin encouraging his companion to smile and think only of the road ahead.
Years later, lyrics were added to the song by English lyricists John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. And thankfully, it did nothing to spoil the lovely message of the music. The two renditions of the track that became quite popular with the audience over the period of time were Nat King Cole’s version and the King of Pop Michael Jackson’s take on Smile.
Here’s a small sample of the said lyrics:
Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
While Jazz legend Nat King Cole’s rendition complimented the music of Charlie Chaplin’s music better, not many know about Michael Jackson’s version of the song as it was never released as a single as it was meant to. Smile was one of Jackson’s favourite songs. The musician and dancer had recorded the song for his 1995 album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.
The Cole and Jackson versions of the song are as different as chalk and cheese. Jackson’s Smile is pretty hopeful and comes off like a track from Disney’s 2007 film Enchanted. Cole’s voice sounds like it was tailor-made for the song. Both are lovely in their own way. And both are gently but firmly reassuring of a better tomorrow. And what better message to have from a piece of art in this day and age?