AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: Christ, you know it ain't easy... DATE: 12/08/2004 01:14:00 PM ----- BODY:
by Bob Harper, found on
You have to wonder if there'd be any difference, if we'd be a different world and a different country if John Lennon hadn't been shot 24 years ago today. Or would he have just ended up another Ozzy Osborne, some doddering old aging hippie on a demeaning reality TV show? Would he have been seen as irrelevant? Or was his best work ahead of him? I try not to think about such things for very long at present. If you can get your hands on it, though, listen to Blues Traveler's cover of "Imagine" from their Live from the Fall disc. It's a bonus track at the end of Disc 2--you have to scan forward to find it, which is a pain in the ass but worth it--it's the best cover of the song I've ever heard, and I have heard many. You wouldn't think Blues Traveler would be the group to cover such a song, but, in fact, their cover ranks up there as one of the greatest cover songs, period, I've ever heard (along with Tori Amos' "Smells Like Teen Spirit"). John Popper brings such power to the vocals--it still gives me chills every time he gets to "the brotherhood of man"--and even his harmonica solo in the middle is soaring and powerful. In other words, Blues Traveler did what you're supposed to do--but which many people fail to do--with a cover song, which is honor the original while making it your own. The best cover songs, meanwhile, do both of those things but also succeed in making the song new in some way. The Blues Traveler rendition does this by managing to be at once a performance with less modesty and understatement than Lennon gave the song; an homage to Lennon's now-towering legend; a more forceful reiteration of its peaceful message (because nowadays we need more beating about the head with messages); and most of all, a poignant reflection on how few of us have actually heeded it. The irony "Imagine" possesses now is the most painful thing about listening to it, and Blues Traveler captures it with sadness, compassion and fragile hope. All of us should find some way to reflect on John Lennon's ideas like that, at least once in our lifetimes. I envy those who could do it while he was still alive. Edit: And then shit like this has to go and happen. What the FUCK.