Friday, November 19, 2010

Other People’s Songs: Mercy Mercy Mercy

Cannonball Adderley: Mercy Mercy Mercy


Joe Zawinul started his recording career as a bandleader in 1959, but he was soon working as a sideman. By 1966, Zawinul had been with Cannonball Adderley for five years. That was when he wrote Mercy Mercy Mercy. This was the rare jazz song to hit the pop charts, peaking at #11. Zawinul was a pioneer in the use of electronic keyboards in jazz; in this case, it is the electric piano.

The song became a jazz standard. But something else happened as well. The song acquired words somewhere, and was recorded by such artists as The Buckinghams and, later, Phillip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire. Queen Latifah recorded a version with a different set of lyrics. And finally, Joe Zawinul, coming off a highly successful tenure in Weather Report, recorded a version as a leader, also with vocals. But, for me and many others, the original recording of Mercy Mercy Mercy will always be the real one.

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