A reader gets the new series going with a classic:
In terms of covers that are completely different from the original yet stand on their own as classics, I submit for your approval: “Try A Little Tenderness”—Otis Redding’s version. A lot of folks don’t know that the song was originally an old show tune. Bing Crosby did a version.
Which sounds like it’s from a different planet compared to Redding’s soulful 1966 version, as does a subsequent one from Engelbert Humperdinck. An orchestral version was used for the opening credits of Dr. Strangelove to serenade the mating ritual of mid-flight refueling.
On the flip side, one of the most famous songs of the 1960s, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” was originally Redding’s. She also covered “Try a Little Tenderness.”
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I love all kinds of music, but I particularly love covers. There’s the “what the heck?” cover—e.g., who would have guessed that U2 are huge ABBA fans? There are all those millions of tribute albums (a particularly good one is “I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen”). But my favorite type of cover is when something completely new is done with the song. Probably the most famous example is Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower,” which so improved on Bob Dylan’s original that even he does it “Jimi’s way” now.
But my favorite example of a song being reinterpreted is “Superstar.” The song was written by Bonnie Bramlett (of Delaney & Bonnie fame) and Leon Russel and was initially done by Rita Coolidge way back in 1970. It’s an emotional telling of a women in love with a man who’s seemingly forgotten her on his climb to rock stardom. It’s been covered many times since then (I personally own five versions), most famously by The Carpenters. But my favorite cover is by Sonic Youth, who turn the song into the creepy tale of a stalker.
Embedded above. My favorite mini-cover of “Superstar” is from Girl Talk, a mashup DJ and one of my all-time favorite artists, who sampled the song on “Like This,” the seventh track off Feed the Animals (starting at the 2:07 mark).
So what’s your favorite, most inspired cover story that veers significantly from the original? Let me know at email@example.com. Update from our reader above:
Not only that, but my favorite track from my favorite album of his. I almost included it here, but I figured no, since Girl Talk is mashing up someone else’s cover. (And just let me say that whenever I hear Karen Carpenter doing “Superstar,” I always segue way into Metallica’s “One” in my head.) And I just want to give a shout out to my oldest, Aaron, who is the one who turned me onto Greg Gillis.
In early 2007, the Pittsburgh native met a powerful ally: his congressman, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA). Luckily for Gillis, Doyle is the vice chairman of the Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee and a progressive on copyright issues. Kenneth DeGraff, one of Doyle’s young staffers and a huge fan of Girl Talk, introduced his boss to the mash-up star. [Kenneth was one of my housemates at the time, and our mutual fandom over Girl Talk might have been the deciding factor in me securing a room there, as we bonded over his music at the open house.]
During a memorable hearing, Doyle stumped on the floor of Congress for both his young constituent— “a local guy done good”—and the mash-up genre in general. “[M]ash-ups are transformative new art that expands the listener’s experience,” Doyle told his befuddled colleagues—few of whom had heard of mash-ups, let alone Girl Talk.
Since then, the unlikely duo has garnered a great deal of media attention, including profiles in Newsweek and Rolling Stone online. The latter dubbed the congressman “Girl Talk’s biggest fan,” a title given more weight in September when Doyle attended his first Girl Talk show at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. “What Gregg did on stage was nothing short of amazing,” recalled the silver-haired statesman, who came dressed in business casual and wielding a camera phone. “You can’t watch him perform and deny the fact that he’s creating something new and different out of the samples stored on his computer.”
Girl Talk truly is best experienced live, since he’s known for playing in the middle of crowds, rather than on a stage, and flailing around like everyone else. I’ve seen him perform four times, and after one of his shows in Manhattan, my friends and I were having a going-away dance party for a friend later that night in Brooklyn. Around 3 a.m., suddenly Greg Gillis himself appears at the door, to the astonishment of everyone. Once we realized it wasn’t an drug-fueled vision, Gillis said he and his friend were simply walking nearby and heard his music being played, so he thought he’d investigate. Talk about strange coincidences.
The president thrives on having an opponent to villainize. With impeachment, there are too many to choose from.
It is a strategy that President Donald Trump has deployed throughout his life, as instinctive and natural to him as the act of breathing: Villainize whoever is blocking his way.
Distasteful as Trump’s taunts might be, ridiculing adversaries has been the blunt-force instrument that propelled his political rise, with the president turning people into targets of scorn. As the impeachment fight enters its public phase, though, Trump faces a quandary. His go-to move may be inadequate in this moment for the very same reason the impeachment threat is so grave. There may be too many accusers who believe he shook down Ukraine, too many people who find fault with his behavior for the president to smack with a rhetorical mallet.
A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?
Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.
The latest volley in a decades-long debate involved one scientist dressing up as King Kong and stealing from his colleague.
In the pursuit of new knowledge, some scientists explore other worlds, discover new species, and develop cures for disease. Others film themselves being robbed by a colleague in a King Kong suit, to address a debate that’s been raging for more than 40 years.
Bedecked in ape cosplay, Satoshi Hirata from the University of Kyoto would grab a stone from his uncostumed colleague, Fumihiro Kano, and hide it under one of two boxes, all while Kano watched in mock indignation. Then, after Kano ducked behind a door, “Kong” would surreptitiously move the stolen stone to the second box. The duo filmed these shenanigans and then showed the videos to several chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans. They wanted to know how what the apes made of the scene. Specifically, when Kano returned and began looking for his stone, which box did the apes think he’d search first?
