The Commitments

The Commitments

The Commitments is a 1991 movie musical based on a 1987 novel of the same name by Roddy Doyle. Why am I talking about a movie? Well this movie has a lot of great cover songs in it, apart from the fact it’s a very entertaining movie, I share a love of this soundtrack with my wife’s brother. I happen to be visiting my brother in law and his lovely wife at their beautiful home on Vancouver Island, so I thought it appropriate to blog about a mutual interest in music. 

Briefly, the movie is set on the north side of Dublin and is about a guy named Jimmy who wants to start a soul band inspired by African American musicians from the 60’s and 70’s. He gathers up a crew and they practice in quite interesting fashions and locales, eventually getting a paying gig. There is more to the story, but the end result is some great music and too many songs to cover in one blog, so I will give you some of my favorites. The soundtrack features songs that are for the most part shown at various parts in the movie.

Mustang Sally” clip from the movie, Andrew Strong singing lead vocals as the character ‘Deco Cuffe’

The song was written by Mack Rice and originally performed by him as ‘Sir Mack Rice’ in 1965. Covered at least 70 times.
The most recognizable version and inspiration for the movie was this one by the legendary Wilson Picket, released in October of 1966 and the fourth time the song had been done.
Take Me to the River” from the soundtrack, again Andrew Strong on lead vocals
Written by Al Green and Teenie Hodges, released on “Al Green Explores Your Mind” album in 1974. Covered over 50 times.

Al Green
A really different take on this song and one of those “I didn’t know it was the same song!” covers from the Talking Heads (1978) and a regular in my cover tunes playlist.

Try A LittleTenderness” from the movie, Andrew Strong again.

This song has a very interesting history, written by Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly and Harry M. Woods and first recorded by ‘Ray Noble and His Orchestra’ in December of 1932, released in 1933. Val Rosing (also known as Gilbert Russel) on vocals (see trivia note at the bottom). Covered by the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Lulu and again most recently in February of this year for the 160th time.
Otis Redding

As you can hear from the previous clip, it’s not exactly what we would think of as ‘soul’ music. So where did this song get its soul from? Well the “Queen of Soul” herself, Aretha Franklin recorded this song in 1962 and the 27th version. This, I think was the bridge that led to Otis Redding’s version (and the inspiration for the one in the movie) from 1966.

Chain of Fools” from the movie, the “Commitmentettes” – Imelda Quirke (Angeline Ball), Natalie Murphy (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and Bernie McGloughlin (Bronagh Gallagher).

Written by the versatile and talented Don Covay (James Donald Randolph) and originally released by Aretha Franklin in 1967. Oh my, hard to get a better song than this! Covered over 60 times.

Nowhere to Run“, lead vocals by Niamh Kavanagh (an Irish singer from the soundtrack but not in the movie)

Written by the powerhouse production team from MoTown, Holland-Dozier-Holland and backed by the Funk Brothers. Released in 1965, the original from Martha and the Vandellas.

There have been covers by Arnold McCuller used in the movie “The Warriors” and by Boga used in “Baby Driver”, Michael McDonald even took a crack at it. Let’s just stick with the original.

Cover song trivia: Who sang the original version of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” with Henry Hall & His Orchestra – (1932)? One- Val Rosing, just mentioned above as the original vocalist on “Try A Little Tenderness”.

images: https://fogsmoviereviews.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/movies-i-want-everyone-to-see-the-commitments-1991/

If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I can compile data from my blog it’s not tracking in terms of anyone’s identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB or other social media. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!

Aretha Franklin and others 'Own' your cover (Part One)

Artists who cover and then ‘own’ the song (Pt. 1)

Sifting through as many cover songs as I do you come to appreciate a great version of a song. There are likely, no definitely, many cover songs that just don’t measure up. I do hesitate to be critical of someone’s efforts since I have no talent myself, so for editorial purposes only I’ll stick to my previous comment. Of course there are covers that improve on the original due to any number of factors not the least of which is the person(s) singing. However they could have benefited from a different arrangement or a creative producer and most certainly the musicians can make or break a cover song. Sometimes it’s a switch in genre or just the right year for the re-release of the song. Sometimes it’s all things combined.
Here are some songs that we recognize immediately and may believe that it’s the original because its become the ‘definitive’ version of the song. It’s likely been in a movie soundtrack or just received more airplay etc.  In other words, the singer or group now ‘owns’ that song. Maybe it’s not even the best version, certainly not owned legally speaking (don’t get me started on that one-I will blog on song rights in the future) but more intrinsically and emotionally for sure. I have previously blogged several of these songs but a perfect example of this was “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino, not the first or the last version of the song but the one we usually want to hear and love the most.

