Such was the case this past weekend, and a quick Shazam revealed it to be " La complainte de la butte" performed devinely by Cora Vaucaire.
Cora Vaucaire (screenshot from YouTube video)
Off to Google for more information and sadly it transpired that the song was being played in memory of Vaucaire who died on Friday night at the age of 93.
In an official statement the French prime minister, François Fillon, paid tribute to the woman nicknamed, because of the clothes she wore when performing, "la dame blanche de Saint-Germain-des-Prés" and noted the sad coincidence that Vaucaire had died the weekend the country was celebrating its national heritage as part of Les Journées Européenes du Patrimoine.
"She was a delicate woman whose figure was as fragile as her voice was powerful, clear and subtle," he said.
"It's sad that on the day we're celebrating the beauty of our patrimony we should lose one of the greatest interpreters of French musical heritage of the 20th century."
As he always does when a great French artist dies, the minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, also paid tribute to Vaucaire saying that, "She had been the last representative of an era of French music, and that her death marked the end of that era."
More digging quickly disclosed just why Vaucaire earned such praise from both men.
"She was" wrote Agence France Presse, "one of the main ambassadors of the so-called 'rive gauche' (left bank) music from the 1950s; an advocate without concession of music from the Middle Ages to contemporary French poets such as (Jacques) Prévert, (Louis) Aragon, and (Charles) Trenet."
Born July 22, 1918 in Marseille, Geneviève Collin (her real name) was the widow of French lyricist Michel Vaucaire (1904-1980) the man who, together with Charles Dumont, composed "Je ne regrette rien".
Perhaps the one song that stands out from her complete repertoire, and the one for which she is best known, is from Jean Renoir's 1954 (Italy) 55 (France) film "French Cancan".
Anna Amendola might be the woman you see performing in the role of Esther Georges, but when it comes to singing "La complainte de la butte", it's Vaucaire's voice you hear.
So just for a moment, forget all that modern day warbling that passes for singing and mindless songs probably requiring less than a moment's thought as they're thumped out for mass consumptions.
And instead wallow in some "real" music, a sublime voice and a time gone by which somehow, although it no longer exists, will surely remain forever.
Oh yes, and it doesn't matter one jot if you don't understand a word.