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100 best covers: #58 Sarah McLachlan “Blackbird”

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Way back at number 90 on this list, I wrote about Rufus Wainwright’s cover of “Across the universe” for the soundtrack of the Sean Penn film, “I am Sam”. Now, more than thirty songs later on this 100 best covers list, we have another Canadian artist covering another Beatles track off the very same soundtrack.

The music for “I am Sam” was supposed to reflect the title character’s love for Beatles music, a sort of crutch for an intellectually disabled man fighting for custody of a daughter, named, get this, Lucy. The original Beatles songs were chosen while filming was taking place so when the filmmakers were refused the rights to those originals, covers were commissioned that had to retain the same track length and time signatures.

The Paul McCartney penned “Blackbird”, a gentle acoustic piece about US racial tensions off The white album, was assigned to Canadian singer/writer, Sarah McLachlan. It was recorded right in the middle of a six year break between her very successful 1997 record “Surfacing” and the 2003 ‘comeback’ album, “Afterglow”. I honestly don’t know how well McLachlan does outside of Canada but here at home, she is pretty legendary. And why not? That voice of hers is golden. She made a career out being a solo, folk-influenced female artist in a time when male-dominated grunge was king. She started the Lilith fair touring festival in 1996, a card that prominently featured female solo artists or female-led bands and was so successful that two more annual editions followed. I’ve never been a huge fan of her myself, but you can’t argue with her talent and her success.

Much like the stripped down original, Sarah McLahlan’s cover is built upon beautiful finger plucking on the acoustic and yeah, that wonderful voice of hers. It is quite simply a lovely rendition. Do I like it better than the original? No. However, I do find it a shade better than the one done by Doves (who you all know that I love) for the Roswell soundtrack. So yeah, I think that’s saying something.

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.