Friday, December 25, 2020

Remake or Cover?

I'll just go ahead and let you know right from the start; I have no idea what the difference is between a cover and a remake. I don't even know if there is a difference.

What I do know is that this year - 2020 - I have spent more time watching YouTube than ever before. And not watching just anything there, but covers (or is it remakes?).

(By the way, if you don't want to listen to any of the music, no worries. Don't click on any of the burgundy links and just keep reading.)

Early on in the pandemic, I discovered Foxes and Fossils, a band from Atlanta whose harmonies are incredibly tight and whose remakes (or covers), many times, are simply better than the original.

More recently, I came across Josh Turner, Carson McKee,Reina del Cid and Toni Lindgrin. Sometimes they are two duets. Sometimes they are a single quartet. Sometimes they have other friends with them. Whatever... whenever... whether it's '60's folk, '70's classic, the Beatles, or even bluegrass (I can't believe I just wrote that!), I think they are awesome!

And then, of course, Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids. While the music isn't close to the same quality as the previous artists, it's hard not to enjoy the story of a musician dad at home with his three kids during a pandemic who decides to teach them a song every day and record it. I don't really know how many songs they have actually recorded this year - my guess is over 200 - but their videos now have almost 32 million views!

Frank Zappa once said, "All the good music has already been written."

I actually was going to say that myself, but in doing the research, I found that Mr. Zappa beat me to it. But it is true for me as well. Now it's just about who can sing the song the best!

Here's a Christmas song from each of the cover (or remake) artists...

Still with me? If so, you're probably wondering, "What does all of this have to do with a Christmas Day blog?" Good question.

Over the last couple weeks, I've written about a couple of my favorite Christmas carols - "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "The Coventry Carol", both in the minor key. I've saved my all-time favorite carol (minor key as well) for this Christmas blog - "I Wonder as I Wander."

Remember... all the good music has already been written. Turns out that although this carol was written and first published by John Jacob Niles in 1934, it actually had its origins in a song that he heard performed on July 16, 1933.

Here's the story from Nile's unfinished autobiography:

“'I Wonder As I Wander' grew out of three lines of music sung for me by a girl who called herself Annie Morgan. The place was Murphy, North Carolina, and the time was July 1933. The Morgan family, revivalists all, were about to be ejected by the police, after having camped in the town square for some little time, cooking, washing, hanging their wash from the Confederate monument and generally conducting themselves in such a way as to be classed a public nuisance. Preacher Morgan and his wife pled poverty; they had to hold one more meeting in order to buy enough gas to get out of town. It was then that Annie Morgan came out—a tousled, unwashed blond, and very lovely. She sang the first three lines of the verse of 'I Wonder As I Wander.' At twenty-five cents a performance, I tried to get her to sing all the song. After eight tries, all of which are carefully recorded in my notes, I had only three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material—and a magnificent idea."

So, for two dollars' worth of quarters, or $40.04 in 2020 money, Niles came away with:

"I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on'ry people like you and like I...

He later added two verses of his own to tie Jesus' birth to His death. But from those initial twenty-seven words (at almost 7 1/2 cents per word), he crafted music and words that speak both powerfully and personally to me.

There's no denying the power of the music, whether it's being sung by a Russian immigrant or played on a cello in the snow.

But the personal is even more powerful.

If you remember, I suffer from mondegreenitis. I hear things in song lyrics that simply are not there.

So, while I know that "on'ry people" is just the Appalachian contraction for "ordinary people," that is not how I sing the song.

Nope. In my head (and from my lips), it is "poor ornery people..." 

Stubborn... bad-tempered... combative people.

Like Rich Mullins sang: "I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want, than to take what You give that I need."


That's me.

And that's who my Savior came to die for.

You're like, "But that's not even in the song!" Yes, but it is in the Bible.

"In the past you were dead because you sinned and fought against God." (Ephesians 2:1 CEV)

"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners." (Romans 5:6 NLT)

"No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful." (Romans 5:7-8 CEV)

Jesus died for an ornery person like me, and in doing so, He covered my sins (Psalm 32:1) and he remade and renewed my heart (Ephesians 4:22-24).

That's what Christmas is about, especially for ornery people like me.

And, I'm guessing, ornery people like you.

Thank you, Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

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