Like many of the amazing gifts that my parents have given me over the years, the music I was exposed to served to set me up nicely for later life. Whether it was The Beach Boys, Isaac Hayes, Bread or the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, the tunes I associate with my long-lost youth are generally ones I remember fondly.
However there is one song that seemed to be playing all the time when I was a kid and which I cannot stand: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel. Despite the fact that I love almost all of there other work, and much of their subsequent solo stuff, there is something about Art Garfunkel singing Bridge Over Troubled Water that makes me want to shoot myself, but not before taking out which ever selfish bastard is playing the damn thing first.
Thankfully though, I recently discovered Aretha Franklin’s cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water and can now take pleasure in a song that until now had left me cold. Whereas Garfunkel’s version has always left me in mind of Walter The Softy whinging about Dennis The Menace kicking sand in his face, Aretha takes the song and shouts it from the rooftops. With her unmistakeable voice (arguably the greatest female vocalist in the history of modern music) she turns Garfunkel’s whine into a song where the performance matches the lyrics: the words are those of someone ready to lay down their all for the one they love but Garfunkel sounds like a man worried he might break a nail.
Aretha’s cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water not only shows why, in many people’s eyes, she will always be the queen of soul, it also makes her, as far as I’m concerned, the first lady of cover versions. Her version of Respect has replaced Otis Redding’s original as the standard version in a way that no other cover version has managed, save perhaps Jimi Hendrix’s re-imagining of Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower. With a voice that lead a country through the civil rights struggle, Aretha produced amazing covers of songs that no-one else would even dream of attempting, from Eleanor Rigby, to Respect, To Bridge Over Troubled Water.
And whilst I leave you with footage of Aretha performing her cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water, I’d also like to pose a question: don’t you think the world would be a better place if all bands walked in formation like The Temptations do at the start of this clip?
Bridge by robstephaustralia on flickr