Friday, April 6, 2012

Learning with Lydia: A lesson in music history...Impact Songs!

Prepare to have your minds boggled today, my lovelies! Most of you who are close in age to myself might remember Nirvana's song, "Where did you sleep last night" (My Girl). If you've never heard it, you're missing out! I've lined the video below so that you can check it out! 

(Be sure to pause the music in the right side bar before you press "play"!)

Long story short, "My Girl" stemmed from a song popular in the 1940's from an artist called Leadbelly...his version was called "Where did you sleep last night". He was an incredible blues artist! Kurt even makes reference to him in the video I linked above. Being a Memphis native (Home of the Blues) I absolutely adore this version of the song too! Isn't it incredible how different artists and stylings can completely change a song?!

Sit Tight...It gets even more interesting! Lets just say that it gets a bit more complicated. This song has been around for over a century! It originated as an American folk song dating all of the way back to the 1870's. It's gone by multiple names as well: "In The Pines," "Black Girl," "Where Did You Sleep Last Night",  "The Longest Train I Ever Saw", and "My Girl." The style and even the lyrics have changed through various recordings, but all in all, the same principal applies! Everyone from Dolly Parton to Joan Biaz, The Grateful Dead, and Nirvana have covered it. I like to refer to this type of song as an "Impact Song" due to its uncanny ability to reach and appeal to such a wide range of audiences.

If you want to delve more deeply into the song, it is open for interpretation! Many musicians have changed the lyrics around to appeal to different audiences. One thing is certain however, it is a relatable song.

~The Pines: can be used as a representation for loneliness, sexuality, adultery, fleeing slavery, and even death.
~The person who goes into The Pines: A representation for any man, woman, or child. Slave, friend, or foe.
~The Train: Represents loss, distance, death, and even the murder of an individual.

 The Tenneva Ramblers made a version of this song called, "The Longest Train I ever Saw". It became immensely popular all over again with a new group of people: coal miners. Bill Monroe also did a version. That version became so popular in fact that it is still played on some of the lower dialed radio stations. The first time I ever heard that song was about 4 years ago while I was driving in the car. I IMMEDIATELY recognized it. I could instantly identify it was the same song that Nirvana had covered in the early 90's. It's absolutely incredible to me how these songs that were vastly popular decades and decades ago can be revamped, recovered, and redone to impact new audiences in incredible ways. It's been done over and over again with Hymns and other pieces. This song is another fantastic example of durability throughout music. There have been countless covers done of it. I thought it would be fun to link some of the covers below:

Tenneva Ramblers

Bill Monroe's version incorporates a lot of blue grass and even yodeling!

It's recently been redone again by WZRD (Kid Kudi). I'm really enjoying their version!:

To sum it up, the staying power of this song is astounding!  It reaches all audiences, ethnicities, and ages! Now that, my lovelies is an Impact Song!


So, who's version do I prefer, you might ask? Hands down, Nirvana's version! In my humble opinion, nobody will ever be able to top the raw, urgency of Kurt Cobain's vocals. That being said, I am so pleased to hear new artists breathe new life into this song decade after decade. This is the way music is supposed to be! It's supposed to touch you deep down on a personal level and it should always be open to interpretation....that's where it's true art form and genius come shining through!