Tuesday, August 12, 2008

HOT BUTTERED SOUL

All this talk about covers got me thinking about a story Dusty Springfield, one of pop's all-time best interpretive singers, once told me during a telephone interview. She said that Aretha had first been offered what turned out to be Dusty's signature song, "Son Of A Preacher Man, but turned it down. Dusty snatched it up, and the rest is recording history (and perhaps the main reason Dusty is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame today). Years later, Dusty met Aretha for the first and only time in an elevator. The door opened, and there stood Aretha in all her Queen of Soul glory. She stepped into the lift and after a few moments, turned around, put her hand on Dusty's shoulder and simply said, "Girl!" That's all, folks! "I just about fell out!" Dusty recalled, with a laugh.

Aretha eventually got around to recording "Son Of A Preacher Man" and Dusty said she so admired what Aretha did to it that she began singing it Aretha-style in concert. How's that for things coming full circle? I have a picture of Dusty and me taken in New York City's Sony Building at the record release party for her final album, A Very Fine Love, in 1995. I retrieved it from storage when I was in NYC. Once I scan it, I'll post it.

This past weekend we lost two fine performers, Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes. I always admired Bernie's stern and salty brand of comedy, particularly on his TV series, The Bernie Mac Show. And what can I say about Isaac Hayes that hasn't been said over and over? There was so much more to him than the "Theme From Shaft," for which he won an Oscar, and Chef on TV's South Park. His late-'60s and early '70s work ushered in both the era of disco and the age of indulgent bedroom soul. Like George Michael and Dolly Parton, he was both a gifted songwriter (he contributed to Dionne Warwick's 1979 commercial comeback by cowriting the Grammy-winning classic "Deja Vu") and interpreter. RIP, Bernie and Issac.

And on a final note regarding covers, here is Isaac's 1969 slowburn-soul overhaul of Glen Campbell's 1967 country and pop hit "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" (download here).
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