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Signature Songs

Azizi 26 Apr 09 - 12:19 PM
Azizi 26 Apr 09 - 12:27 PM
Azizi 26 Apr 09 - 12:38 PM
Azizi 26 Apr 09 - 12:42 PM
Eve Goldberg 26 Apr 09 - 12:58 PM
Marje 26 Apr 09 - 01:52 PM
Don Firth 26 Apr 09 - 02:50 PM
Richard Bridge 26 Apr 09 - 03:59 PM
Don Firth 26 Apr 09 - 05:03 PM
Don Firth 27 Apr 09 - 01:13 PM
maple_leaf_boy 27 Apr 09 - 08:27 PM
Azizi 27 Apr 09 - 08:39 PM
Eve Goldberg 27 Apr 09 - 10:29 PM
GUEST,highlandman 27 Apr 09 - 11:07 PM
maple_leaf_boy 27 Apr 09 - 11:20 PM
maple_leaf_boy 27 Apr 09 - 11:22 PM
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Subject: Signature Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 12:19 PM

A longer name for this thread is "Signature Songs & Other Singers Who Sing Them".

I'm curious what song or songs you consider to be the signature song/s of a specific singer. I'm also curious if you like or preferanother vocalist's rendition of that song more than that singer who is most often associated with that song.

The idea for this thread came to me as a result of reading comments in this Mudcat thread about actors portraying certain Blues singers: Review: (NYT) Cadillac Records: blues movie.

A poster to that thread includes this quote from the New York Times article about that recent movie:
"Cadillac Records" would be worth seeing for the music alone. Mr. Wright's renditions of Muddy Waters's signature songs are more than respectable, while Ms. Knowles's interpretations of Ms. James's hits – "At Last" and "I'd Rather Go Blind," in particular – are downright revelatory."

-snip-

However there is considerable disagreement online and off-line about how well Beyonce sang "Etta James' songs". That disagreement became even more intense when Beyonce was invited to sing at President Obama's Youth Inaugural Ball and she sung Etta James' signature song "At Last".
http://www.usmagazine.com/news/etta-james-how-dare-beyonce-knowles-sing-at-last.

This thread is not necessarily about Beyonce or Etta James. However, this comment from an anonymous reader to the above linked article somewhat encapsulates one of the questions that I hope will be discussed in this thread:

"So no one can sing Beatles songs or Frank Sinatra songs or Michael Jackson songs except the original singer?"
-snip-

In other words, should singers sing another vocalist's [who is still alive] "signature song" at a prominent event even if that song wasn't penned by that particular vocalist?

I'm interested to know your thoughts about this question and I'm also interested in reading lists of signature songs for specific vocalists. Although Mudcat is a folk & blues forum, for the purpose of this thread, the songs and singers listed could be from any music genre.

Btw, I looked up this subject in Mudcat's search engine and found posts that included the phrase "signature song" but didn't find any threads dedicated to that subject.


Thanks in advance for your participation on this thread.


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 12:27 PM

Here's a link to a Wikipedia article on signature songs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signature_song


An editorial note for this comment tickled my funny bone: "This article has multiple issues."

-snip-

So an article can have issues? I thought only people had issues with articles and not the other way around..

Playing pass that, here's some quotes from that article:

A signature song is the one song (or, in some cases, one of a few songs) that a popular and well-established singer or band is most closely identified with, even if they have had success with a variety of songs. Signature songs are a marketing tool developed by the music industry to promote artists, sell their recordings, and develop a fan base..

A signature song is a must in many artists' repertoire, and one which they may choose to perform at every concert appearance. Marketing programs by recording companies and fan expectations for these signature songs sometimes result in the artist's difficulty to perform other kinds of music...

Some songs are so iconic and popular that many different singers may share that song as their signature song. A well-known example is "Over the Rainbow" but which is mostly identified as Judy Garland's signature song.

Another song that has been identified with more than one singer is "Ol' Man River", which became the signature song of both Paul Robeson and William Warfield. "

-snip-

Do you agree with these comments?


