First, note how the melody soars up six times through arpeggios (of E7th and D minor7th: the latter adds poignancy, of course). What goes up must come down; and the corresponding triple-dip descents are amazing too. Note in particular how effective the E7th and F minor harmonies are at the point indicated below. (If you want proof of this, just try them on your keyboard.)
There are some fine performances of this song on YouTube, if you should wish to hear it in its full glory.
Born in 1903 at Decize – a town on the River Loire - Marguerite Monnot was home-educated by her musician parents. She was a musical child prodigy and developed into a gold-standard musician – a fine performing pianist, well grounded in theory. She studied in Paris and was taught by several classical luminaries. One of these was Nadia Boulanger (who probably trained her in harmony; Nadia was one of the most influential music teachers of the Twentieth Century). Another was the composer and teacher Vincent D’Indy; and there was Alfred Cortot, the great pianist who specialised in the works of Schumann and Chopin.
Her lifetime shyness did not help Marguerite as a performer but it did not hinder her work as a composer, when in the 1920s she started attempting (with success) to write popular songs.
At the age of 33, Marguerite was introduced to France’s best-loved singer, the great Edith Piaf, and they worked together for many years. They became friends and collaborated on many songs that became part of Piaf’s stage act. It was Piaf, of course, who made Hymne à l’Amour and Milord famous.
Marguerite also wrote film music. And in 1955 she had a huge success when she wrote the score for the musical Irma La Douce, which I remember seeing with great pleasure in Peter Brook’s production at the Lyric Theatre, London, in 1958.
Although Marguerite wrote hundreds of songs, English readers are likely to know her best for Milord and The Poor People of Paris (La goualante du pauvre Jean) and If You Love Me, Really Love Me (Hymne à l’Amour).
Sadly, in 1961 Marguerite Monnot died in Paris at the age of 58, following a ruptured appendix.
Marguerite Monnot’s career reminds me that the period between 1940 and 1980 was a Golden Age for popular music and its centre was France. Songs had words that were important and worth listening to, with a narrative and drama; and those words were clearly articulated by the great singers such as Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, Yves Montand, Juliette Greco and Georges Brassens. The singer was accompanied by a real, accomplished pianist or band or orchestra, playing from an arrangement that would include adventurous harmonies, changes in rhythm and key; and even accelerandos, rallentandos and pauses. (You find all these features in Marguerite Monnot's work.) There was no need for electronic amplification.
How different from the synthetic, mechanical dreary disco music of today!