Soul Searching Friday #2 Jamey Johnson

Soul Searching Friday presents cover songs that are better than the original version…

Most great songs have been covered by other artists, some even thousands of times. Some artists did amazing jobs creating a new version of a well-known song, others injured a masterpiece or made a fool of themselves. The bigger the song, the more difficult the job, obviously.

But why cover a song in the first place? Is it a tribute, an homage, the love for a song that makes an artist want to approach a Great work? Or is it an urge to do better, to show another understanding of what the song’s about? A lack of own inspiration? Or maybe an attempt to find the true soul of a song? The artists in this series have come damn close to the latter.

Jamey Johnson, Twiggy Ramirez & Shooter Jennings: You Are My Sunshine (2013) – cover version of Pine Ridge Boys: You Are My Sunshine (1939)

Jamey Johnson is the country man of darkness and melancholy. Along with Twiggy Ramirez (Marilyn Manson) and Shooter Jennings, he recorded this apocalyptical version of You Are My Sunshine for Sons of Anarchy (TV series created by Kurt Sutter). Jamey Johnson isn’t afraid of dark tunes in music. His albums That Lonesome Song and The Guitar Song are full of hard knock life experience, sadness and soul. Happy tune You Are My Sunshine is here transformed into a dark, sinister contemplation of loneliness, fear and dread. It is hauntingly beautiful and leaves a mark on you. Never before has the line “You make me happy when skies are gray” sounded so full of pain. One of the saddest songs I have ever heard.

Here’s the original:

If you would like to suggest songs for Soul Searching Friday, please write a comment.

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Soul Searching Friday #1 Johnny Cash

Soul Searching Friday presents cover songs that are better than the original version – songs where the new interpreter has managed to find a new depth in the material and perhaps come closer to finding the soul of the song…

Most great songs have been covered by other artists, some even thousands of times. Some artists did amazing jobs creating a new version of a well-known song, others injured a masterpiece or made a fool of themselves. The bigger the song, the more difficult the job, obviously.

But why cover a song in the first place? Is it a tribute, an homage, the love for a song that makes an artist want to approach a Great work? Or is it an urge to do better, to show another understanding of what the song’s about? A lack of own inspiration? Or maybe an attempt to find the true soul of a song? The artists in this series have come damn close to the latter.

Johnny Cash: Hurt (2002) – cover version of Nine Inch Nails: Hurt (1994)

A powerful song written by Trent Reznor with strong and devastating lyrics. The music video is strikingly beautiful, showing Cash as an old fragile man, at the end of his road. The flashbacks from his life make it hauntingly sad: it’s the end, and we all know it. Although it was filmed before June and Johnny died, the video is like an obituary.

Johnny Cash called the song “The best anti-drug song I ever heard.” Here’s the original:

If you would like to suggest songs for Soul Searching Friday, please write a comment.

I Miss You, Gemma Teller

Gemma

Warning: contains Sons of Anarchy spoilers!

I’ve just finished watching the very last episode of Sons of Anarchy – the television series created by Kurt Sutter about a fictional outlaw biker club in California. There can be something very fascinating about men operating on the wrong side of the law. In 1998 I was at a party at some friends’ house in Copenhagen. Entering the living room, I was surprised to see real life biker gang president and founder of the Copenhagen charter of Hells Angels, Jønke, sitting on the couch. He had more or less just been released from prison after 9 years inside for the murder of the president of another MC gang, so he had some partying to catch up with. The buddy he had brought along from his club kept rolling badass joints and everybody around the table were getting stoned.

Jønke didn’t talk much and there was something mysterious about him. But he seemed really kind, he would look you in the eye in a very friendly way. I guess we were all fascinated by him; and intimidated too. This man was a killer, how could he be so calm? I went to the kitchen to fetch more booze and one of my friends whispered in my ear: “I want to have sex with him”. I don’t know why it shocked me but it did. Could you trust a criminal? Was he going to hurt her? As things went she took off with him, later she told me it had been fun. Back then I couldn’t really understand why she would want to sleep with an outlaw with a body mass index a bit above average. But after watching Sons of Anarchy, I totally get it: it’s the criminal tingly thrill, it’s spicy. My friend is a tough lady, very funny and with a big mouth. If she would have stayed on Jønke’s bike for longer, I am sure she could have become the perfect Danish (kind) Gemma.

