Showing posts with label The Covers Series. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Covers Series. Show all posts

Monday, October 17, 2022

Joni Mitchell Covers • Volume I

The Covers Series: 

Interpretation and the "Traditional Folk Song" • The Singer as Interpreter 
Singer-Songwriters Covering Singer-Songwriters • Beatles Covers (Vol. I)
Bob Dylan Covers (Vol. I) • Joni Mitchell Covers (Vol. I)

Photo Source - The Times

I remember that time you told me
You said, "Love is touching souls"
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time

Joni Mitchell is special to so many people. Her songs have touched women and men alike ever since she burst on the scene in the late 60's. Joni didn't invent the interpersonal song, but the combination of her songwriting and singing sinks deep into one's soul.

With Joni's health issues over the past several years, there's now an added sentiment as the outpouring of love for this woman of heart and mind is immense. If John Lennon still lives in your heart, Joni's probably right there too. It's very personal.

In planning this post, I thought I'd begin with Judy Collins' cover of Both Sides Now because it was a top ten hit in 1967 when I was in junior high and the first Joni Mitchell song I ever heard, you too? 

Next comes, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's cover of Woodstock off the band's epic Déjà vu album as a solid second choice. After that it's pretty random, but I will say Madison Cunningham's cover of California came across my YouTube feed recently and really was the jump-start to make this playlist. (Note- The volume on Madison's home produced video will need to be turned up.) Anyway, if you read this blog on a regular basis, you know I think Madison Cunningham is special too.

Sitting in a park in Paris, France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had

For this Volume I, it was was easy to find a ton of Joni Mitchell covers on YouTube. She has inspired so many people to pick up a guitar or sit at a piano and learn to play music from one of the best singer-songwriters of all-time. 

But here's the thing, I can't tell you how many passess on covers I made to make this playlist. I'm not just talking about the budding musicians on YouTube, but for the many professional artists who've taken on this task and realized that performing a Joni Mitchell song is much much harder than it would appear. 

I thought I'd knock out this blog in a day including the playlist, but I think I'm in day three now with about only 20 songs that pass mustard. It's just my opinion, but for every good 1 in 10 Bob Dylan cover, it's probably like 1 in a 100 for someone to get my attention with their Joni Mitchell cover. Even most of the live Joni tribute efforts got a pass from me this week as it often takes even the most gifted artists some professional studio time to put out a worthy interpretation.

For example with one of my favorite songs, Don't Interrupt The Sorrow,  I just had to give up trying to find a cover for the playlist after pouring through many videos of the song. I think I spent an hour alone on this one song, and then had to get up and do something different. There's just a way that Joni herself performs her own material that makes it hard to duplicate. I'm playing the song in my head right now and she's got me totally under her spell.

Don't interrupt the sorrow
Darn right
He says, "we walked on the moon
You be polite"
Don't let up the sorrow
Death and birth and death and birth
And death and birth
He says, "bring that bottle kindly
And I'll pad your purse
I've got a head full of quandary
And a mighty, mighty, thirst"

I will have of course not selected your favorite cover, but please feel free to leave a comment as I may include it in this Volume, and for the fact that a Volume II maybe a tough row to hoe for me in the future. 

Note- If you make an "Anonymous" entry because the comments tool is kind of a bust unless you have a Google Account in play, just sign your first name and last name to let me know who you are (or at least your last initial) at the end of your comment.

The scope of Joni's influence is unmeasurable whether you are just a listening fan like me or have taken the bold step to walk up to a microphone on a stage and play and/or sing one of her songs, or for that matter, anyone's songs. As an active music listener, my hats off to you! And if you somehow thought I was making fun of the 1 in 100 thing above, that's no slight to anyone who's ever had the courage to hit the record button because if it was so easy everybody would be doing it. Rock on my friends!

So the years spin by and now the boy is 20
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

Monday, August 15, 2022

Bob Dylan Covers • Volume I

The Covers Series: 

Interpretation and the "Traditional Folk Song" • The Singer as Interpreter 
Singer-Songwriters Covering Singer-Songwriters • Beatles Covers (Vol. I)
Bob Dylan Covers (Vol. I) • Joni Mitchell Covers (Vol. I)

The Byrds performing Mr. Tambourine Man in 1965

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you
–Bob Dylan

Now you would think that I would go into a little depth about Bob Dylan and how many artists have covered his songs for 60 years. I guess he's probably the most covered artist in music history in the sense that he's written 623 songs as of this posting that encompass an amazing scope in the sheer quality and craft of this American treasure. In 2020, Dylan sold his entire songwriting catalog to Universal Music for 300 million, and in 2021 sold all of his recorded Music to Sony for 200 million. 

