Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Covered Up #3

Some times You get the Blues, and some times the Blues gets You

I know what you are thinking, "What the hell does that mean?"
Well one of the basic principals of music is stealing. People call it a lot of different things, covers, samples, tributes, etc, etc.... Back in the early days of country and blues music it was not uncommon for one musician to hear a song another musician played, learn it himself, and then start playing it as part of his songlist. Of course this is all in a time before copy right infringement and all that legal mess got involved. Of course this did not stop in the with the birth of Rock n Roll. Rock musician have taken songs from their blues inspirations pretty much sense Rock music started. But I like to think of it more like the song said, "The Blues gave birth, and they called it Rock n Roll!"

My first example is one of the biggest names in blues history and is one of the main people responsible for the folk music revival of the early to mid 1960s. Son House was not just an influence of rockers but on other bluesmen of his time. His influence was so great he was the narrater of the movie Black Snake Moan, which was made twenty years after Son House died.
You can hear his influence in all types of music today, if you know what to listen for. Son House - Death Letter. The man even has fan today that are topping the chart. The White Stripes - Death Letter. While the two version sound almost nothing alike, there is that basic rythem on The White Stripe version that holds it true to the Son House version.

One of the few who can match Son House historical influence is Lead belly. Much like Son House, Lead belly was one major influences on the folk music revival as his song ranged from childrens music, to country, to blues. And many an artist had credited him with inspiration, like Johnny Cash, Led Zepplin, ABBA, C.C.R., The Animals, The White Stripes, and Ram Jam plus many more, Lead belly - Black Girl One of the most popular updates to this Lead belly song came in 1993 for MTV unplugged Nirvana - Where did you sleep last night.

While it is rare, some blues artist have now taken it to start stealing from rock artist. The keystone in this move is Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix liberally borrowed from the old blues masters, so I was not surprising that later blues singers started to do Hendrix music. But Hendrix is an easy example.
A far better one is with Count Five, a 1960s garage rock/protopunk group that had a top ten hit with this song psychotic reaction. Just a few year ago, 2005, up and coming blues singer/songwriter Michael Powers release a blues version, that is still raw and psychodelic but keeps the same undertones as the original.Michael Powers - Psychotic Reaction

Next Time: Fever



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