Certainly the leader in this category is the song “Respect” as performed by the incomparable Aretha Franklin (1967) Written by Otis Redding. Covered at least 90 times, Aretha would be the 9th, and the first woman to record the song. I plan to blog about Aretha in the future, so I will save most of my comments till then.
The original version by Otis 1965, Adeva, – 1989

A little bit about the story behind the song; it was Aretha and her sister Carolyn that made changes to the song that would give the iconic spelling out of the word RESPECT, the acronym TCB (taking care of business), the phrase “give me my propers” and the “sock it to me” line as well. It completely turned the song from a male message to a female message to her man, and no mistake about what she expected. Add some expert arrangement, ‘Muscle Shoals’ musicians, studio production, a little King Curtis (saxophone) and presto! Easy right? Geographically it’s Georgia plus Detroit plus Alabama plus Memphis, add in New York City and you have yourself a number one hit record and two Grammy Awards (1968).

The song is the only ‘cover’ other than “Hound Dog”(Elvis) on the Rolling Stone’s top 20 songs list, sitting at number 5. The “Songs of the Century” list by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lists the song at number 4.
Ring of Fire” written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore and first released in early 1963 by June’s sister Anita Carter. Original title is “(Love’s) Ring of Fire
Johnny Cash was next to do this song and recorded it April 19, 1963 and changed it up a bit you’ll notice. This was five years before he proposed to June.
Need not say much about this song, covered close to 200 times, make it a thousand more-still owned by Johnny Cash!

Evil Ways” written by Sonny Henry, recorded by a band called, ‘Willie Bobo’ (hey I don’t make this stuff up!)July 27, 1967.

I guess you already knew who ‘owns’ this song, Carlos Santana was the third to record this song (May 12, 1969). The band, the man, ‘Santana‘.
Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” written by Gabor Szabo, Originally recorded by Szabo as an instrumental released in 1966.
Gabor Szabo

Peter Green, then of Fleetwood Mac would put lyrics to the base tune.

Black Magic Woman” recorded March, 1968, Fleetwood Mac.
Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” by Santana, September 1970.
Interesting Santana’s signature songs are ‘covers’ but clearly no one I’ve ever heard does these songs any better, this song is now referred to as just  “Black Magic Woman”.
Another personal indulgence here… I visited my brother in law Jim (the Cohen fan if you’re keeping up) in hospital yesterday and we were chatting about his side passion, that being his band! He (Jim is an executive with an HVAC company) grabbed his phone and showed me this video linked below. Of course he had no idea I was working on this song for the blog. Coincidence or ‘black magic’ ? Keep fighting Jim and get well soon so you can get back to some more music! btw that’s Jim on guitar and lead vocals! Here is another cover of “Black Magic Woman”.

With a Little Help from My Friends” written by John Lennon, (Paul McCartney). Released on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album June 1, 1967.
Joe Cocker

It’s not an easy task to take a Beatles song and have a bigger hit with it but it happened (or “take a sad song and make it better” for that matter).

Joe Cocker changed up this song considerably and it became a hit at Woodstock and in fact a bit of an anthem for that era. Here is a version with lyrics so you can sing along!
Die hard Beatles fans may not agree with this one but I’m calling it ‘owned’ by Joe Cocker.

Click here for a link to all the videos

If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I can compile data from my blog it’s not tracking in terms of anyone’s identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB or other social media. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!

Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel
The pair were very close friends in high school and actually had a bit of a hit song in 1957 but their career didn’t really go anywhere at that point. Not ones to quit on music they persevered and eventually got a contract with Columbia Records in 1963 and produced the Album “Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.”.  Recorded in March 1964, the album was released on October 19. The music did not sell enough to convince Columbia Records to keep Simon and Garfunkel, so they went their separate ways. Still working in the industry, the duo split up but stayed in touch. As there are few businesses stranger than the world of recorded music, fate would have other plans.

