Sunday, July 15, 2007

Let's Get This Party Started

“She stole it,” Otis Redding said when he heard Aretha Franklin sing “Respect” on the radio for the first time. “That girl done stole my song.”

And he was right. Usually, when a singer decides to cover a song made famous by somebody else, it fails. They make the mistake of either being too timid or excessively referential. It’s like Oliver Twist with a microphone in his hand saying, “Please, Sir--may I do your song?”

But Aretha wasn’t afraid. (“I’m the Queen of Soul, damn it!”) So, without hesitation or apologies, she took a better-than-average R&B song and transformed it into a timeless anthem of female empowerment. It was her song now. Yeah, Aretha “stole” his song, and all Otis could do was shake his head in sad admiration.

Now, creatively speaking, stealing isn’t a crime if you get away with it. But when it goes bad, it's disastrous. What you're left with is a bad forgery. Remember Madonna's ghastly mutilation of "American Pie"? How about the Bee Gees draining all the blood from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"? And I'll grab a dull pair of scissors and perform a lobotomy on myself before I listen to Britney Spears sing "Satisfaction" again. The horror, the horror. Your ears will shriek in agony, fall off your face and wither into powder. Ewww.

However, some ingenious thieves get away with it. Jimi Hendrix rendition of "All Along The Watchtower" was so good, it gave Bob Dylan's fans amnesia. Johnny Cash actually made Trent Reznor's ominous "Hurt" creepier.

And after listening to Dame Shirley Bassey's "Let's Get This Party Started", I'm sure the only words Pink would say are "Thank you."

Here's a tip of the derby to John Rogers.


veronica said...

As said by Sean Connery,when Shirley sings someones songs ITS HERS!!!!