Jan 102014

Is it possible that Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions‘ “I’m the One Who Loves You” is so strong a song that not even a cheesy ’80s cover by Santana can ruin it? You tell me…after the break!


  21 Responses to “The Power of Song”

  1. diskojoe

    Well, I hope that the Santana version at least earned some royalities for Curtis Mayfield. I also love the original version. I feel that Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions are rather underrated these days, especially Curtis’ guitar playing.

  2. Despite a heroic attempt, Santana did not run that song which does, indeed, prove what a great song it is.

    Put me in the camp of those feeling that Mayfield is underrated. He was so prolific and it seems at times that he could do no wrong. There are songs you’ve loved all your life but didn’t know the writer. Then one day you discover – “Wow! That’s another Curtis Mayfield song (or Gamble-Huff or H-D-H)”.

  3. I’m glad someone got what I was thinking about. I’m always impressed when a song is so good that it withstands a hack cover.

  4. Right on DiskoJoe. I prefer his 60’s gospel influenced stuff to his 70’s funk (if I had to choose).

  5. That cover is horrendous. What is the flip side of the saying “you can’t polish a turd”?

  6. I’m not commenting on the quality of the cover, but the strength of the song. The melody, lyrics, and sentiment withstand all the crap Santana throws at it. I’m thinking of modern-day examples of hipster retro-’80s crap that’s now popular, like the Vampire Weekend and Haim. They’re not terrible in their odd pursuit of trying to sound like Wilson Phillips or soft-lense-era Fleetwood Mac, for instance (in the case of Haim, whose “Don’t Save Me Now” reminds me of “Little Lies,” or whatever that song is called), but their songs don’t have half as much to them. Their songs would fall apart without those specific artists behind them. A great Curtis Mayfield song is like “This Land Is Your Land” or “Amazing Grace.” Whether you, I, or a chorus of people with as limited voices as ourselves sing it, it’s still the song that gets to people.

  7. misterioso

    Possibly I am not fully grasping the concept fully. If the idea is that the truly horrible Santana version (and let it here be stated plainly: even though not all Santana is this bad, Santana sucks) does not so befoul the song that further enjoyment of the original is prevented, then I agree. On the other hand, if there is any suggestion that any of the qualities of the original shine through the miasma of Santana’s cover, I must disagree.

    Please, please don’t tell me that they did a cover of “This Is My Country,” my pick for Curtis’ greatest song (and he has a lot of great songs).

  8. I think you grasp the concept, yet you disagree with my assessment that there is so much essentially good about the song that not even this cover can destroy what is good at the song’s core. It’s OK that you disagree, but in this case it indicates that you are wrong:)

  9. misterioso

    Got it! But are you saying that if you’d never heard the original version and heard Santana’s you would have been thinking, “Y’know, there’s something great in here somewhere….”

    And help my memory here–who was that horrendous 80s Santana vocalist?

  10. I think I understand you Mod. I’m just trying to think of a phrase to describe it. The phrase “you can’t polish a turd” means that the core of something is so irredeemable that no amount of effort you put into dressing it up will make any difference.

    Conversely, we should have a phrase for a song that is so good that even when someone like 80’s era Santana tries to cover it with a Chapman stick, it doesn’t diminish the awesomeness of the song; it just makes Santana and his producer look like douches.

  11. Has RTH discussed the recent bestowing of the Kennedy Center Honor on Carlos Santana? Is this the ultimate example of grade inflation or what?

    Also awarded a 2013 Kennedy Center Honor was Billy Joel. Now, anybody who pays any kind of attention around these parts knows I’m no Billy Joel fan but even I will say he’s a first ballot hall of famer if the benchmark is Carlos Santana.

  12. I know what you mean, Al. We did not discuss the Santana honor. I don’t hate the guy or even dislike him. I will forever give him props for the way he makes the first note of any solo sustain. However, he seems to get a freer ride than almost anyone in rock. It’s as if he wrestled the spirit of Jimi Hendrix from its rightful heir, Eric Burdon, on the strength of his being a minority in rock. (OK, and a shit-hot guitarist to boot.) He’s always got a bad, modern-day, tie-dyed t-shirt with Hendrix or Bob Marley embedded in the factory-made design. I hate those shirts. His constant wearing of such bad shirts and his spiritual blather strike me as opportunistic. Worse yet, I don’t actually think he’s an opportunist but just an old-fashioned airhead. He “won” the rights to Jimi’s spirit. Clive Davis loves him. He talks about peace and love, but shows no signs of being willing to fight for it. THAT’S what bugs me, as I free associate: unlike Burdon, who ingested Jimi’s spirit for the sole purpose of brutally fighting for peace and love, Santana is content to wear the spirit like a gold crucifix or one of those little saint medallions.

  13. misterioso

    It’s so unfair! I mean, look at all the great work Burdon put out after Hendrix died! No, but seriously, I guess I understand your point but do people actually see Santana as some kind of heir to Hendrix? Please tell me this is something you are free associating and not a widely held opinion.

  14. misterioso

    And is he the same jerk who sang “Winning,” a Santana record that I’ve always loathed?

  15. I don’t know, misterioso, Carlos is still held us as a spiritual guitar god despite having made records with the matchstick 20/20 guy (I know that’s not the band’s real name). His continued status is way more baffling than Clapton’s.

  16. That’s part of what I’m getting at. If I had no idea Curtis Mayfield ever existed and I was forced to have heard this Santana version without backstory I would have thought, “That’s tolerable and even a little charming as ‘I’m Winning’-era Santana songs go!” (I also loathe “I’m Winning” – a song Carlos obviously crafted for getting back at Journey for stealing Gregg Rollie and Neil Schon from his old band.) I could make a connection to my feelings on The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo,” but that may confuse too many readers.

  17. I don’t see him as an heir to Hendrix and my interest falls off sharply after the second album, but he did come up with something pretty unique. If he had retired or died after that second album, we would all likely hold him in higher esteem at the thought of “what if…”

  18. misterioso

    I understand. I don’t see it, but I understand.

    I looked up “Winning”–turns out it was written by Russ Ballard, which sort of figures.

  19. misterioso

    I know “Evil Ways” and “Oye Como Va” must be on the first couple records. Those songs don’t make me angry. I don’t think I’d find him any more interesting if, God forbid, something had happened to him, but it’s true I’d be less likely to get angry at the thought of him.

  20. See? Now we have a dialog going! It’s all about building bridges, and positivity, and most of all, winning.

  21. This may need to branch off into its own sick thread: Artists Whose Legacies Would Have Benefitted From an Early Death.

    I fear such a thread will curse us.

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