Standout character in Sons of Anarchy and always pulling the strings of the club is Gemma Teller, matriarch to the club’s founding family and badass lady with a vision. Everything Gemma does – good or bad – is for her family. These are the moral rules she lives by, a 100% committed. When she is “protecting her family“ she means protecting what she believes in, no matter at what consequence.

The moment Gemma dies, Sons of Anarchy – the plot, the series, the tension – is instantly over and makes no sense anymore. That she is one of the leading characters is clear from the beginning, but it is surprising to see that Sons of Anarchy dissolves the moment evil mum is gone. The final episode is necessary to tie ends but boring to watch with Gemma in a body bag.

Nero-Gemma

In the last two seasons Gemma hooks up with tremendously nice and good-looking part-time gangster, Nero Padilla. In a way she doesn’t deserve his love and commitment, and sometimes it’s hard to understand why Nero loves her so much. He sees something different in her than the viewer does; he’s not seen what we have seen throughout season 1-5. It is a dramaturgic clever move having a new character to introduce a new angle on Gemma, who we have a unified opinion about. Nero’s love is pure, he accepts her for what she is, calls her “Mama” in the sweetest way and stands up for her. Watching these two middle-aged love birds, both marked by hard-knock life and “destiny”, hooking up together is soothing, and it makes you believe that Gemma can pull through and perhaps even become a better person.

The only problem with that is: Gemma… At the end of season 6 she brutally kills her son’s wife Tara in rage by stabbing her in the head with a huge meat fork. Tara’s death, and the lie Gemma tells to cover it up starts a gang war and leads to over 80 dead bodies in the final season. It is hard to have anything left for Gemma after this, she has done such a horrible thing and there is no coming back from it. You can tell that she knows that too, but she keeps up the lie to spend time with her grandsons and with Nero, perhaps hoping that the problem will dissolve at some point. The way she is conducting an ongoing conversation with dead Tara, you can tell she is in remorse. Killing a close family member is tough to cope with even for a badass lady like Gemma Teller. Of course the viewer cannot accept what she’s done, she’s taken it too far this time, but at the same time you suffer with her. With every breath she takes you sense that the truth is closing up on her and that she is about to lose everything she lives for. Very soon.

As she says to Jackson before he shoots her in the head: “You have to do this. It’s who we are sweetheart” it again becomes clear how realistic she is about the life she’s been leading. There is no running away, she has to stand up and pay the price for her actions. True to her character even at the point of death she manages to manipulate the surroundings for her death.

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Gemma Teller, you are the best and the worst film mother ever:
You are sometimes more evil than “adoptive” mother Holly Jones (Melissa Leo) in Prisoners +++ You are sometimes even funnier than lesbian mothers Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) in The Kids Are All Right +++ You are sometimes more annoying than Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco) in The Sopranos +++ You are sometimes creepier than Mrs. Bates (xx) in Psycho +++ You are sometimes more hard-boiled than horror mum Mary (Mo’Nique) in Precious +++ You are sometimes even more exhausting than controlling mother Ruth Fischer (Frances Conroy) in Six Feet Under.

Dear Gemma, I miss your evil-mooded, manipulative ways and your spontaneous short-circuits mostly leading to bruises, assault or murder. You certainly are a toxic, scary lady and in real life I would be just as afraid of you as I was of Jønke back in 1998. But still I have loved you through 7 seasons and losing you has been tough. I want you to know that you are the character from SoA that I have given most thought, maybe because I am a woman too, and still – even after you deceased – I can’t let you go. I keep thinking about you, wanting you to return and start all over. If you hadn’t been killed I would at this point suggest a SoA spin-off with you – living undercover – as a music manager for a middle-aged male rock band, your new “club” so to speak. You would continue showing the men who’s the boss and manipulate your way through life, tying just enough people to you to make you feel loved and needed.

Last night I dreamt that I was having sex with Filip Chibs and that he took me on ride with his bike. I guess it is not only Gemma I miss…