I watched a documentary over the weekend about that controversial musical invention; the Auto-Tune®. My knee-jerk reaction to songs that have been auto-tuned has always been negative, but that was challenged when some of the facts behind the invention and its use emerged. This morning I was inspired to find out more info about this contentious software and spent a couple of productive research hours putting my highly tuned ducks in a row before embarking on this article.
Harry Raab (or Harry ‘The Hipster’) was rocking and rolling decades before Elvis. He was a genius at the piano, master of boogie woogie, Dixieland, bop, blues, classical, ragtime, stride, Bach, and styles of his own. He composed songs that got his records banned from radio stations…drugs, adultery, drinking, murder, and frantic freaks, they were all included. What a man!
It has been one of those weeks that left me feeling emotionally, creatively and spiritually drained and I think some serious cheering up is in order. The stand-out laugh of the week came when my long-suffering housemate shared a surprising version of William Shatner (yep, Captain Kirk himself) ‘singing’ Pulp’s huge hit ‘Common People’.
This weekend we honour Human Rights Day in South Africa. Although human rights cover so many areas that are an ongoing global challenge, today I am exploring the role that music played during the 46-year-long apartheid regime that cruelly divided our nation. It is an interesting, if uncomfortable, topic that covers a very dark area of our history. To imagine what kind of country South Africa would be had apartheid not happened is in the realm of speculation, but this misguided system of racial segregation did manage to produce some memorable music.
I was transported back to a very different era of my life recently when South Africa’s Music Guru, Sean Brokensha, played Judy Collins singing Bread and Roses during his excellent weekend show on Johannesburg’s Mix 93 FM. Some may not remember who Judy Collins is, and fewer will know what the Bread and Roses movement was about, but it is an interesting bit of musical history that did so much for the social consciousness of the era’s music lovers. We’ll start with a little background about the movement’s driving force, Mimi Fariña.
The cover version is a contentious issue. Nowadays, a cover version immediately puts itself in the firing line of music lovers, and especially the musical press, all keen to judge and critique every note and nuance. Some offerings make it through the battlefield of personal scrutiny to be heralded as genius, while most are dissed across the various media platforms and consigned to the ‘don’t bother’ list. But this wasn’t always the case as we will find out in this fascinating look at the history of the cover version.