April 30, 2005

Cover Me, I'm Going In...

Ann Althouse has an interesting inquiry regarding cover songs, but she doesn't take it the final step. She looks only at the sex of the singer. Imagine, if you will, a woman singing the Allman's One Way Out. The risks she is facing if that is her lover's man down there are so utterly different than those a man would that I can't imagine there is anything more radical performed at those Wymyn's Songfests held on the day of the full moon. Conversely, Ive long thought that Patsy Montana's (I Wanna Be A) Cowboy's Sweetheart has Over The Rainbow beat all hollow as a transvestite's big number.

On the larger issue of song covers, Colby Cosh raises an interesting point about a change in the nature and role of songwriting. What he has to say is actually specific to the range of genres known as rock and roll. Black and country music of various styles had long included singer-songwriters. Hank Williams had most of his success as a performer with his own material, but the way the recording industry worked back then his songs were taken to the top by performs ever "whiter" than he was. This pattern had begun to break down by the time the Beatles arrived, with increasing acceptance of crosssover hits.

Today it is taken for granted that performers will be involved in the creation of the songs they present. A song stylist, such as Michael Bublé, is now a niche performer whereas he might have made the top of the charts in the '50s. There has been much debate about cover recordings in the blogosphere. II'm solidly in the "like'm" catagory. Anything from Bublé's stylings to Jerry Garcia trying out Let's Spend The Night Together to the Holmes Brothers urban take on He'll Have To Go. You can learn things about the performers and the songs when style and content intersect. That last number, by the way, comes closer than any other version to my take on the song.

Posted by triticale at April 30, 2005 08:02 PM
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