Monday, October 17, 2011

Dylan Cover #29 Sam Cooke - "Blowin' In The Wind"

In this ongoing Monday Series we will be exploring various artists versions of Bob Dylan song's. Today's tune is a live cover by Sam Cooke of "Blowin' In The Wind

Thoughts on Dylan Original:
The classic Dylan song, if you asked 100 people to name you the first Bob Dylan song they thought of, or his best known song, I am guessing 95-99 of them would answer "Blowin' In The Wind".  It is an epic, vital song in the history of recorded music.  The lyrics tell a stirring tale, the melody is enchanting, it is pretty spot on perfect, and when it originally came out if announced to the world the greatness that was Bob Dylan.   

Thoughts on Cover Artist:
This is a rare case of a Legend covering another Legend.  Sam Cooke was the king of soul and influenced so many artists it would be impossible to name them all.  Shot and killed way too young it is sad that Cooke wasn't able to grow into an even greater presence, but his catalog is still rich with hits.  "A Change Is Gonna Come", "Twistin' The Night Away" and "Chain Gang" are just a few of the classic tracks that he left us with and as a major fan of Dylan it is a shame he never got to hear more of the bard's work to put his own spin on things. 

Thoughts on Cover:
Cooke was amazed at "Blowin' In The Wind" and it's direct correlation to racism in America, and even more amazed it came from the white Dylan. He loved performing the tune and it lead him to re-think his songs, adding a deeper political texture to them.  Eventually he wrote his most famous song "A Change Is Gonna Come" from Dylan's inspiration.  This cover is quicker, and more lighthearted in presentation then the original, but still conveys the same meaning.  Cooke's smooth voice is also a change from Dylan's nasal delivery but the "pretty'in" up of this one does nothing to diminish the tunes power.   I particularly dig the way Cooke sings the "Tell Me" line in this cover, it is a great twist making it spiritual and engrossing. 

Grade:  A-

Wilson's Take:
This is the best cover of Blowin In The Wind out there...even without the coordinated background dancing that shows up 45 seconds in. And to get one thing straight: if there is anything in life more indulgent and yet shamelessly-pleasing to the eye as coordinated background dancing, it's certainly not allowed on 1960s television. This video represents the early hours of coordinated dancing, a performance art that blew up on 1960s music shows, grew a little chaotic with the Mods, and later became essential for any Hollywood film aspiring to the canon of "1980s Classic" (see Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Dirty Dancing, etc, wherein perfect strangers sway in step as if the whole world suddenly inhabits Billy Joel's Uptown Girl).
I've always had a bemused soft spot for any cultural derivative of the Greek Chorus. The well-dressed background singers who, while unnecessary, take an artist to the next level: the Pips to your Gladys Knight on Midnight Train to Georgia. How much better would our Presidential debates be if each candidate were given their own Pips to do a little shuffle while underscoring each patriotic point? If the stunning Ms. Knight would loan these guys out to Gingrich for a few weeks, the former Speaker would catch a 20-point upswing before Iowa.
Sam Cooke engineers the best cover of Blowin In The Wind. Dylan's original sounds like a genius sighing; Cooke puts the song in a southbound convertible on a sunny afternoon. So "how many road must a man walk down before they call him a man?" While Dylan always seemed lost in somber wonderment - broken - Sam Cooke asks the question with a smile as if answering: "Not my problem."
Janasie's Take:
Good lord, "Blowin' in the Wind" has been covered to death, pretty much since the day it hit the airwaves.  But you know what?  I never get sick of Bob's version and some of the covers over the years have been quite moving as well.  It is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.  I hadn't listened to this version before - I like the up tempo take.  Sam Cooke's voice is a gift from the great beyond and I could listen to him read the phone book and be perfectly content.  I think I am going to go and play this clip ten or fifteen more times.  Great stuff.

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