What is your favourite cover song of all time?
The reworking of a classic that makes you take notice, turn up the volume, and play repeatedly due to an irresistible urge.
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For many of us, the global health crisis has provided opportunity to experience life with a slightly different twist, reinforcing what matters most and recognising the importance of imagination and innovation.
As a result, my obsession with music knows no abatement.
In fact, this period has heightened my senses and underscored the need for song, and dancing and movies and novels and paintings that add meaning and provide a sense of escapism.
Consequently, the only time the tunes are paused is when I am in a meeting, bingeing on Netflix, or fast asleep.
There is a music playing device in every room spinning vinyl, compact discs, cassette tapes, iTunes, or online rotations - no press nor genre is safe from my passion.
Further, cover versions, a metaphor for our current predicament, accompany my daily grind and help me reimagine the future. My favourites include:
- Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen covered by both Jeff Buckley and k.d. lang.
- Johnny Cash covering Neil Diamond's Solitary Man, the Nine Inch Nails classic, Hurt, and U2's One.
- Pearl Jam's hit, Last Kiss, a song originally written and performed by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers.
- Prince's superb, Nothing Compares 2 U, which received worldwide recognition compliments of Sinead O'Connor.
- The Bob Dylan classic, Make You Feel My Love performed by Garth Brooks and more recently, Adele, and Jimi Hendrix's cover of Dylan's memorable, All along the Watchtower.
- And Whitney Houston's unforgettable version of Dolly Parton's, I will always love you, for The Bodyguard, a song sharing Parton's heartbreak after leaving The Porter Wagoner Show.
Not satisfied with creating a playlist and listening on repeat, we retire to a loungeroom filled with drums, guitars, harmonicas, percussion instruments, recorders ... tin whistles, ukuleles, and a beautiful 120-year-old piano to perform our own covers. Unfortunately, the instruments are more collectables than an avenue to display any prodigious talent.
My earliest music memories are of mum singing a lullaby to soothe my fear of the dark and my father humming tunes from a life past.
Goodbye Dolly Gray, a song that Orange Order marching bands play when they parade in Northern Ireland on 12 July to signify the Battle of the Boyne (1690) where William III of Orange defeated his uncle and father-in-law King James II, is a tune that I remember from my childhood.
The battle predates the marching tune by some 200 years, which finds its origin in the Spanish-American War (1898) before becoming a Boer War (1899-1902) paean.
It is a very familiar song and that creates a significant conundrum.
As a loyal Carlton Blues supporter, Goodbye Dolly Gray is the Collingwood Magpies club song - football's arch enemy. It curls my toes and reinforces my antipathy at the end of a game if the lyrics are blared with gusto.
My favourite AFL theme is crooned with the support of a tune called Lily of Laguna, a racist song that was written by an Englishman for blackface performers in the late 1800's. Thankfully, a new verse was penned in the 1940's to rid the racist overtones. Nonetheless, it presents another conundrum that makes me stop in my tracks and reflect.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided time to pause and rethink our present and consider our future before launching back into work and community life that will be different.
For all the dire circumstances and unfair situations that many in our community have faced, there have been pockets of positivity. Increased family time has been a privilege for many with the lessons learned not likely to be forgotten. The way we work and interact has also delivered a level of creativity and flexibility that should improve productivity and work-life balance.
Music and the arts in general have become even more important, providing relief from the challenges of COVID-19 and the worry that has manifested across the community.
The "new normal", a term often used after a significant economic downturn like a global recession or a health pandemic, is a world that we will live in for the foreseeable future.
Our new normal will be tomorrow's take on yesterday. Just like a cover song, much will be the same albeit arranged in a different way.
As an idealist and romantic (keep that to yourself), the notion of slowing down our minds, being more present and thoughtful, and negating the need to rush all over the place will be good for us.
Of course, there are things that we have missed and may never fully regain, but the opportunity to incorporate and reinforce the positives should provide purpose for our new ways of being.
Cover songs inspire me to think and live and work differently.
Sometimes we only remember the reworking of a classic and not the original version, and that, my friends, sums up 2020.