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100 best covers: #66 Lenny Kravitz “American woman”

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Music quiz aficionados would do well to check out the Sunday posts on fellow blogger Geoff’s blog, “1001 albums in 10 years”. As its title suggests, the blog’s normal programming involves its intrepid author sharing thoughts on the albums in the book, “1001 albums you must hear before you die”, as he tries to listen to each one within a ten year span. Over the past few years, he has added a fun, additional component in the form a quiz with five hints and chances to guess the artist of the week. Last week, said artist of the week was iconic Canadian rockers, The Guess Who, which I thought a bit fortuitous because it gave me a chance to plug his excellent work and at the same time, provide me a  lead into my next ‘100 best covers’ post.

“American woman” is one of the few tracks by The Guess Who whose songwriting credits are attributed to all of its members rather than just its principal songwriters, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings. This is because the song was the result of an improvised jam during a soundcheck one night in Ontario, the original lyrics ad-libbed by Cummings and later edited, which the group was really ‘feeling’. It was seen by many at the time as an anti-Vietnam war song and an outsider’s view of the American approach to it but Cummings has maintained on many occasions that it is really about his preference for Canadian woman over those from our southern neighbours, a sentiment most likely a result of touring fatigue.

American musician, Lenny Kravitz covered this tune almost 30 years later, right at the height of his popularity, originally for the soundtrack of the second installment in the Austin Powers film series. His version was softer, slower, and mostly because of who he was, innately sexier than the original. I haven’t really been a fan of much of his work but this cover is an exception for me. A faithful homage to a classic, one that doesn’t try to outdo the original and knows its own limitations in its shadow. Both versions rock, sport incredible, though very different styles of vocals, and throw hammer down with guitars.

Thoughts or preferences? Always game to hear ’em.

Cover:

The original:

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