This seems to be a recurring theme, this year. As we strap in for the ride that is “Christmas weekend”, here’s a great post from Colette.
Colette has some surgery earlier this week and here’s wishing her a speedy and pur-FECK recovery. I have a few comments at the end of this piece, but guys, remember that the most important part of Christmas or Hanukkah is sharing TIME with family and friends….the gift of self.
Comfort & Joy
As this year of big challenges ends for me, I find myself wanting to share two songs of solace.
Both are tunes that have inspired many singers, in a multitude of covers. And both songs endure because they are musically captivating as well as meaningful. They are songs of faith, resilience and love, in the best sense, and after a year of dealing with the death and illness of loved ones, and my own health issues, I take comfort in them and hope you will too.
Like a Bridge
Ironically, Paul Simon wrote his 1969 ballad “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as the “waters” of his longtime friendship and artistic partnership with Art Garfunkel were becoming troubled.
But songs come to composers for so many reasons – not just as depictions of life as it is, but also as how we yearn for and imagine it to be, at its ideal.
So out of the vanities and frictions of these two musicians, who for a decade really did need and complete one another, came a gorgeous anthem of selfless love and concern.
Simon later reportedly regretted having Garfunkel sing lead on the song in the original hit recording, and Artie apparently didn’t want to in the first place. They were both wrong. A very moving live performance, with Artie’s unearthly falsetto, from their 1981 Central Park reunion:
– Simon and Garfunkel
Aretha Franklin was among the first to pick up on the song’s spiritual, hymn-like nature. OK, y’all know I’m an Aretha maniac – but her version is a great, great treasure. She performs it here, just after picking up a Grammy for her recorded rendition. Catch that bright orange sari!:
— Aretha Franklin
MM, you know I’ve never been big into Elvis, but his performance of “Bridge” is to be cherished, as I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s also poignant, given his own private anguish at the time. Here he is performing the tune live in 1972:
Last, an entirely simple, humble and beautiful acoustic interpretation by the late Eva Cassidy. This very gifted singer, who died young and achieved limited success when alive, has left a wonderful legacy on youtube:
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYyQcQSqpbI] – Eva Cassidy
A Little Prayer
“I Say a Little Prayer,” though uptempo and more pop-ish, also carries a lot of meaning for me. Written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach for Dionne Warwick, it was a cut David didn’t want to release as a single. Thank heaven Bacharach felt otherwise!
When it came out in 1967, the Vietnam War was escalating and the song was widely interpreted as a woman’s message to a loved one in battle, that throughout the day she was “saying a little prayer” for him.
But the recording is beguiling in any context, for a lot of reasons – its lyrics sweet and flippant, its charming duet between Dionne’s voice and the horns, the unusual time signatures (a trademark of Bacharach’s) and a wonderful soaring bridge – “For ever and ever….”
Here’s the studio version, with pics of the great Dionne in her prime:
It wasn’t long before that sharp-eared Aretha chimed in with her more soulful take on the tune, released on her spectacular 1968 album, “Aretha Now.” (Also on it: “Think,” “You Send Me” and “Seesaw.”)
Aretha slows “Prayer” down, really sings like she means it, and her spiraling high notes are pure ecstasy in this British 1970 TV version – with her inimitable backup gals. And don’t she look fly? One of my favorite Aretha clips ever:
– Aretha Franklin
All great songs can mean a variety of things, and this rendition by the (often underrated) Natalie Cole and the (sometimes overrated) Whitney Houston, is a stone tribute to down-home sisterhood. In this 1980s duet, they have a ball topping each other. (They also do “Bridge Over Traveled Water” in the same set, but that’s more of a scream-a-thon):
– Whitney Houston & Natalie Cole
Finally, a quietly enchanting instrumental of the tune by a Brazilian artist, Naudo, who does beautiful acoustic guitar renderings of great songs on youtube. Here’s Bacharach’s rich melody, at its essence:
Thank you, Colette, for the wonderful posts that you have contributed to me wee lil’ blog. It’s so wonderful to have people come here who are interested in music, it’s history and influences. I appreciate all you guys.
As for Ms. Ree, she really is fantastic and there is honestly nothing that she can’t “do”. Someone I know will be going to see her in the Spring and if that person doesn’t provide pictures and a review to this blog, I will be highly upset. Not to worry, however, as I don’t think I will be disappointed.
Lastly, regarding “comfort” songs, I discovered The Prayer about 10 years ago from Celine Dion’s Christmas CD. I immediately fell in love with it but always associated it with Christmas until one of my friends used it in their wedding. It was absolutely beautiful and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. (Yes, I’m a schmuck for weddings, too.)
The Prayer – Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli
This song always soothes me and makes me feel better. It’s a very powerful song that, for me, is best delivered by Andrea Bocelli. I’m not a Josh Groban fan, although his rendition with Celine is very good.
As for “joy”, this Christina Augilera rendition of Angels We Have Heard On High is particularly appealing to me this season. And, just for Shrew…a little Garth with Baby Jesus is Born. I can’t help but move and groove when these songs pop up in my Christmas song rotation. (A site to behold, to be sure!)