Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Got a Woman

Sorry so late today, kids, but as often happens on Wednesdays, this particular Wednesday was ridiculously busy. I need to keep this brief, and frankly, I'm in the mood for a fun and frequently funny little R&B number. Perhaps a cover of Ray Charles' first #1 single?

Yup, "I Got a Woman" was the first #1 in America for Ray Charles, from way back in December of 1954, when John Lennon would have been 14. I'm not sure if that's the version that the kids who would grow up to be the Beatles heard first, though-- Elvis did a version in 1956 that they might have been more familiar with. In fact, the Beatles' performance for BBC Radio in July of 1963, as released on the Live at the BBC album, sounds pretty darned similar to the version that Elvis did, which you absolutely must watch below because it's awesome.

Although I like this song a lot, despite the hilariously blunt level of sexism-- where is this woman getting all this money to give to the guy if she knows her place is in the home, anyhow?-- I don't know too much about it. I remember reading that Charles wrote it based on a gospel song, changing the words to be not just secular, but over-the-top macho. Anyway, I love the way the Beatles perform it. Note that John sings by himself with his rhythm guitar, and then George and Paul come in, George on that cool little sneer of a riff, and only at the third bit of the verse do we hear any drumming. I don't know-- it's not like the most original thing ever, but it's really pretty effective. John's vocal is unsurprisingly cool here, too. And it really is cool, in the sense that he sounds about as casually cocky as can be about this chick he's hooking up with. Even on the higher notes, he's not really doing the screams I love so much as he is swaggering through the lyrics. Which is sort of adorable. I also particularly love George's guitar solo, which to my ear sounds a bit more country-fried than the Elvis version, and certain more so than Charles's original.

Speaking of which, to be completist, below is the Ray Charles version. There's really something to love in each of these versions, but I'm not going to lie and tell you I prefer anything to the Beatles'. And now I really do have to dash...

"I Got a Woman," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 1 track 4 of Live at the BBC, November 30, 1994.

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