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Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

 

John R. Cash (born J. R. Cash; February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003)
It’s difficult to talk about someone like Johnny Cash and not repeat what many have already read, heard or seen. So please forgive some of my personal stories as it relates to Johnny Cash. I never had the opportunity to see the man himself play live, though I’ve heard his music for most of my life. My father was a fan, so it was not unusual to hear his records, or my Dad pluck one of his songs on his steel guitar or on an old organ we had for awhile. And unfortunately for me, the gene pool of talent for playing an instrument ran out after my two older brothers, leaving me to finally give up after several failed attempts.

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Homelessness

Homelessness
Another Day inParadisewritten and performed by Phil Collins (1989) Covered over 50 times. Brandy & Ray J – “Another Day In Paradise (Remix), 2001, 
Marianne Pentha -The Voice Norway 2012
I actually didn’t listen to this song closely enough when it came out to recognize it was about homelessness. In fact I think most people have a literal image with this song of an idyllic beach house with a hammock and mojitos. I was reminded about homelessness and musicians recently while researching the blog on Shania Twain. I have had the good fortune not to worry about having a home and I hope I never do. This however is not the case for many, not just here in my hometown of London, Ontario but likely in your hometown or the closest major urban centre-anywhere in the world. Countries considered ‘rich’ with social services and social financial assistance have a problem with homelessness, so most certainly, countries that struggle economically fair far worse.
Even Flow” Pearl Jam (1991) Written by Stone Gossard, Eddie Vedder.
A cover by John Lester Quartet, 2012
Another story about a homeless man in this song. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to make you think a bit about the homeless through song. I’m not trying to preach here and I’m certainly no saint. I have had the opportunity to work in this area for a time, in particular with organizations that are (or were) on the front lines dealing with homeless and at-risk youth. I don’t have the answer to solve this problem and frankly it’s one that can be vastly improved, but history tells me it will never go away.
Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen (1993) covered at least 50 times, Richie Havens, 1997.
If I learned anything it was not to judge too harshly those who find themselves in such dire straits as to be without a place to call home. Having heard some of the stories of how and why people live on the street and go from shelter to shelter, bed to bed if they can find one,  I am reminded of how lucky I am and but for the turn of fate things could be different for many of us. I was also reminded that the homeless are people, and as such generally deserve to be treated better than they are. Oh, I know there are some that choose the street life and there are some unsavory characters (who hasn’t met one that is not homeless?). There are mental health and addiction problems as well. I don’t give money to those who beg on the streets, but I will on occasion talk to them and offer to direct them to the services I’m aware of, no harm in perhaps buying a coffee and a bite to eat. Doesn’t make one a saint like I said, just makes you human, like them.
MomentsEmerson Drive, A decent YouTube cover from a guy named Scott.
One-time homeless musicians, singers and composers;
Agustin Lira, Blaze Foley, Charles Bradley, Charlie Wilson, Chris Thomas King, Doug Seegers, D-Vine, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Eric Earley, Howard Tate, Jaco Pastorius, Jennifer Lopez, 
Jewel( Lenedra Carroll), Jim Morrison, Kelly Clarkson, Kurt Cobain, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., Leslie Frederick, Lil’ Kim, Lupus Thunder, Madeleine Peyroux, Mary Gauthier, Matte Black. Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, Patti Smith, Pitbull, Richard Fagan, Rob Thomas. Sam McClain, Scott Stapp, Shania Twain, Skip Spence, Sonique, Todd Chaisson, Tommy Tallarico, Wills Morgan, Woody Guthrie.
A great story about the African American “itinerant musicians” (sometimes another word for homeless). I’ve mentioned a few of them and plan to blog more about these influential people. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/before-there-was-blues-man-there-was-songster-180951863/
Other Songs about the homeless or homelessness
Man On The Corner – Genesis
Breadline – Megadeth
Is This the World We Created? – Queen
Low Man’s Lyric – Metallica
Aqualung – Jethro Tull
“Fancy” by Reba McEntire (Bobby Gentry)
“The A Team” by Ed Sheeran
“Something to Believe In” by Poison
“Bread & Water” by Vince Gill
“Burnin’ It Down” by Steve Earle
“King of the Road”  Roger Miller
“Like a Rolling Stone” Bob Dylan
“Ain’t Got No Home” (or “I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore”) is a song made popular by Woody Guthrie
Ain’t Got No Home (Clarence “Frogman” Henry song)
“Homeless Child”, Ben Harper
https://www.google.ca/url?, =i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjyvpTFwpPcAhWk8oMKHYWYBTEQjhx6BAgBEAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.harrogate-homeless-project.org.uk%2F&psig=AOvVaw11PPRCpSOkIaau45C6fNyJ&ust=1531277251784076

If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I can compile data from my blog it’s not tracking in terms of anyone’s identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB or other social media. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!

