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Classic Song Sunday: “You Can’t Hurry Love”

Another Sunday, another Classic Song. This week, it’s “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

Almost every version of this song is a true winner. In fact, along with “Respect” (which is, ironically, a song that no singer has been able to replicate), it was one of my favorite songs growing up and one of the first songs I actually knew all the words to.

It was written by the Motown team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. The original was performed by the Supremes, and is just the right mix of careful tiptoe phrasing and peppy power plea. I have no idea what the last sentence just meant, but hear it for yourself and you might figure out what I mean.

About 15 years later, a boy version came along courtesy of Phil Collins. It’s not the same as the previous version, but has that slight leather-jacket 1980s feel to it, especially in the wall of sound. It’s not as 80s as the remake of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” but that’s a song for another post. I slightly prefer the Supremes’ version to this one, but it has its charms, and transposes it into a key with which I can identify.

Then, for the movie Runaway Bride, “You Can’t Hurry Love,” was remade by the Dixie Chicks in a bit of a country-love remix. I will not tell you my Runaway Bride story, because even though it’s funny in hindsight, it’s still embarrassing, and even more embarrassing because my parents tell it to people all the time. Still, I love the movie, it’s one of my favorites, and having visited the filming locations in Berlin, Maryland puts it in a special place in my heart, along with this really fun and contemporary version of the song. It has some beautiful harmonies in it.

Stay tuned for more Classic Song Sundays, hopefully to become a regular feature!

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11

Hey-La, Hey-La, The Girls are Back

Put another notch in my book belt, because Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound by Alan Betrock is officially in the books, as of today.

I don’t know if it really counts as having read a real books, since it’s less than 200 pages and includes pictures on almost every page, but it’s a great journey through the nostalgia of the girl group sound. The book goes through the major groups, like the Ronettes, the Shirelles, and the Supremes, but also some lesser known ones like the Exciters, the Shangri-Las, the Dixie Cups, and the Angels. There’s also a corresponding documentary you can watch on YouTube that gives you the full story (well, most of it), including interviews with some of the people of the era, including the late great Ellie Greenwich, the supremest of the Supremes Mary Wilson, the lovely Darlene Love, and the rebel queen of rock-and-roll, Ronnie Spector herself. Nostalgia everywhere you turn.

“But Jacob,” you might say, “you weren’t alive in the 60s and 70s, when Ronnie Spector was teasing her hair and Murray the K was on the air.”

I beg to differ.

Even though I was born in the 1980s and grew up in the 90s and 00s, I didn’t embrace the music of the times until high school. Some of my most cherished memories are from car rides to school, to the mall, or to the doctor, singing along with Aretha or Diana on the radio. I grew up listening to the Supremes, the Shirelles, and Martha and the Vandellas. Most kids like to sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” or at least a catchy, pervasive pop earworm – from my generation, it was songs like “One of Us,” “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and “Ironic.” The first song I knew all the words to, however, was “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and I would sing it at every opportunity. In the Napster era (RIP), the first song I ever downloaded was “Respect,” by Aretha Franklin, which is kind of ironic.

Even if you didn’t grow up in the 1960s, there’s no denying that these songs are arguably the best music America has ever offered the world. The lyrics are fun, if a little dark at times, but always break the ice. Plus, their wide vocal range makes them great karaoke choices, or for a cappella groups. Everything about them is timeless, and if you were to repackage them by a popular artist of today, they’d be just as popular.

With that said, here are my top five favorite girl group songs, some of which might have future entries decided to them:

5. The Dixie Cups, “Iko Iko”

4. The Chantels, “Maybe”

3. The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back”

2. The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”

1. The Shirelles, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

And if you don’t want to watch the documentary I linked above, here are the two most important moments.


This entry is dedicated to one of the all-time greatest teen queens, who unfortunately passed away earlier today at the age of 68. She brought us “It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and her own version of “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

Ladies and gentlemen, a moment of silence…

LESLEY GORE (1946-2015)

3

The Queen of Soul-ed Out?

Yesterday, I saw a link to a leak (why do they call it that? Just say it’s an early release or something, it’s not like a sniper’s hunting down these people) of a song from Aretha Franklin’s new album, consisting of cover songs. I looked at the track list, and Aretha made some good choices. What stuck out the most, obviously, was the first track, “Rolling in the Deep” by the ever-popular Adele. “This should be good,” I thought, not really knowing what to expect.

So I clicked on the link, and was presented with a studio cut of the song, which sounded pretty good for a 72-year-old, minus the annoying backing vocals, especially when they launch into “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” towards the end of the song, which has nothing to with Adele or the point of “Rolling in the Deep” or anything. I think they had to put it in there so Motown fanatics could hop on board, because change is scary.

And then I saw the comments.

Most of which implied that the recording used (with or without the Queen’s knowledge) the dreaded AutoTune, scourge of the music industry and sworn enemy of music purists. I took another listen, and I honestly couldn’t tell much of a difference. Every now and then, I would hear something that sounded a bit non-human, but for the most part, it’s Aretha, and very much so.

Other comments directed me to Aretha’s recent performance of the song on David Letterman. The first thing I noticed was “wow, Aretha looks great.” My second thought? “This does sound different.” Granted, that’s the thrill of the live performance; you hear things that might not be there on the recording. No two performances sound alike, and there were a few moments where Aretha backed up from the mic and I missed a word, or she rushed through a lyric, or something. It sounded similar, but not the same as the recording, but it’s still the Queen of Soul.

My thoughts?

Of course, AutoTune is evil, but that’s only when the powers that be use it for nefarious purposes, like making a bad singer sound good or making someone sound completely different (in a good or bad way) from how they actually sound. However, there are probably some benefits to pitch correction. If time is of the essence, it can be a quick fix on a 95% perfect take, just so everyone can go home an hour earlier. On the original cast recording of The Pajama Game, there’s one song that always bothered me, “Once-A-Year Day.” In the recording, Jerry Orbach (who was not a young man at the time), stops mid-word to wheeze. It’s a very obvious wheeze. and it’s also very obvious that it’s not in the song. If they had used AutoTune, they probably could have corrected it, or at least modulated it a little bit. That’s the good side of AutoTune; masking one obvious mistake from an otherwise perfect take.

Even if there was some pitch-matching software involved, it’s still a very good recording and sounds very much like the singer. Also, she’s seventy-two years old, and with age comes vocal changes and fatigue, so I think she’s earned the right to use AutoTune to make a decent song then have a raspy, pitchy track that critics will tear up.

Hear it for yourself here:

The Studio Version

The Letterman Version

What do you think?