Monday, November 14, 2016

Carmen McRae Sings "A Song for You"


Talk about being whipsawed! For the last week we've been toggling back and forth between vile politics and the loss of musicians of note, first Leonard Cohen, now Leon Russell. Admittedly Russell was more of a niche artist, but many stars, i.e., more popular musicians, admired him and acknowledged his influence as a pianist, including most recently Elton John. He did however write a couple of the best songs of the 20th century: "This Masquerade" was covered by George Benson, resulting in a massive hit in the 70s. It's a great example of what I call the Single Metaphor Song. Then there is "A Song for You," which is in a class by itself, a perfect song covered by dozens maybe hundreds of performers. Russell said he wrote it in ten minutes. In that instance he was an open channel through which the muses blessed our world. Most tributes will feature this song, but I'm posting a version that I'm sure no one else will be sharing. It's a live version from the great Carmen McRae, recorded in the 70s. Listen how centered her tone is, how she controls the bending notes, and how she really puts the lyrics across. The minimalist backing is perfection: Low piano chords and deep bowed bass. The sustained high note she sings at the end is a thing of beauty.

3 comments:

  1. He didn't used to be a niche artist, although maybe I was just immersed in that niche. Glad we saw him live a couple of years ago. Float is bliss, Leon.

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  2. I hear ya, Deborah. I think that after his brush with fame, he faded from widespread view, but that many people of our generation, such as yourself, continued to appreciate his unique blend of blues and country and rock and soul. It clearly meant a lot to Elton to be able to bring some well-deserved attention to Russell and his work. He did a good thing.

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