But, as I started putting together this first round of Dylan covers (I stopped at 25), it became quickly apparent that my love for The Byrds was going to dominate this first volume. How could it not?

When Bob Dylan was invited to hear The Byrds record their first album, Mr. Tambourine Man in 1965 that features four Bob Dylan songs, he was impressed and undoubtedly influenced with their electric sound that would have him quickly picking up an electric guitar shortly after. 

The Beatles influence and specifically their use of  Rickenbacker guitars combined with Dylan's songwriting created The Byrds, and the birth of folk rock. For me, Roger McGuinn's "jangly" 12 string Rickenbacker, his lead vocal combined with the band's wonderful harmonies is uniquely magical. The original Byrds line up only lasted from 1964-67, but it greatly influenced rock 'n' roll from that point moving forward and like so many other young people, turned our heads toward Mr. Dylan himself.

Note- I will of course have not included your favorite Dylan cover here. I do read all your blog comments and MMM's Twitter and Facebook, so let me know what they are, as I have already started a Bob Dylan Covers • Volume II playlist for a future post. 

Enjoy my friends!

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Covers Series: Singer-Songwriters Covering Singer-Songwriters

When your favorite band covers a classic tune, their version is their interpretation — their translation — of the music. Is it better than the original? That's up for interpretation.

Crawling to walking, walking to running. I always thought the term 'singer-songwriter' was backwards. Doesn't one first write a song, then sing it in front of an audience? Yes but, songwriting to singing only comes with much time and practice.

It's called singer-songwriter in that order because writing musicians always start by singing other people's songs.  Young songwriters have been always inspired by songwriters before them, giving budding tunesmiths the motivation and confidence to sing and play in front of an audience by initially using the voices of their heroes. 

All rock 'n' roll bands start as a cover band, crawling out of the basement or garage, then performing in a dive bar, club or community center to begin their journey. My favorite band, The Beatles did the same as you can see from this extensive List of songs covered by The Beatles

In the weeks ahead I'm planning to do a Beatles Covers • Vol. I post that will include both professional and amateur artists and groups performing Fab Four tunes. 

I'm also planning a Dylan Covers • Vol. I post. He's probably has the most covers of any artist or group simply because he is the great Bob Dylan who has been such a prolific songwriter since the early 60's, and is still going strong (along with Paul McCartney). I personally love young people performing the masters, it's such a wonderful circle of music.

Here in this Volume One, I would like to feature a mix of my favorite singer-songwriters performing covers, including covers turned into big hits of their own. 

Got you covered this week, enjoy my friends! 

  • Second Hand Songs - Search for an original song's author(s), and the song's cover versions.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Covers Series: The Singer as Interpreter

The Covers Series: 

Interpretation and the "Traditional Folk Song" • The Singer as Interpreter 
Singer-Songwriters Covering Singer-Songwriters • Beatles Covers (Vol. I)
Bob Dylan Covers (Vol. I) • Joni Mitchell Covers (Vol. I)

“The elements of voice and style are braided together like twine.
― Linda Ronstadt

Why we love our favorite singers is that they uniquely bring their own interpretation to a song and deliver it from their heart and soul through their vocal excellence. 

Today's playlist is going to feature mostly individual singers from the 1940's - 1970's who are known for recording songs written by other people. It's a mixed bag of mostly pop ballads and songs from musicals that for me stand the test of time no matter the genre or era they were recorded. 

Here's a couple of gifted vocalists to get us started with the same song.

Fly Me to the Moon, originally titled "In Other Words", is a song written in 1954 by Bart Howard. It's been recorded by hundreds of famous singers but is associated most with Frank Sinatra's uptempo 4/4 version arranged by Quincy Jones and recorded with Count Basie's band by Sinatra in 1964.  He starts the song with the B verse to immediately immerse the listener, or as Frank would probably say, "Man that song really swings."


My favorite version of Fly Me to the Moon is actually Tony Bennett's more emotional phrasing, although Sinatra's version is simply fantastic. 

Think of Frank's version as the excitement of dating someone. Think of Tony's version as a relationship, an enduring romance with someone. Both are classics.

Tony's version is a good lead-in to what this Singer's Volume 1 playlist is going to feature, but not limited to, fond memories of songs from my youth. I also tried to get as many quality live versions as I could find to show that these artists could just flat out sing without any overdubs in the studio. You'll also notice I'm partial to female vocalists as I also feature my favorite singer of all-time, Linda Ronstadt. Enjoy this interesting mix of 100 songs my friends!

