Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reproductions: Let 'Em In

Billy Paul: Let ‘Em In


When Paul McCartney sang Let ‘Em In, he issued a roll call of family members, friends and musical inspirations. There was Sister Suzie (Linda McCartney, who once recorded as Suzie And The Red Stripes), Brother John (Linda’s sibling, John Eastman), Martin Luther (John Lennon, whom the Beatles used to call Martin Luther Lennon), Phil & Don (Everly), Brother Michael (Mike McCartney), Auntie Gin (Paul’s aunt), Uncle Ernie (Keith Moon’s character in The Who’s rock opera Tommy), and Uncle Ian (Auntie Jin's son). It’s all a bit a folky scene, even with that martial drum beat. You could bake white bread to it.

Billy Paul quickly covered the song, and gave it a bit of funkified political spice, with an urgent bassline, disco strings and insistent horns. The singer, who once alienated record execs by calling an album Am I Black Enough For You?, sets out his stall early as a recording of Malcolm X intones: “You’ve been had, you’ve been misled, you’ve been took.” We immediately develop a hunch that kindly Auntie Gin won’t get much of a look-in on this version.

In the Philly Soul man’s take, we are asked to let in a succession of black icons, not all of whom are widely known today. He seems to have a special place for Louis Armstrong, though. It’s interesting that Satchmo, often derided as an Uncle Tom figure by some people, makers it into Billy Paul’s pantheon, alongside MLK and Malcolm X. The song is interspersed with soundbites from Martin Luther King Jr, some eight years after his assassination.

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