I'm jumping in folks. I'm dipping my toes in the Twisted Mix Tape waters. I like music, but I have no memory for artists and no time to stay current. But, but, but, this week's topic got my attention because I actually have some strong opinions (that I even remember) on cover songs. I fiddled around with various ideas and finally settled on one: performances of one of the great musicians of our time, Willie Nelson. You may love him or hate him, but you must admit he's distinctive. And I'm firmly in the love him category. I suppose I've been listening to his voice since I was an infant so he just seems like the pig-tailed, pot-smoking grandfather I never had. He's a valid songwriter in his own right, but he's not shy about borrowing from (and improving on) others' work.
It was incredibly difficult to limit myself to five cover songs performed by Willie Nelson. That man spreads his love and appreciation for a good song across all kinds of musical genres. He's covered Cyndi Lauper, Irving Berlin, The Shirelles, and Pearl Jam, among countless, countless others. But, in honor of the challenge, I stuck to ones I genuinely know and love, ones I can sing along with (which is saying something since he loves to play with the rhythm and come in on the off beat). These songs may not come from albums I love entirely (though some I do), but I do listen to the albums multiple times a year to hear these songs. And you should too!
1. My favorite cover of all time, the original song on this list that gave me my theme, and a song that I truly believe is vastly improved in cover version. I have nothing against Paul Simon. Like everyone else on the planet, I own Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. And I know quite a few of his later works as well.
But, his voice is a bit too sweet and too soft for me. So who better than to improve upon Graceland than Willie Nelson? Listen to it and pay particular attention to the "There's a girl in..." line.
2. If you're gonna talk about covers performed by Willie Nelson, you can't neglect the Stardust album. And I could choose Stardust or any other of the excellent songs on this album, but I'm going with Sunny Side of the Street because it's just so peppy and cheerful. Do you need a little more pep? Listen to this song:
3. There's a wonderful quote from Steve Earle about Townes Van Zandt.
Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.Perhaps even better was TVZ's response when he heard the quote. Something about having seen BD's bodyguards and there was no way SE was getting anywhere near BD's coffee table.
That aside, the bulk of my music knowledge comes from my brother and my husband so this one goes out to my big brother who believes Pancho & Lefty is one of the three finest songs ever written. Townes wasn't much of a singer, so we need Willie's cover.
Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson tour together quite a bit so I think they must hold each other in high esteem. The Dude holds Bob in extremely high esteem and so we listen to him quite a bit around our house. So long as he doesn't get too pretentious, I can also appreciate Bob Dylan's songwriting skills (if not his current voice). Though it will make The Dude mutter and groan, I have to skip a Bob Dylan cover because I just don't love any of the songs Willie has chosen. Sorry, Dude.
4. It seems fitting to have a Bob Wills song on this playlist of Willie Nelson covers. One famous Texas musician covering another. And this song is so sweet.
5. And, finally, I'll turn the tables for the last one just to prove Willie Nelson can indeed write a song.
Yes, he can. Did you know he wrote that?