Category: John Lennon

Covered In Folk: John Lennon, Solo
(12 songs, 17 covers, one inimitable legacy)

October 6th, 2010 — 12:40 pm

The blogs are abuzz with the impending anniversary of John Lennon‘s birth; the man would have turned 70 this Saturday, and in keeping with the digital world’s everpresent bent towards relevance and immediacy, the faux-urgency of the date seems to have started an avalanche of tribute. And though we’re not usually the bandwagon types, it’s hard to ignore the way the Lennon story has come to define both the end of a social era, and the sad coda to the Beatles’ breakup – and the impact his songs and spirit have had on music, both in and out of the folkworld.

It’s a familiar story, but it bears repeating: post-breakup, Lennon was known as a deliberate songwriter, who turned to using song as a voice and vehicle for his political and social activism, thanks in no small part to Yoko’s influence. Though his first few albums with Yoko are essentially ambient noise – lyricless and abstract, in keeping with the Dada-inspired, Fluxus-grounded artistic vision which she brought to the table – his solo catalog from those final years is chock full of singable hymns and ballads, thick with cultural criticism, heavy with idealism and hope, grounded in a modern working man’s burden.

It’s always hard to predict what would have been, especially in cases of gunmanship. What we do know is that Lennon’s death at the hands of Mark Chapman canonized the man and his catalog, even as he teetered on the cusp of a potentially legacy-changing comeback after five years on hiatus as a musician, making for a legacy practically unparalleled in modern memory.

Imagine lies at the core, of course, and the song is sure to saturate the cultural surroundsound as we approach the 30th anniversary of his assassination this December. Preemptively, we’ve selected a diverse four of our subjective best from over 70 covers on the books to close out today’s set, but it wasn’t an easy choice; there’s easily enough greatness out there for a Single Song Sunday.

But a tribute to death ill-befits the man who bared his soul in the name of love and living; there’s much, much more to Lennon the solo artist than this single, simple peace-movement anthem. And happily, folksingers and singer-songwriters of all stripes seem to have noticed, coming back to his songbook again and again, as the world ever teeters on the brink of war and disaster.

Here’s a few favorites – from Willoughby‘s gentle grunge to Shelby Lynne‘s countrypop, from Rosie Thomas‘ layered lightness to The Dimes‘ soft indie-americana harmonies to The Peptides‘ cough syrup echo, from the produced roots-folk of Keb’ Mo’ and Richie Havens to Acoustic Philosophy‘s live organic jamfolk, and from the emotive pianofolk of Regina Spektor, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jackson Browne and Allison Crowe to the subtle guitars and simple voices of Julia Francis, Thomas Meny, Marissa Nadler, Jack Johnson, and Damien Rice – in well-deserved tribute to a life that leveraged fame into as much peace and justice as he could muster.

As always, we’re all about the artists here at Cover Lay Down – so if you enjoy the songs you find and hear here, don’t forget to go back and click on the artist names above, the better to pursue, support, and help keep the love alive and growing for all involved.

That said: though we’re happy to share the love we know, we can’t cover everything – we claim neither omniscience nor completism in our role as tastemasters and promoters – and neither can we give it all away. If you’ve got a great Lennon cover to add to the mix, feel free to share it in the comments with our blessing!

2,255 comments » | Covered in Folk, John Lennon

Covered In Folk: The Beatles, Part 2 (Signature Songs and Solo Projects)

December 10th, 2007 — 02:39 am

John Lennon died 27 years ago, on December 8th, 1980; I was seven, and the event was meaningless. But since then, like every one of you, I’ve absorbed the Beatles canon — which means, among other things, recognizing the loss of musical potential and statesmanship that marks Lennon’s passing.

