EVERY UK NUMBER ONE SONG: ‘The Poor People of Paris’ – Winifred Atwell

What was the number one song in the UK on 13th April 1956?

By Hayley Beasley Dye

Here’s Winnie again! She was at the top slot with The Poor People of Paris for 3 weeks.

Another jolly piano instrumental that sounds like it belongs in a music hall by the seaside. It’s a tad annoying to be honest with you. If I heard it too many times, I think it would give me a headache, but as always I’m impressed by Atwell’s piano playing.

Oh and also, I’m not really sure how this tune represents the poor people of paris, but I’m certain this tune wouldn’t have cheered them any.


“The Poor People of Paris” is the English name of a popular song from France.

The original French language song was “La goualante du pauvre Jean” (“The Ballad of Poor John”), with music by Marguerite Monnot and words by René Rouzaud. Edith Piaf had one of her biggest hits with the original French version.

The song was adapted by American songwriter Jack Lawrence in 1954, and he wrote English lyrics, which are considerably different from the French. The English-language title arises in part from a misinterpretation of the French title, as “pauvre Jean” was taken for the same-sounding “pauvres gens,” which translates as “poor people.”

Lawrence’s lyrics, which pronounce Paris in the French style, as “PaREE,” are seldom heard. Most of the popular recordings of the song in the English-speaking world have been instrumentals. In the same year, the piano version by Winifred Atwell (Decca Records catalog number F10681) was number one in the UK Singles Chart for three weeks.

The Playlist

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Every UK Number One Song

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