Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Battle of the Bands: The Banjo Song (Oh! Susannah)
Battle of the Bands!!!!
I may be on summer vacation but the Battle of the Bands goes on. This is the blogging event first kicked off by our blogging friends at Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends. You'll want to visit their Battles after you finish with mine and check out the links listed at the bottom of this page. You can even mount your own Battle--if you do then let us know in the comments so we can vote on yours.
Here's how the Battle works: Listen to the song clips in the blog post and then in the comment section vote on the one you like the best. When you vote please tell us why you voted the way you did. Long explanations are always welcomed. After a week or so I'll tally the votes and announce them in an upcoming blog post. Please do vote though so your favorite choice can be counted.
The Banjo Song
In my previous Battle I presented versions of the song "Oh! Susannah" by Stephen Foster, one of America's greatest songwriters. "Oh! Susannah" is one of the most recorded songs in the United States and one that most everybody has heard in one form or another. Singer/songwriter Tim Rose wrote "The Banjo Song" based on the lyrics of Foster's song but there's little in common beyond that. The Battle presented here pits two very different takes on "The Banjo Song" against each other.
The Big Three "The Banjo Song" (1963)
Get ready for some crazy connections with this song. First of all if the female singer looks a bit familiar it's because it's "Mama" Cass Elliot before she was a "Mama" in the Mamas and the Papas. "The Banjo Song" is actually Tim Rose's composition using the lyrics of Foster's original "Oh! Susannah", but the two songs are very dissimilar. However there is a "shocking" similarity between Rose's song and a much bigger hit that came along later. Listening to "The Banjo Song" you will undoubtedly think of the song "Venus" first recorded by Shocking Blue and later in 1986 by Bananarama. Dutch songwriter Robbie van Leeuwen was inspired by "The Banjo Song" but Tim Rose never pursued a plagiarism suit. Maybe it was different enough for Rose or perhaps he was flattered by the imitation. Listen to "The Banjo Song"--isn't "Venus" essentially the same song with new lyrics and a more rocking instrumental arrangement? No matter what, they're both pretty decent songs.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse "Oh Susannah" (2012)
On the liner notes of Neil Young's Americana album this song is listed as "Oh Susanna" but really it's Tim Rose's "The Banjo Song". Maybe they figured "Oh Susannah" was more marketable, it being one of the all-time American hit songs. Young & his band really rock this one out giving a passing salute to Stephen Foster's classic. By the way, the depression era footage depicted in the video is pretty strange if you want to check it out.
Time to Vote!
You probably have a strong preference between these two. Even if you don't like the song at all, there must be one version you'd rather listen to over the other. Which one is it? Tell us now and tell us why. Whatever you do, please vote on one of them.
After You Vote Here Check Out These Battles
Here are some other bloggers who may or may not be participating in the Battle of the Bands. Please visit their sites to vote on their battles:
Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
Your Daily Dose
Do you think any of the songwriters mentioned in this post "stole" from the other or would you call it something else? Do you think Tim Rose would have had a justifiable legal case concerning the song "Venus"?