Saturday, April 9, 2011

Honesty and Truth: True Colors

Eva Cassidy: True Colors


This seems to have turned into a week for confessions, which is probably my fault for my choice of the transition song. So you can go back over my posts from last week, and you will find the explanations of my lies in bold. Also, I am not afraid to admit that, when I first heard Cyndi Lauper, I really liked her, and I still do. The entire album She’s So Unusual was quirky heaven. I was eager for more, but the follow-up album was True Colors, and the title song was all over the radio. I was disappointed. Someone seemed to have told Lauper that she had to be normal if she wanted to stay popular, and got her to believe it. Listening to the song True Colors now, I realize that it is a fine piece of songwriting, but Lauper’s original version, for me, is marred by dated production techniques. So I’m glad I found Eva Cassidy’s cover. Cassidy strips the song down to its essentials, and then builds it anew. Along the way, she cuts loose without overpowering the song, and finds a passion in it that I never knew was there. I will praise Lauper’s writing again, but Eva Cassidy made me realize that Lauper may not have the best voice for this song. Give it a listen, and see what I mean.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Honesty And Truth: Father Of A Boy Named Sue

Shel Silverstein: Father Of A Boy Named Sue


We are all familiar with the tale of the boy named Sue, as told by Johnny Cash in his concert in St Quentin jail. To recap, the boy named Sue bumped into his father, who abandoned the family when Sue was three, in a bar in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He starts a fight with the appalling dad as payback for being saddled with that awful name. Once both are suitably bloodied they make up and the father explains that he gave Sue his effeminate name because he’d be bullied for it, and therefore be compelled to fight back and “get tough or die”. I wager that Sue’s dad was not of the Dr Benjamin Spock school of pedagogy.

Well, Shel Silverstein, who wrote the song, felt it only fair to give the old man his say as well. And it seems that the father was an even bigger bastard than we thought. He confirms that he told Sue the story about the name prompting resilience by the fatherless boy. But that was a lie. The truth is, when Sue – “the ugliest queen I've ever seen “ – pulled a gun “out of his carter”, the old drunk told him “how I named him Sue just to make him tough”. And Sue obviously bought the lie, and…well, the ending is decidedly odd; listen to it yourself.

The big question really is this: why didn’t Sue just change his name to Bill or George or anything but Sue?

Incidentally, in last week’s entry on Ben E. King’s “Don’t Play That Song”, I lied about Elvis having been interested in recording that song. Though I wish he had recorded it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Honesty and Truth: Gimme Some Truth

John Lennon: Gimme Some Truth


Like some other contributors at Star Maker Machine, this is a busy week for me, with nary a moment to spare. But I couldn't let this week's theme go by without posting this song. Lennon always knew how to speak the truth. In this song, he asks for it. It is, unfortunately, a timeless sentiment.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dishonesty and Lies => Honesty and Truth: Confessin’ the Blues

Jay McShann: Confessin‘ the Blues


I’ll get to the main body of this post in a moment, but first, I have a confession to make. I’m sure many of you noticed that last week’s posts were… odd. There was a secret theme that became less secret as the week went on: each post had to contain at least one lie in honor of April Fool’s Day. So now, those who wish to can go on a scavenger hunt. Find the lie in each post. Beware, some posts had more than one, and the lie isn’t always the one identified in the comments. To start you off, my last post of the week was a sort of existential lie. Everything I said about Would I Lie To You was true, but, of course, that wasn’t the song I posted. Can you find the other lies? Have fun with it, and good luck.

Confessin’ the Blues seemed to me to be the perfect transition song, going from lies to truth. The narrator here is promising his honesty in the name of love. Jay McShann leaves it at that, but some versions have additional lyrics that imply that he used to be a liar, and that the woman he sings this to has lied to him. So, he is at a turning point, and he hopes she can love him back and join him there. Like many others, I first heard Confessin’ the Blues as performed by the Rolling Stones. The Stones were a fine blues band in their early days, and they always tried to get their fans to seek out the great blues masters they covered. In the case of Confessin’, the Stones probably based their version on the one by Little Walter, but the song is older than that. There is a fine version from the big band era, by Joe Williams with the Count Basie Band. McShann slims that version down a bit, and creates a wonderful jump blues version.