Friday, April 8, 2016

Cover Versus Original - Sing Me Back Home

With the passing of Merle Haggard in the last few days, Craig Bacon suggested I do a comparison between a Merle Haggard song and its associated cover. Of course, since it was Craig, the band doing the cover is the Grateful Dead.

The song Craig suggested was Sing Me Back Home and instantly the song hit an emotional chord in so many ways for me. The original version is soulful but direct. It tells a story about a difficult topic in that direct way that only Merle Haggard could pull off. Here is Merle's original:

I will admit that the first time I watched this video was the first time I heard this song. I can also guarantee that it won't be the last. You can feel the cold heat of the emotion in Haggard's voice as he tells this story in such a matter-of-fact tone that it is impossible to ignore. This was labeled as a Haggard classic, and I can see why.

Craig will probably not like this, but I chose a video teaser version of this song by the Grateful Dead for two reasons. One reason is that most people who are not Dead fans will not spend the 10 minutes they should to listen to one of the other live versions. The other reason is that this teaser does a pretty good job summing up the Dead's interpretation of this great tune. Here is a piece of how the Dead played this song:

Garcia's voice is ideal for this song, and the Dead nailed the tempo to help enhance the emotion as well. Of course, with the Dead, you get the notes wandering off into nowhere that don't seem to fit. But trust me, they fit. To me, the Dead's version is just as relevant as Haggard's. Where Haggard was trying to tell a story from the point of view of a man attempting to control his emotions, the Dead were telling the story as a lament. Both versions have merit, and I see no reason to put the original ahead of the cover.

Verdict: Let 'em both ride. 

George N Root III is a Lockport resident who loves all types of music. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at Yes, there were many better versions of this song by the Dead I could have chosen and no I don't want a list of them.