If you have seen Up (the animated movie) you may be familiar with Dug the dog.  Blessed with an ability to speak (courtesy of his collar) Dug is introducing himself quite nicely when…

Easily distracted, eh?  Well, I do intend to get to my fourth “unexpected” installment… but first… squirrel!

I.  Squirrel Moment One

I happened to remember a certain TV theme recently when I was perusing clips on Youtube.  And, naturally enough, the theme was to be found there… from a short-lived series which came out in 1960… Harrigan and Son.

What I didn’t know (until now) was that the song was originally composed by George M. Cohan (who wrote many well-known tunes including Give My Regards to Broadway and Over There).

II.  Squirrel Moment Two

Speaking of Cohan (well, actually Cohen… almost a good segue), Leonard (Cohen) recently celebrated his 80th birthday and released a new album-  Popular Problems.  Now Mr. Cohen has, on several occasions, been mentioned in these posts.   So it is fitting that, if I must be distracted, he should be the one to do it… slowly…

III.  Squirrel Moment Three

Happy (not so much)

I was scanning news headlines and came across an article which (I think) should be regarded as both disturbing and darkly ironic.  It read, in part,

Six Iranians arrested for appearing in a video dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy have been sentenced to up to one year in prison and 91 lashes, their lawyer says.

The sentences were suspended for three years, meaning they will not go to prison unless they reoffend, he adds.

The video shows three men and three unveiled women dancing on the streets and rooftops of Tehran.

In six months, it has been viewed by over one million people on YouTube.

The majority of people involved in the video were sentenced to six months in prison, with one member of the group given one year, lawyer Farshid Rofugaran was quoted by Iran Wire as saying.

The “Happy we are from Tehran” video was brought to the attention of the Iranian authorities in May, after receiving more than 150,000 views.

Members of the group behind the video were subsequently arrested by Iranian police for violating Islamic laws of the country, which prohibit dancing with members of the opposite sex and women from appearing without a headscarf.  (courtesy of BBC News).

And, the criminal recording?

 And now… Unexpected the Fourth

or, He Said, She Said

When I first had the notion of looking at some examples of varied interpretations of a single song, it was inspired by listening to a song not made famous by The Buckinghams.  It is to be found on their final (60’s) album (In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow) released in 1968.  The song is Are You There, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (a songwriting duo who would merit a their own post… later).  Here it is…

So who did make the song famous?  Dionne Warwick was not the sole expositor of the Bacharach/David catalogue but much of her success came from her interpretation of their music.  In 1965 Are You There (with Another Boy) was issued as one of the songs on her Here I Am album and, as a single, did make the Top 40.  Here is her version.

There are several distinctions between The Buckinghams and Dionne Warwick version… and one of those is gender.  For the guys, the concern is the intrusion of another guy.  For Warwick it’s another girl.  Frequently the gender of the singer(s) will alter the original lyrics.  Another example.

In the mid-60’s Otis Redding was gaining recognition as one of the most talented expositors of soul and rhythm and blues of his generation.  His influence on popular music was unfortunately cut short by his untimely death in 1967.  Some of his hits included Try a Little Tenderness and (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.  Any fan of Mr. Redding or attendee of the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 will also know him as the composer/performer of Respect (released in 1965)…

If you don’t know his original version of the song, you may have heard this cover…

Of course Aretha Franklin did something which Otis Redding didn’t do… she turned this song into a massive #1 hit in 1967.  Her rendition subsequently  earned her two Grammy Awards in 1968 for “Best Rhythm & Blues Recording” and “Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female” and resulted in her induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2002, the Library of Congress honored Franklin’s version by adding it to the National Recording Registry. It is number five on Rolling Stone‘s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. 

Aside from some minor alterations in the lyrics it has been suggested that Redding’s interpretation is of a man begging for a woman’s respect while Franklin expects and demands respect from the man.  Listen to both versions and decide for yourself.

Here’s an unusual switch… instead of the gender reversal, this song alters the “being” addressed.  First the original song… it’s a classic from Mary Wells called My Guy.

Perhaps it was the great success of that version (#1 on the charts in 1964) which has led to subsequent interpretations.  None of those was more unusual than that of the nun contingent on Sister Act (led by Whoopi Goldberg) which changed few of the lyrics… save the title!

It perhaps appropriate that we return to Dionne Warwick and Bacharach/David for our final gender reversal.  In 1967 her single I Say a Little Prayer reached #4 on the Billboard charts.

Did I mention Aretha Franklin?  Well, she didn’t waste time in recording her take on the song.  In 1968 Aretha’s I Say a Little Prayer reached #10 on the charts.

Even the Glee-sters couldn’t resist…

So where’s the gender switch?  How about The BossHoss (a German self-described ” Country Trash Punk Rock” band) taking it country (song released in 2006/reached #6 on German charts)…






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