“After all the years of hearing the song misinterpreted and played backwards and all of that nonsense, I never thought someone would tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘And by the way, that was a lovely piece – and to prove it here’s another way of looking at it.” Robert Plant
A great cover version lives its own life. As a child of the original, it carries DNA forwards, but shines on its own terms. You recognise the mother’s eyes or the father’s nose, but the face itself is new.
Watch Post Modern Jukebox smooth, slow and soulify Ariane Grande’s Focusuntil it sounds as if Ariane was covering a long lost Ray Charles number. What a difference LaVance Colley makes:
People throw themselves into Dem Bones with such enthusiasm because it feels like pure rebellion. We all carry a schoolteacher voice in our heads. Each time we sing dem, the teacher voice squeals those. But the music takes us by the hand and leads us out of earshot. You can sing dem bones, you can sing them bones, but the music just won’t allow you to sing those bones. The music’s right, the teacher’s wrong. The world turned upside down.
Watch the Four Lads version of Dem Bones from the final episode of The Prisoner and you’ll see the percussive, rebellious dem sound get under the skin of everyone in the courtroom. Even the judge:
It’s rare for a song to travel, untranslated, across continents, races and centuries, and to find itself widely cherished and beautifully sung in its new home. It’s extra surprising when long distance success is powered by one tiny word: go. In two different disguises.
Short, commonplace words are easy to misjudge when you sing in a foreign language. You can tip a whole song off-balance by putting too much or too little shape and stress into the little words.
I’d like you to try an experiment. An experiment with go.