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 12:38 PM

Just because I mentioned these two singers' renditions of the song "At Last", here are links to Etta James and Beyonce' Knowles' rendition of that song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADDigK8LwyE
Etta James-At Last

**

a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN1vd0dR_4E&feature=related">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN1vd0dR_4E&feature=related
Beyonce Knowles- At Last (starting at 1:33 minutes of the video)


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 12:42 PM

Sorry about that last hyperlink. Let me try that again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN1vd0dR_4E&feature=related

Beyonce Knowles- At Last (starting at 1:33 minutes of the video)


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 12:58 PM

Some signature songs that come to mind:

Kate Smith is forever associated with "God Bless America."

Billie Holiday's performance of "Strange Fruit" certainly comes to mind.

Glenn Miller Orchestra, "In the Mood."

Dinah Washington "What a Difference a Day Makes"

Those are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. I think there's a difference between a performer's most popular song, and a song that has become forever associated with a performer because of their definitive version of it. Or perhaps because they started/ended every performance with it.

As I'm thinking about it, it seems to me that there are some SONGS that are very closely associated with certain artists, and there are some ARTISTS who have a particular song associated with them. And it's kind of two different things.

It's hard to think about "Strange Fruit" without thinking of Billie Holiday for instance. But Billie Holliday put her indelible stamp on many many songs, and I don't think you could pick one song she sang and say that was THE song that was associated with Billie Holliday.

Lots of people associate "Angel From Montgomery" with Bonnie Raitt, but again, she has put her stamp on so many songs, how can you choose just one?

As for other musicians interpreting signature songs, once a song has been interpreted by one artist in a way that is widely recognized, it's hard for anyone else to sing that song without being compared to that version. But a good interpreter will be able to make the song their own, and add their own unique spin to it. Sometimes re-interpretations can overcome the association with another artist by dint of being completely radical, or just by the singer's sheer artistry. But it's not easy once that association is in someone's mind.


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Marje
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 01:52 PM

There's an interesting small-scale parallel in the amateur folk world, at least in the UK. At sessions and clubs, there's often one person who becomes associated with a particular song, to the point where other people will tend to avoid doing that song when they're in his/her territory, even if they might sing it elsewhere.

I suppose there are several reasons for this. The person holding the "copyright" will usually be known for doing a decent version of the song, which may put others off in case their performance doesn't measure up to expectations, but it also works the other way: a poor performer may regularly do such an awful version of a song that no one else wants to sing it.

And it's also considered (sometimes, not always) to be a general courtesy to avoid doing a song you know is a favourite number in someone else's repertoire. I think this habit dates back to pre-revival traditional singing, where everyone knew that (say) "The Barley Mow" was Fred's song or George's song.

But then when we all meet up at regional or national festivals and folk events, no one has any particular claim to a song so it's just a matter of who can get in first with their favourites.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Don Firth
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 02:50 PM

I recall hearing Frankie Laine singing "Wanderin'" back in the late 1940s when I was in high school. In the early 1950s, I met Walt Robertson, who had a television program at the time called "The Wanderer." He used "Wanderin'" as his theme song, but he sang a tune quite different from the one Frankie Laine sang. Walt said it was an old hobo song and that's the way he'd learned it.

As the number of folk music enthusiasts around Seattle grew through the 1950s, we had many get-togethers, song fests, and hootenannies. Although many of us learned many songs from Walt, no one sang "Wanderin'" except Walt. He never said anything himself, but we all considered that to be "Walt's song," and regarded it as off-limits.

Walt singing his version of "Wanderin'".

Walt passed away in 1994 (pancreatic cancer), so it occurs to me that I may learn the song (already know it, in fact) and begin singing it. In remembrance of my friend and early mentor.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 03:59 PM

I'd be interested in the other version too. I learned the song off dots when I was young (before gave up blues because I was not black) under the name of "Wanderin' Blues" and the tune was not as the Robertson version (maybe my bad dot reading) and some of the words differed too.


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Don Firth
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 05:03 PM

Richard, "Wanderin'," with the more usual melody (the best known one, and the one that Frankie Laine sang), can be found in Carl Sandburg's American Songbag (p. 188, as I recall). I've googled to see if I could find an mp3 or something that you could listen to, like a cut from something like "Frankie Laine's Greatest Hits," but I've come up with nothing so far.

I tried YouTube, and came up with a rock group singing something called "Wanderin' Blues," but it's an entirely different song.

