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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As I've noted, I often play music based on artists' birthdays. This week, I have quite a few albums by these folks:
May 9, 1949, Billy Joel
May 10, 1961, Bono (Paul Hewson) (U2)
May 12, 1948, Steve Winwood
May 13, 1950, Stevie Wonder
May 14, 1953, David Byrne
And at least one from these people:
May 9, 1937, Dave Prater (Sam & Dave)
May 9, 1944, Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield/Poco)
May 9, 1945, Steve Katz (Blues Project/Blood, Sweat & Tears)
May 10, 1946, Dave Mason (Traffic)
May 10, 1946, Donovan (Donovan Leitch)
May 11, 1941, Eric Burdon (Animals)
May 13, 1966, Darius Rucker (Hootie & The Blowfish)
May 14, 1936, Bobby Darin
May 15, 1948, Brian Eno
May 15, 1953, Mike Oldfield
May 16, 1966, Janet Jackson
So sue me, I bought that first Hootie album. Oh, and the exact dates of the birthdays I've seen different by a day or two.

Last night, Carol and I saw a musical based on the music of one of these folks as a pre-anniversary present for ourselves. Wanna guess which one?

I was thinking about a couple questions Eddie (yes, him again) posed:
1. Is it any slight to the original artist when someone else's version of a song becomes the definitive one? Even if the original artist wrote it?
I can think of at least a couple examples where the original artist acknowledged the superiority of the cover. One was Otis Redding's Respect; he said of Aretha Franklin something like "That girl done stole that song from me."
Then even Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails noted, somewhat wistfully, that Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt" had become the definitive one.
[And speaking of which: Trent Reznor for intellectual property czar.]
I suppose it depends how the songwriter feels about the song. If it it's his or her "baby", then losing it might not feel so hot. But if the writer is open to new possibilities, then I'd think it'd be an honor. Unless...
2. What do you think about cases where a cover is actually quite inferior to the original, yet is wildly more successful?
I'm trying to think of an example of this, actually. Do you have something in mind? Can anyone think of an original, written by the artist, that the cover was not good, yet sold well? Purists might pick Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You", but Whitney Houston's version was not technically terrible, just mind-numblingly overplayed.


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