FT Arts

Written in a log cabin when Bon Iver had all but given up, “Skinny Love” was an unlikely pop hit. Richard Clayton investigates its rise, from covers by Birdy and Ed Sheeran to X Factor hopefuls the world over.

Credit: 4AD, Atlantic, Elle, Sunbiz Sessions, X Factor

 

Ben Lerner is one of the most highly praised and unconventional writers of his generation. The 37-year-old recently met John Sunyer, a commissioning editor on FT Weekend, to talk about why he’s ‘doomed to write more novels’. Here, he reads one of his favourite poems.

 

Miles Davis’ “So What” is one of the most famous compositions in jazz. Ian McCann explores its many incarnations, from Ronny Jordan’s funk hit to Smiley Culture’s musings on racial unrest. Credit: Not Now Music, Columbia/Legacy, Universal-Island Records, Universal.

 

Is the abundance of information in the age of Google and Facebook storing up problems for future generations? Richard Ovenden, who as Bodley’s Librarian is responsible for the research libraries of the University of Oxford, talks about the opportunites and concerns of the digitisation of memory with John Thornhill, the FT’s innovation editor.

 

“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison’s Bret Michaels was the last popular flourish of transvestism in rock. Ludovic Hunter-Tilney discovers what inspired the classic power ballad. Credit: Capitol Catalog, Hollywood Records, Kidz Bop, BMB/Poor Boy Records

 

Before “Everything I Own” became a reggae classic, it was an ode to paternal love by Bread’s David Gates. Ian McCann traces the history of one of the 1970′s greatest romantic ballads. Credit: Rhino, Parlaphone UK, Sanctuary, Atlantic Records

 

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.