I'll keep looking.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 01:13 PM

Richard, are you still there? I found it—more or less—HERE.

This is very close to the tune that Frankie Laine sang and the way I've heard most people sing it, other than Walt. But they didn't sing it as dotted eighth notes followed by sixteenth notes (DAH-tuh DAH-tuh DAH, etc.—that sounds a little "buckety-buckety," like Gilbert and Sullivan, to me), they sang it much more smoothly, like all eighth notes. Take your clue from the natural rhythm of the words.

The words are slightly different. I like the ones Walt sang the best, but that may be because I was used to hearing him sing it.

I hope this helps.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: maple_leaf_boy
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 08:27 PM

It depends on the song, and the person covering it.
If it can be performed well by the artist who is covering it, then it
might be successful.
A song like "Witchita Lineman" would be difficult to perform as
effectively as Glen Campbell did. More versions haven't
turned out as well as ones that have.
(I'm speaking on a commercial basis).
If it's just an album filler or an indie group, then it wouldn't matter
all that much.

Some of the artists mentioned who have signature songs:
On one hand, some of those groups have material that has been over-done,
but the people covering those "signature songs" usually do a better
job at it. (Without mentioning who those artists are.)


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Azizi
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 08:39 PM

Thanks to all who have posted to this thread thus far. Your comments have been interesting.


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 10:29 PM

Oh, please mention who the artists are, maple leaf boy! We're all ears!

I'll just say my list of artists with signature tunes wasn't necessarily based on my favourite artists, or on whether I think their versions of the songs in question were artistically pleasing to me, or whether the songs in question are even songs I like. It was simply based on examples I could think of where a song is often associated with a particular artist, or a particular artist is associated with a song.


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: GUEST,highlandman
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 11:07 PM

Just to put a different slant on the discussion:
I recently watched a PBS show where Paul Simon was being honored for doing whatever it is he did over the years, and most of the numbers were his songs being covered by some of the most surprising artists: Lyle Lovett, Stevie Wonder, Alison Krause, Damian Marley... Of course it was in a "tribute" sort of format, so that was expected, but each of the artists did the songs in their own way. It was fun and educational to see what they could do with all those "signature" Simon songs.
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: maple_leaf_boy
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 11:20 PM

I wasn't referring to your list of artists, Eve.
I was thinking of the beatles and Michael Jackson. (I know that
several of my friends aren't big fans of the beatles, but that's
a group that almost everyone would refer to)
I do hear a lot of comments about Michael Jackson's voice being disturbing).
Those are names I noticed, and that's how people feel
about them in my neighborhood, because so many bar bands cover those
artists, and the same song too. They're versions seem to be liked
more by the bar crowds than the originals, but they're played so
often (songs repeated at the same gig) that the bar crowds started
wanting some variety and bands with original music after a while.

To add to the list of artists who are associated with a specific song, and/or songs associated with a specific artist:
Leadbelly is most associated with:
"Black Girl" also known as "Where Did You Sleep Last
Night" or "In The Pines". (However, the song in modern times is
also most associated with Kurt Cobain.)
Joni Mitchell:
"Big Yellow Taxi"
Bob Dylan:
"Like A Rolling Stone"
(I know he has a crazy voice, but his song lyrics are incredible).
Willie Nelson:
"Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" or "The Red-Headed Stranger".
Beach Boys:
"California Girls" is probably their most well known song.
The Proclaimers:
500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be).

I hope this doesn't sound too much out of topic:
What if several songs are associated with the same artist,
or that artist is associated with several songs equally?
Could an artist have more than one "signature song".
Such as: Hank Williams with "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", "Hey Good Lookin'" and "Your Cheatin' Heart", etc. or Johnny Cash with "Folsom Prison Blues", "I Walk The Line", "Ring Of Fire", "A Boy Named Sue", "Man In Black" of course; and "Hurt".


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Subject: RE: Signature Songs
From: maple_leaf_boy
Date: 27 Apr 09 - 11:22 PM

Also, about the Bob Dylan part, that song title is always associated
with him, but I never hear anybody covering that particular song,
because there are so many lyrics, and a lot of bands can't seem to get
the rhythm for it as easily.


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