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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 vari…

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 rec…

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.
Paul Simon moved to England and recorded The Paul Simon Songbook, a U.K.-only album. Art Garfunkel joined him in the summer of 1965 and they played a few gigs. Meanwhile an ironic twist was developing as the song titled “The Sound of Silence” (from Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.) was getting airplay from a late-night DJ in Bost…

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.
At least 132 of Cash’s original songs have been covered and a master of cover songs himself,he recorded nearly 400. I will start with my favorite original song.
Big River” written by Johnny Cash, recorded November 1957, released as Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two.  Here is a great live c…

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…

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 i…

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.
Sarah with the great Carlos Santana
Rein Alexander, (Norwegian) 2007…

k.d. lang, Tegan and Sara and Ron Sexsmith

Ron (Ronald) Eldon Sexsmith

Born, 8 January 1964 (age 54), St. Catharines, Ontario. (Vocals, guitar, piano) Ron has not had some of the huge commercial success (he may have liked) shared by many other Canadian artists, but I think he has made a decent living. He has received accolades from other musicians who appreciate his work including Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Chris Martin, Elton John, Ray Davies, Steve Earle, Bob Rock, and Sheryl Crow. At least 35 of his songs have been covered and I’ve enjoyed his music for some years now, though his melancholy sound I find is best in smaller doses.
Secret Heart” written by Ron Sexsmith (1995) and cover at least 10 times
Rod Stewart (1998), Feist in 2004 and my favourite version of this song, Trevor Exeter with a great Youtube cover (2016)
Ron Sexsmith (Feat. Chris Martin) “Gold In Them Hills” (2004), cover by Katie Melua in 2012

Tegan and Sara
are identical twins born September 19, 1980, in Calgary. They have won Juno awards and were nomina…

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Born, February 20, 1941 (age 77), Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan. I was a little reluctant to include Buffy in the series of Canadian Artists being covered due to the fact that she has spent little if any time actually living in Canada. She apparently identifies with being Canadian but was adopted by an American couple at just a few months old and raised in Massachusetts. She had a son and raised him in Hawaii and as far as I can tell still lives there at age 77.  
She has certainly been well recognized in Canada for her many achievements, she really is a remarkable person, but I will stick with the music here. If she identifies with Canada (she is a dual American and Canadian citizen) I guess that gives me licence to blog about her here. So apart from her obvious vocal talents she plays guitar, mouthbow, piano, ukulele, autoharp, harmonica and some percussion instruments.

She has written some epic songs.
Up Where We Belong”, written by Will Jennings (lyrics),…

Rush & Arcade Fire

Rush


At 34 songs having been covered and some only once and just a few more than five times it seems to be very low number of covers. Also, a bit odd to me anyway that a band (now retired) that lasted for 40 years and had such a solid fan base doesn’t get covered more often. However, in a recent conversation with my best friend who self declares himself as a "Rush Tourist” he felt their unique sound is something not easily duplicated, and I tend to agree. Further to that the lyrical structure of the songs virtually all written by the drummer Neil Peart are complex and perhaps don’t lend themselves to replication, not to mention the composition and masterful playing as well.  So while not the most covered, never-the-less I would be remiss in not making mention of this iconic (Canadian) rock band.
The line-up that would guide them through a long and sometimes arduous career spanning 40 years would include just three members, the above mentioned and the last addition, Neil Peart, L…