Mostly, it’s the statesmanship I recognize. Though each Beatle — both the still-going and the dearly departed — went on to a fruitful solo career after the band broke up, for me, the Beatles as a cultural phenomenon are as much more a sum of their parts as they are musically. I mean, I know the music blogosphere is full of powerful Lennon tributes tonight, but by definition music blogs promote that which you haven’t really heard yet. Ask the average non-audiophile to sing a Beatles song, and the odds are they know dozens; ask them to sing a post-Beatles song, and they might be able to mangle their way through the first verse and chorus of a radio hit or or two.

Of course we know Beatles songs; it’s not like we have much choice. Over three centuries past their break-up, it remains a cultural rite of passage to grow familiar with the works of the Beatles. But their solo work has credibility on a smaller scale. As a member of the first post-Beatles generation, I never really took to the work of Paul or Ringo, with or without bands and mates, and my sense of the genius of Harrison and Lennon was mostly a peripheral awareness that there was more there than I was seeing from a distance, that some day I might like to listen to their work a little more closely.

In many cases, it was covers that brought me to to appreciate the continued later-in-life talents of the Beatles boys for what they were: individual talents, still powerful without each other. Great songwriters live forever, in the coverworld. That there are so many wonderful folk covers of the songs of the Beatles boys, both pre- and post-breakup, says what it needs to about their individual talents.

Today, in memory and in honor, over twenty coversongs from the fringes of the folkworld, our largest post ever here at Cover Lay Down. Including stellar folkversions of songs from the solo careers of Paul, George, and John, and some signature Beatles songs generally acknowledged as primarily a product of a single Beatlesboy. Plus a second set of select covers sung by a few of the boys themselves, as a little bonus.

The Songs of John Lennon

  • Alison Crowe, Imagine (orig. Lennon)
  • Keb’ Mo’, Imagine (orig. Lennon)
  • Rosie Thomas, Love (orig. Lennon)
  • Damien Rice, Happy Christmas (War is Over) (orig. Lennon)
  • Harry Nilsson, You Can’t Do That (Lennon; orig Beatles)
  • The Subways, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (Lennon; orig. Beatles)

    The Songs of George Harrison

  • Girlyman, My Sweet Lord (orig. Harrison)
  • Tanya Donelly, Long, Long, Long (Harrison; orig. Beatles)
  • The Bacon Brothers, If I Needed Someone (Harrison, orig. Beatles)
  • Jake Shimabukuro, While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Harrison; orig. Beatles)
  • Nils Okland, While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Harrison, orig. Beatles)

    The Songs of Paul McCartney

  • Ron Sexsmith, Listen To What The Man Said (orig. Wings)
  • Jem, Maybe I’m Amazed (orig. McCartney)
  • Dust Poets, Veronica (orig. Costello/ McCartney)
  • Mark Erelli, I’ll Follow The Sun (McCartney, orig. beatles)

    The Songs of Ringo Starr

  • George Harrison, It Don’t Come Easy (orig. Starr, poss. w/ Harrison)
  • Sufjan Stevens, What Goes On (Lennon/McCartney/Starr, orig. Beatles)

    I’ve thought long and hard about how to direct you to purchase and support today’s coverartists, but ultimately, I decided that today is about George, Ringo, Paul, and most especially John. If, after you hear these incredible covers, you want more information about the recent and universally awesome albums of the artists covering these songs, ask me about them in the comments, or head on over to good old google, type in an artist’s full names in quotation marks, and hit “I feel lucky” to buy direct from any artist’s website.

    Today’s Bonus coversongs: The Beatles Boys Cover…

  • George Harrison, Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (orig. Arlen/Koehler)
  • Ringo Starr and Stevie Nicks, Lay Down Your Arms (orig. Harry Nilsson)
  • Harry Nilsson w/ John Lennon, Many Rivers to Cross (orig. Jimmy Cliff)

  • previously: Covered In Folk: The Beatles, Part 1.
  • 517 comments » | Allison Crowe, Covered in Folk, Damien Rice, Dust Poets, Elvis Costello, George Harrison, Girlyman, Harry Nilsson, Jem, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ron Sexsmith, Tanya Donelly, The Beatles