Dock Boggs and ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’

Dock Boggs
Moran Lee “Dock” Boggs (February 7, 1898 – February 7, 1971), was a banjo player and singer, his style is considered a unique combination of Appalachian folk music and African-American blues. Growing up his influences include an African American itinerant musician named ‘Go Lightning’ and another banjo player named Homer Crawford. His playing method was an “up pick style”, Mike Seeger said he’d seen no other recorded artist use this way of playing. Two of his recordings from the 1920s, “Sugar Baby” and “Country Blues” have been quite influential to many folk singers. As with many of these artists during the depression, work was hard to find. He soon returned to coal mining and a few other jobs over the years. The aforementioned Mike Seeger (half brother to Pete Seeger) a singer, musician and folklorist tracked Dock down in 1963 and encouraged him start to play again, he spent the next several years recording and playing the folk music circuit including the famed Newport Music Festival.

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Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!
Here is the last post focused solely on Canadian artists. In future I will ramble around with various artists and theme’s and if anyone has a particular interest I’d be happy to consider it, some may have noticed  I’ve added a song or artist for you already.
Sarah Ann McLachlan
She was born January 28, 1968, adopted shortly after birth she grew up in Halifax. She played ukulele at age four and growing up studied at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts and learned classical guitar, piano and voice. Her accomplishments and awards are many including; three Grammy’s and 11 other nominations, ten Juno’s and “Angel” topped Billboard for the award in 1999.

Angel” written by Sarah McLachlan released on the album Surfacing in 1997, covered more than 80 times and versions in French, Spanish and German. The song speaks for itself and is one of those endearing pieces that will last a very very long time.
Rein Alexander,  (Norwegian) 2007, Randy Crawford & Joe Sample, 2008
Alanis Morissette
She was born June 1, 1974 (age 44), Ottawa, Ontario. Her parents were military school teachers and they moved around a bit, spending 3 years in Germany. She learned piano at age six and appeared on children’s television show in Ottawa while in elementary school. She has won seven Grammy awards, 12 Juno’s, and an MTV Europe award and an MTV Video Music award.
The song “Ironic” has been debated about whether it’s actually ironic or not, nevertheless it was a huge hit song peaking at #1 in Canada, US, Spain and top ten in many other countries. Quite a cleverly worded song and it’s been covered more than 25 times.
Ironic” written by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard from the Album Jagged Little Pill in 1995 and released as a single in February 1996.
Boyce Avenue ft. Emily Zeck acoustic cover 2017, Donovan Woods an accomplished singer songwriter from Sarnia, Ontario
Ian and Sylvia
Ian Tyson was born in British Columbia (1933) and learned to play guitar while recovering from injuries sustained as a Rodeo rider. He started playing Coffee Houses in Toronto in the 1950’s where he met his soon to be playing partner and wife Sylvia Fricker, originally from Chatham, Ontario (born 1940).
Four Strong Winds” written by Ian Tyson, from the album of the same name in 1963. A Quintessential Canadian song if there ever was one.
Country legend Bobby Bare had a number 3 hit in 1965, Waylon Jennings (originally in 1964) here is a pretty good video slideshow with the song, John Denver in 1998. I don’t have to point out if a songwriter like John Denver covers a song, it has to be a great one.
Also recorded by Bonnie Dobson, Blue Rodeo, Johnny Cash and the Carter Family as well as many other notable names.
Another great song from the duo “Someday Soon” (1964) covered over 20 times. Suzy Bogguss in 1991, Glen Campbell, Judy Collins had a hit with this in 1969.
References:  https://secondhandsongs.com/, https://en.wikipedia.org, https://www.cbcmusic.ca/posts/11911/rvm-fourstrongwinds, http://www.sarahmclachlan.com/home/, http://alanis.com/

If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I can compile data from my blog it’s not tracking in terms of anyone’s identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB or other social media. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!