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It’s Covered: You Can Leave Your Hat On

by oddbodkins on September 11, 2009

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I was raised in a Joe Cocker-friendly household. The Old Man remains a huge fan, and I’ve seen him a few times myself. Highlights include seeing him at Tower Theatre and watching a 6′ 5″ black female security guard trying to get an obviously pregnant woman to put out a joint, catching him at Woodstock ’94, and opening for Stevie Ray Vaughn (at the time, I thought that was criminal. That changed about five minutes into SRV’s set, but I digress). Since Joe arguably is the world’s greatest song coverer (I say it’s a word), it’s probably going to come as no shock to any that I chose to use him again for this episode of “It’s Covered.”

Today we’re going to take a listen to the classic “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Originally penned by Randy Newman in 1972 on his landmark Sail Away, the track has since taken on somewhat of a life of its own. I recall seeing an interview with Randy a few years back where he essentially said he wrote it as a bit of a small ditty. It wasn’t until Joe gave it his own spin, though, that the song skyrocketed.

Newman’s take is a slow builder. It rides on a basic piano line and Randy’s engaging lyrics, which deal with the speaker essentially telling an assumed woman how to strip for him. It never rises above much of a mumble, with a tad of percussion here and a touch of electric guitar there.

Not one to simply do a faithful rendition, Joe blows the track up, adding a lot of brass, female backing singers and his own powerful vocals to take the track to the next level. Though it was originally released on his Cocker CD, it was its inclusion in 9 1/2 Weeks that placed it firmly in the public consciousness. Let’s face facts, Joe made this track sexy in ways that Newman admittedly never played up. The results speak for themselves.

Next up, we have the incomparable Etta James’ take on things. She seems to fall somewhere in-between the two previous versions, funking things up a bit. The guitar has a bit of wah wah to it, and the bass line is much thicker. Essentially, it’s got that EJ stamp on it.
Then we’ve got Marc Broussard’s version. Fittingly enough, it comes from Sail Away: The Songs of Randy Newman. Though you might not think it possible, Broussard funks things up even further. He combines Etta’s slinky guitar, Joe’s horns and some earthy keys to create his own unique slant.

Finally, we’ve got an acoustic take from Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule. The tempo is altered slightly and the couple trade lines back and forth. I stumbled upon Paul’s site a few years back and he’s got plenty of covers up for free. Every Valentine’s Day, he does a duet album with Devon, initially his girlfriend, now his bride. (Ed. note–it appears they didn’t do one in 2009.) I strongly suggest checking them out, as them’s good eatin’.

And since the Interwebs offer no shortage of wonderful goodies, here’s a lesson plan on how to discuss the song with intermediate, upper-intermediate and advanced students regarding phrasal verbs.
To further your educational needs more still, how ’bout a pole dancing lesson?
God, I love the interwebs.

And with that out of the way, I believe I have a few suggestions I need to go make to my bride.
mp3: You Can Leave Your Hat On (Randy Newman)
mp3: You Can Leave Your Hat On (Marc Broussard)
mp3: You Can Leave Your Hat On (Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule)
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

CHROME KIDS September 11, 2009 at 1:45 pm

what no Tom Jones?


Terrible Chris September 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Valid question, but i don't have that one in my library. i also feel bad leaving out the Merl Saunders version for the cover alone.


dave September 11, 2009 at 2:41 pm

You Can Leave Your Hat On is a great song but the lyrics are about a child molester thus making the song a much darker beast than the shouting versions by Tom Jones & others imply, and making the downbeat and frankly depressing version by Randy Newman all the more powerful & scary.
p.s Nice site


Terrible Chris September 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm

i did not know that. Where did you find that out? Clearly, the Interwebs failed me here.

And many thanks.


Dave September 13, 2009 at 2:58 pm

being a slightly ageing old git my memory is kinda hazy so I cant remember where I heard it but it was a while back & I definately remember a couple od other people mentioning it.
Funny thing is I cant find any reference to it on the web either, maybe Randy plays it down a bit these days being as its turned into such a nice little earner for him.


Anonymous February 9, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I really doubt that. Pretty harsh slander. Who the hell would write a song about that and if they did tell someone thats really what they ment.


Terrible Chris February 10, 2010 at 2:25 pm

While i still have yet to see any verification of this being about kiddie touching, there are certainly plenty of fucked up tracks about that out there. Hell, Nirvana alone did multiple tracks on rape (Rape Me and Polly, to name two).

Rock 'n roll clearly is not for the faint of heart.


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