FT Arts

The coolification of Phil Collins is among pop’s most curious turnarounds. Richard Clayton explains what the song owes to gangsta rap, “gated reverb” – and a drumming gorilla. Credit: Rhino, Atlantic, Def Jam

 

Tim Buckley’s ode to doomed love has exerted a siren-like attraction for artists including This Mortal Coil, Robert Plant and John Frusciante. David Cheal examines its enduring power. Credit: Rhino, Warner Brothers, Chrome Dreams, 4AD, Virgin EMI, Parlaphone UK, Virgin UK

 

Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” has been used in the campaigns of George HW Bush, Obama and, most recently, Bernie Sanders. Richard Clayton investigates the colonial overtones and contested legacy of America’s alternative national anthem.

Credit: Smithsonian Folkways Recording, Daptone Records, Delta, North Face and Jib Jab.

 

Jethro Tull’s prog rock hit rejected the hippy idealism of Swinging London. Ian McCann explores its influence on musicians from Maynard Ferguson to Francis Dunnery. Credit: Parlophone UK, Wounded Bird Records, Rak, Warner Music.

 

David Cheal discovers how this hymn to friendship eventually came to divide its creators Simon and Garfunkel, but went on to inspire more than 200 cover versions. Credit: Columbia, RCA, Legacy, Atlantic Records.

 

How did Bill Withers’ little blues inspire a 1990s R&B hit and a Simon Cowell-produced football anthem? Ian McCann charts its history. Credit: Columbia, Legacy, Sony, Ministry of Sound, Syco

 

This song has its roots in an ancient refugee crisis and the more recent struggle for racial equality. Over the years, it’s been adopted by Fats Waller, The Four Lads and the rapper M.I.A.

Written by Helen Brown and read by Anna Metcalfe. Credit: Hit Wonder, Document Records, Diamond Coast, Sinetone AMR and XL Recordings.

 

Jacques Brel’s impassioned tribute to the sailors and drunks of the port of Amsterdam inspired covers by Mort Shuman and Scott Walker. David Cheal traces its journey from David Bowie’s stripped down version to Thierry Amiel’s performance, which triumphantly returned the song to its original French.

 

“Lady Marmalade” began life as a sleazy soul anthem by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan before being funked up by Labelle, given an R&B twist by Sheila E and overlaid with cheesy rap for the film “Moulin Rouge”. Ian McCann charts its evolution.
Credit: Epic, 20th Century Records, Fania, Warner Bros., Polydor Associated Labels

 

Blind Willie Johnson’s gospelly, moaning adaptation of an 18th-century hymn might have seemed an odd choice for the disc of music attached to Voyager 1 in 1977. But artists from Ry Cooder to Jack White have been drawn to its ethereal power. Credit: Legacy/Columbia, Warner Bros., Alligator Records