[In this post I'm again testing out some different formatting techniques to see what you guys think -- and also to make sure that nobody has trouble viewing the hidden "spoiler" text. When you see blank yellow lines in the text, highlight the yellow area by clicking-and-dragging to reveal complete English translations line-by-line -- OR, just "hover" your mouse-cursor over the yellow area for little pop-up hints about vocab and grammar.]
As Yelena recommended in her Russian in 5 Minutes a Day post, singing along to pop-music is one of the most painless ways to acquire Russian vocabulary — you learn new words while reinforcing the correct pronunciation and syllable stress of ones you already know.
So, in that spirit, I offer an absolutely indisputable classic from the Russian pop-repertoire: Разговор со счастьем (“A Conversation with Happiness”), a 1973 ditty with music by Aleksandr Zatsepin and lyrics by Leonid Derbenev.
I chose this one not only because it’s a personal favorite, but because I found a particularly excellent recording on YouTube — singer Николай Басков is a classically trained opera tenor who shows off his awesome lung-fu (sorry), and as a bonus for learners, the Russian TV broadcast even has scrolling karaoke lyrics!
Before we get to the video, let’s take a quick look at some key points.
The first thing to note is that, just like the title says, it’s literally a conversation with Happiness — so whenever you see a form of ты, the singer is addressing Счастье itself. (An example of poetic олицетворение, “personification”.) Of course, you could interpret “happiness” as being an actual person that the singer is in love with, and the song has even been covered as a romantic duet. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a love-song, since счастье comes in different forms.
Also you’ll hear the words зря and напрасно several times. These are synonyms meaning “in vain; pointlessly; for naught” — the grammatical difference being that зря is a non-declinable adverb, while the other word is a form of the adjective напрасный — “pointless; futile”.
Finally, the phrase как бы жизнь ни била (in the second stanza) offers a mini grammar-lesson all by itself. The construction «как бы ни + [past-tense]» signifies “however / no matter how so-and-so develops… [it has no bearing on some other fact]“.
More generally, you can use an interrogative word (кто, откуда, сколько, etc.) + бы + ни + [verb in past-tense] to express the idea “No matter what [X] might be, [Y will still be true]“.
For instance, a Russian mafiosi boasting of his ability to elude the police might say:
«Где бы ‘мусора’ ни искали, меня никогда не найдут!»
(“Wherever the ‘pigs’ look, they’ll never find me!”)
And when TV-reporters inevitably ask the gangster’s mom “What are your FEELINGS about your boy’s international crime spree?”, she might reply:
«Мать всегда любит своего сына, каким бы он ни стал!»
(“A mother always loves her own son, no matter what kind of [person] he’s become!”)
Thus, как бы жизнь ни била = “no matter how much life beats [someone]“.
With those points in mind, let’s get to the video!
Первая строфа (“First stanza”) :
Счастье вдруг, в тишине, постучалось в двери.
Suddenly, in the silence, Happiness came a-knocking at my doors.
Неужель ты ко мне? Верю и не верю!
Have you really come to me? I don’t dare believe it!
Падал снег, плыл рассвет, осень моросила.
The snow fell, gently rose the dawn, the autumn drizzled.
Столько лет, столько лет, где тебя носило?
So many years, where were you all those years?
Припев (“refrain”) :
Вдруг, как в сказке, скрипнула дверь.
Suddenly, as in a fairytale, the door creaked open.
Всё мне ясно стало теперь.
Everything has now become clear to me.
Столько лет я спорил с судьбой,
So many years I wrestled with Fate.
Ради этой встречи с тобой.
Just for the sake of this meeting with you.
Мёрз я где-то, плыл за моря,
I was freezing somewhere, was sailing beyond the seas,
Знаю — это было не зря!
I know that it wasn’t for nothing!
Всё на свете было не зря, не напрасно было!
Everything has now become clear to me.
Вторая строфа (“Second stanza”) :
Ты пришло, и сбылось, и не жди ответа
You’ve arrived; you’ve come true; and don’t await my answer.
Без тебя, как жилось мне на свете этом?
How did I live without you in this world?
Тот кто ждёт, всё снесёт, как бы жизнь ни била,
He who waits will endure everything, no matter how life beats him,
Лишь бы всё, это всё не напрасно было!
As long as all of it wasn’t for nothing!
[spoken: Танцуют все! ("Everybody dance!")]
[ Здесь припев дважды поют ("Refrain is sung twice")]