  • Second Hand Songs - Search for an original song's author(s), and the song's cover versions.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Covers Series: Interpretation and the "Traditional Folk Song"

When your favorite band covers a classic tune, their version is their interpretation — their translation — of the music. Is it better than the original? That's up for interpretation.

Dave Van Ronk at the Gaslight coffee house in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1963

I got inspired to start this covers series after reading The Mayor of MacDougal Street, a memoir by folk singer, Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk was born in Brooklyn in 1936.  He moved to Greenwich Village in the late 1950's to be a Blues musician which evolved into him being a folk singer as "The Village" became the epicenter for the new folk revival. Early 1960's famous folk revival acts included The Kingston TrioPeter, Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez.

Van Ronk besides being a larger than life character to all that knew him, also became Greenwich Village's resident music historian who would experience first hand the transition from —"traditional folk songs" performed and passed down over the years — to the singer-songwriter movement starting in the mid-1960's. 

Like most things in life, music starts with copying. Musicians learn their craft by first learning songs written by others, often people they admire and want to emulate. 

As musicians develop their skills over time, they progress from playing someone's original song to building from it — adapting and adding lyrics and/or composition to create a new version of the song, and thus the phrase, "Steal like an artist." What famous musician hasn't said in an interview at some point, "Yeah, I took that lick from________," as both traditional and contemporary popular songs serve as the musical foundation to become completely new songs.

In the 20th century, the term, "cover" gained usage as sheet music became published to the masses, recorded music was sold on records, and copyright law was implemented. 

However, passed down traditional folk songs without an original author were an easy choice with no permissions necessary to record a song, and with the added benefit of not paying out any royalties. 

Here's one such famous example of a traditional song passing through several hands, The House of the Rising Sun. Now this traditional song has been recorded by many artists, starting with Roy Acuff in 1938, then Woody Guthrie (1941), Josh White (1942), Lead Belly (1944), Pete Seeger (1958), Joan Baez (1960), Nina Simone (1962), and even Dolly Parton (1981) to name a few. 

But in giving Dave Van Ronk his due (from someone many have never heard of), he revived the song with his own arrangement and began performing it in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village around 1960. It is Van Ronk's arrangement that you've possibly heard by Bob Dylan on his self-titled first album in 1962 (Dave called him Bobby), and then most famously by The Animals version in 1964. 

So let's start with Dave Van Ronk's version first and picture a very animated performer singing his crowd favorite to a bunch of drunken patron's in a hole in the wall club in The Village.  

Now let's hear Bob Dylan's version, building off of Van Ronk's arrangement.

And now, the rock 'n' roll #1 Billboard hit (also based on Van Ronk's version ) by The Animals, who were influenced by Bob Dylan.
Side Note- The Animals' keyboard player Alan Price took song credit (Traditional, arrangement by Alan Price) and got all the songwriting royalities for their #1 hit which in fact started the bickering and breakup of the original group shortly after.

And, here's a film clip from the Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home that brings this song full circle, and gives an often uncredited Dave Van Ronk, a little satisfaction.

Traditional folk songs from centuries past to contemporary popular songs have a rich history performed by people as Dave Van Ronk would say are, "best known for interpreting material written by others." 

This series in the weeks, months and even years ahead, will explore covers from amateur to famous song "interpreters," and also, the singer-songwriters themselves paying homage to the writers that influenced their work, and put food on their table. 

Twenty Year Old Bob Dylan
in his first apartment in NY.
Photo by Ted Russell
Many of the famous stars we know and love started from humble beginnings. Struggling artists, often without much money, performing covers in bars, cafes, restaurants, and small venues for tips and little pay, just trying to scratch out a living. Young artists like Bobby Dylan, slowly slipping in his own material and honing his craft like all the ones before, standing on the shoulders of the traditional folk song. Now Dylan is one of the giants, if not thee giant, with an untold number of individuals, artists and bands covering his songs everyday. 

The circle of song is unbroken, like the musical iterations of an infinite Slinky®.

In 1964, Bob Dylan performed his new song, Mr. Tamborine Man at the Newport Folk Festival, leading the transition from traditional to contemporary folk. (Note- Happy 80th Birthday today Mr. Dylan!)

A year later in 1965, The Byrds would arrange and electrify Mr. Tamborine Man into jingle-jangle Folk rock as popular music would evolve into new cycles of songs interpreted from the foundations of folk.

My peers and I could not get enough. Rock 'n' roll with all its influences was here to wash our souls.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you