This is one of the greatest songs ever written. I'm not just saying that; it's been voted on. And even if you find voting for things like this arbitrary (but this is America!) and subjective, on the basis that everyone has different tastes in music, take a look at the sheer numbers of artists in all different genres that have recorded covers of this song. Al Green, Ziggy Marley, Vanilla Fudge, Kenny Rankin (beautiful acoustic + organ version), Phil Collins, U2, John Oates, The Doors, Taylor Hicks (mediocre if not gag-worthy), Alicia Keys, Seal, Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart (a version which was mammothly popular in the U.S., with predictably awesome guitar work and predictably terrible 80's style), even Bob Dylan-- with The Band and without. (Thanks, Wikipedia).
And of course this guy does it a cappella (Thanks for nothing, Giant Internet That Grants All 15-Year-Olds Webcams And YouTube Accounts).
Despite the vast array of covers assembled here, none can touch the angelic, sublime vocals laid down by Eva Cassidy, a local D.C. musician who died far too young-- age 33-- of melanoma. A jazz singer with the most delicate phrasing I've possibly ever heard, Cassidy puts a heaven-sent spin on Mayfield's classic soul anthem. Around 2:20 she's drawing on some unseen strength, and it carries through the end of the song.
She's at Blues Alley here, where the recording and filming were done, aka right down Wisconsin Avenue near the waterfront. If you aren't familiar with Cassidy's work, its worth checking out the entire Live at Blues Alley album, especially her equally stunning version of "Fields of Gold."
-- Caroline Klibanoff
"Melodious Intoxication" Thursday 12-2 pm on WGTB