Monday, May 10, 2010

Take Cover: I Was Born By The River... in a Tenement

Lauryn Hill and Sam Cooke don't have that much in common, aside from the fact that each was a burgeoning pop idol blazing a trail in an emergent genre; Cooke in soul, and Hill in hip-hop. Oh right, and they both have serious PIPES. Which is really what you need to even attempt a decent cover of one of the most delightfully arranged and meaningful songs in the American songbook. A lot of artists with a veritable reputation as Soul Royalty have covered this song-- Patti Labelle, Seal, Al Green. But what I like about the Fugees version is the appropriation of the message to send a similar, though updated one-- it's just enough change (no pun intended) to be interesting, but enough stays the same that it isn't in-your-face or over the top. And the essential song structure remains intact, embellished with lovely harmonies and orchestration. "Updated" versions of traditional songs have been around forever, at least as long as Mark Twain wrote "Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated" (ok, thanks schoolwork, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of this Paper Being Done), but the Fugees manage it with grace and style.
Check it out below:

-- Caroline Klibanoff

1 comment:

fiona said...

this sam cooke track has been OWNING my life this week (who says owning? BRO) but nice call on lauryn hill too (almost as good as the killing me softly one)