Friday, January 22, 2010

Music by women (by Suzie)

Echidne has discussed mixed feelings for the music of Leonard Cohen. In one post, she concludes: “Art has no ownership, ultimately. I can take this song and make it mine …”

I’m lazy. I’d prefer another woman make it her own, and then I can listen to her, not him. (Yes, I do understand reader-response criticism.)

I love Jennifer Warnes’ “Famous Blue Raincoat,” her CD that covers Cohen. Hers was both a celebration and a collaboration. In contrast, KD Lang truly makes “Hallelujah” her own (while the YouTube listeners comment on her looks.) (Btw, here’s in interesting commentary on the song.)

A woman singing “Hallelujah” doesn’t change the meaning all that much. But some women turn a man’s song topsy-turvy. A famous example is Aretha Franklin singing “Respect,” which was written and first recorded by Otis Redding. Here are his original lyrics; see how she changed them.

When the Commodores did “Brick House,” the shapely woman was an object, albeit one that inspired awe. When Osborne does it, she’s the one built like a brick house (and she changes the lyrics to more appropriate measurements). For me, the meaning changed even more when I saw her perform at the Lilith Fair before a predominantly female audience. She seemed to be celebrating all of us with meat on our bones.

Women cover songs by men all the time. But some, such as Tori Amos and Annie Lennox, make it a CD project. Amos does a chilling cover of Eminem’s " ’97 Bonnie & Clyde," in which a man murders his estranged wife and dumps her in a body of water, while lying to his daughter. A commenter on the Cover vs. Original blog says:
tori is a fuckin nut winged psycho. Em went through some rough times && need to vent. tori just decided to be a bitch and jump on his case for nothing. all he did was talk about killing his wife.
No matter how subversive the women, the men still get royalties. That’s why we need more women like Ani DiFranco, who created her own record company and, for the most part, sings her own songs. Here are the lyrics to the song below.

I've got better things to do than survive.
While I'm out of town, I hope you'll share other songs.