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.