A record-setting acqua alta has left much of Venice submerged, following stormy conditions blowing in from the Adriatic Sea.
Yesterday, strong winds and rainstorms pushed water levels in Venice, Italy, to the second-highest levels ever recorded. The high-water mark hit 74 inches (187 centimeters), just short of the record set in 1966. This exceptional acqua alta has flooded businesses and historic structures, sank boats, and been blamed for one death so far.
Presidents have long relied on attentive aides to help them cope with the stresses of office. Not Trump.
Early in President Donald Trump’s term, White House aides worried that he was spending too much time cocooned in the building. So they went to a senior official and pitched an intervention of sorts: Take him to dinner one night at the Peking Gourmet Inn, a Chinese restaurant in the Virginia suburbs where both Bushes dined as president. The aides recognized that Trump was doing himself no favors by marinating in the personal feuds and Twitter spats that make up so much of his daily life, and thought a low-key dinner might be a therapeutic diversion.
“You’ve got to get him out of the White House!” they said to their colleague, a person close to the White House told me. Don’t announce it or make a big deal of it. Just go.
A public once enamored of Robert Mueller now turns its eyes to a cadre of career diplomats.
August 21, 2018, was a low point in the Trump presidency: On the same day—indeed, in the same hour—the president’s former campaign chairman was found guilty of federal crimes, and his former lawyer pleaded guilty in another case. While the president may have weathered the storm of that summer day, this past Wednesday, November 13, presented a similarly ominous double spectacle. In the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., prosecutors provided their closing arguments against the Trump confidant Roger Stone for obstructing the investigation into Russian election interference. At the same time, less than a mile away, the House of Representatives was in the midst of its first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry against the president of the United States.
The GOP will not be a great or good party until those who lead it straighten their backbone.
The first day of public hearings into the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump included an explosive revelation. William B. Taylor Jr., the senior American diplomat in Ukraine, tied Trump even more directly than we previously knew to the effort to pressure Ukraine to probe his political opponent.
But as damaging as Taylor’s testimony proved, it was merely another massive boulder in the avalanche of evidence against the president. We are well beyond the point that any disinterested person can deny that the president abused his power and acted in a corrupt manner, in ways the American founders explicitly warned against.
That the president acted the way he did should surprise exactly no one, given his disordered personality and Nietzschean ethic, his pathological lying and brutishness and bullying, and his history of personal and professional depravity. The president is a deeply damaged human being—and therefore a deeply dangerous president.
Suppose that the biblical story of Creation were true: God created the universe in six days, including all the laws of physics and all the physical constants that apply throughout the universe. Now imagine that one day, in the early 21st century, God became bored and, just for fun, doubled the gravitational constant. What would it be like to live through such a change? We’d all be pulled toward the floor; many buildings would collapse; birds would fall from the sky; the Earth would move closer to the sun, reestablishing orbit in a far hotter zone.
Let’s rerun this thought experiment in the social and political world, rather than the physical one. The U.S. Constitution was an exercise in intelligent design. The Founding Fathers knew that most previous democracies had been unstable and short-lived. But they were excellent psychologists, and they strove to create institutions and procedures that would work with human nature to resist the forces that had torn apart so many other attempts at self-governance.
The former UN ambassador presents herself as the leader who, without ever renouncing Trump, can heal the divisions his presidency has caused.
Nikki Haley has a theory about the post–Donald Trump GOP. It’s that Republicans will want to move on from Trump without repudiating him. They’ll want a candidate who promises healing without accountability. Haley auditions for that role in her new memoir, With All Due Respect. A former South Carolina governor who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Haley is a bellwether for her party. She’s done a better job than almost anyone of remaining popular with both Trumpists and the pre-Trump establishment alike, and at 47, she’s a likely presidential candidate in the years ahead. It’s figures like her who will decide whether Trump was a fluke—or the Republican future.
That’s what makes With All Due Respect so intriguing. Early news reports about the book emphasized Haley’s professed loyalty to Trump and her attacks on former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for undermining the president. Such reports, observed my Atlantic colleague David Frum, make it appear that Haley has placed a “big bet that the Republican future will be almost as Trump-y as the recent Republican past.”
The same rules don’t apply now that the House has begun a formal impeachment inquiry.
The House has now begun the public phase of its impeachment process. But during its closed-door sessions last week, more than 10 current and former executive-branch officials—including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and the top National Security Council lawyer, John Eisenberg—refused to show up. Each had been subpoenaed to appear. Compliance with a subpoena is not normally optional, of course.
But the witnesses declined to appear, at the White House’s direction. The White House argued that the Constitution’s separation of powers prohibits Congress from requiring close presidential advisers, such as Mulvaney and Eisenberg, to testify, and prohibits Congress from requiring any executive-branch official to appear for a deposition without a government lawyer present, two “prophylactic” constitutional doctrines—one old and one new—that the executive branch says are necessary to protect executive privilege. These doctrines purport to allow current and former executive-branch officials to refuse to comply with a congressional subpoena. But they have never before been applied to a formal impeachment inquiry. Nor has executive privilege.