Born in 1940, Sylvia Tyson (Fricker) is an important part of Canadian music history. Best known as part of the folk due Ian and Sylvia, she continues to perform with the folk group Quartette and has since 1993.
During the Canadian Content days of radio, she and her ex-husband Ian Tyson, were staples on Canadian radio. They likely would have been even without the content rules. The were a very good folk duo from 1959 to 1974, when they split up.
In addition to the duo, they also fronted another Canadian institution, the band Great Speckled Bird. Sylvia is a true Canadian icon. She was inducted into the Order Of Canada in 1994, has 7 Juno nominations (Canada’s Grammys) as a solo artist and was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003. Additionally, she was included in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as part of the Ian and Sylvia duo in 1992.
I have included 2 videos, Four Strong Winds, (you may think of this as a Neil Young song, it’s not) recorded during a reunion concert in 1986. This has been noted as one of the most influential Canadian songs of all time. The second is a solo by Sylvia, “You Were On My Mind”.
Three very different takes on this classic. The original was written by Bob Dylan in 1962 and appears on his second album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan“. It was first performed by Dylan at Carnegie Hall in 1962. Over the years it has been recorded many times by a wide and varied array of talent. Dylan himself has redone the song several times, most recently in 2007. I have touched on this diversity with what I believe are some pretty different versions, and finished off with the original.
First up, a version by Roxy Music‘s Bryan Ferry. As expected, it is different. He recorded it in 1973 on “These Foolish Things” where he did a raft of covers.
Jason Mraz performed this song on “Listen To Bob Dylan: a Tribute”. Another slightly different take done in the Mraz style. Nicely done.
Interesting covers goes old-time. Today we look at a milestone song “Hound Dog“. It was written by the legendary team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller in 1952 after meeting and hearing Willie Mae (Big Mama) Thornton. The meeting had been arranged by Johnny Otis. They were 19 at the time, unbelievable. Big Mama Thornton was the first to record it (August 1952) and released it in February 1953. It was her only hit, but the song, well that’s a different story altogether. It has been covered over 85 times and charted on several of those incarnations, although none had the success of either Big mama’s or Elvis Presley’s versions. The Elvis version is obviously the best known and placed at 19 on Rolling Stones Top 500 of all time, not to mention being in the Grammy’s Hall of Fame. Who has covered it you ask? A veritable who’s who of music and reflecting a wide diversity of style. Jerry Lee Lewis, Pat Boone, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Conway Twitty, Eric Clapton, James Taylor and Frank Zappa. Crazy! We will dispense with the poll on this, seems the work involved is not worth the 1 vote each time hahaha. We’ll start with Big Mama, move through a couple of others and finish up with Elvis. Enjoy!
The Big Mama version is very much R&B and a lot less frenetic than the more familiar Elvis effort. I like the voice and her control of the song. The instrumentation is subtly performed by some very good musicians. A great song done like this.
This version is by one of my favourites, John Lennon. Unfortunately, the song is not up to his standards, ruined by some “singing?” by Yoko doing her best imitations of a dog. Kind of funny to listen to and watch. Some good playing though.
Here is the Jimi Hendrix version, unmistakably his.
I’m A Believer is a song penned by Neil Diamond and made a forever signature classic by The Monkees way back in 1966. The song went gold in 2 days, hitting number 1 in December 1966 and was the biggest selling single of 1967. It is also one of only 40 songs to sell 10 million physical copies (source:Wikipedia). Amazing numbers for so long ago. Needless to say that success bred many attempts at duplication, of which I will note four. Don’t forget to vote for the one you like best.
First we have British singer Robert Wyatt who made it a UK hit in 1974. The band he was with had some power with Andy Summers (Police) on guitar and Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) on drums. The video is a live performance on Tops Of The Pops and was his first appearance after an accident left him a paraplegic.
Next up we have my favourite version by Smash Mouth. Why you say? Simple, Shrek is one of my all time favourite movies. Eddie Murphy is also featured on the tune, recorded in 2001.
Third, we have the man, Neil Diamond. he sings his song live in 2008. Nicely done Neil.
Sweet Jane is a classic Velvet Underground tune, first released in 1970 on their “Loaded” album. Lou Reed wrote the song, and his lyrics are powerful, not mention the arrangement. As I morph this series, I am thing a poll is just screaming to be added to the mix, so I will. Rules are simple. I will add the songs, then ask you to decide which is your fave. Simple? This works well for this choice as there are many covers out there. Let’s start with the original, then move on from there.
Next up, let’s go with Mott the Hoople. This was the first cover, 1972, and was released on their “All The Young Dudes” album. The band featured the great Ian Hunter on vocals, and is a true copy, with little change in the arrangement.
Mott The Hoople
Next up is a version by Canadian alt-country band, “Cowboy Junkies“. They released the tune as a single in 1988. It was used on the soundtrack for “Natural Born Killers“. A slower version, and the vocals of Margo Timmins are great. The song is slowed up with great effect. My favourite version.
And a last entry, a live version, with Lou Reed fronting Metallica. A very different version.
Decided to change the name to “Interesting” from “Unusual”. I’d say that a lot of covers are more interesting than strange. My first post on this involved Jackie Wilson doing the Doors “Light My Fire”. Not really unusual, although a soul icon doing what became a rock classic was somewhat strange, it was truly much more interesting.
Today we are going to take a look at something that is definitely interesting, and maybe a bit unusual as well. Siouxsie and the Banshees were a 70’s punk band that expanded into a more adventuresome style of music. Some would call it post-punk, others might say glam. Personally, I never got into them very much. I did find it kind of cool that they did a cover of one of my favourite Beatles tunes, “Dear Prudence”. I have been a John Lennon fan since the early days of my musical odyssey, and many of his songs could be classified as soundtrack of my life. Dear Prudence was on the Beatles Whit Album, released in 1968 and tells the tale of Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence. She was studying with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the same time as Lennon, and he wrote the song to encourage to come out and socialize as she had turned into a bit of a recluse. ( I pretend to be an informative blog haha.).
Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded the song in 1983 and released it as a single. It became one of their biggest hits. Without further adieu, “Dear Prudence”.
Playing with YouTube this morning and got inspired to note some, what some may think, unusual covers of some great songs. To qualify as an unusual cover, it must be a reasonably famous original redone by reasonably famous act. My first attempt into the world of unusual covers is one done by soul great, Jackie Wilson. Jackie has a resounding resume of hits, dating back to the 1950’s. He died in 1984, leaving a legacy that included such hits as Lonely Teardrops and Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher. He also left us this cover of The Doors classic, Light My Fire. He recorded it in 1969. Check it out.
And for comparison, here is the Doors performing the song live on The Ed Sullivan Show.
British born, but Canadian jazz composer and percussionist Peter Appleyard passed away on July 18, 2013.He was 84. Born in England, he moved to Bermuda in 1949 , eventually landing in Toronto a few years later. In the 1950’s and 60’s , he was a staple on CBC radio, performing live on various shows. In the 1970’s he began touring and playing with the Benny Goodman sextet. As time went on, his reputation grew as a world class vibraphonist. He played with such greats as Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, while always maintaining his base in Toronto. Among his many awards were a Juno and the Order of Canada. Terrific player. I have posted here a couple of tunes, the first a recent live performance of “It don’t Mean A Thing” and an older clip of “Tangerine”. Both of them have many great artists along with him.