Donny Hathaway: Jealous Guy.
From Live (Atlantic 1972)
I played this on my radio show last year and I just keep going back to it over and over. While I freely acknowledge the brilliance of John Lennon’s songwirting it’s all about Hathaway’s incredible, emotive voice. It always makes me sad to remember how short his life was (31 years) but my god, could he sing with the time he had.
Ramsey Lewis: Julia
From Mother Nature’s Son (Cadet, 1968)
Pianist Ramsey Lewis, along with Cadet’s Charles Stepney and Chess’ Marshall Chess, were so taken with the Beatles’ White Album, released just months earlier that they went in the studio and recorded ten cover songs from that album. The resulting LP, Mother Nature’s Son, produced a surprisingly striking collection of songs that both nod at the Beatles, even as they transform their sound. While a few of the cover songs fell flat, still others offered provocative interpretations. “Julia” is one such example – transforming the more plaintive, simple ballad by Lennon into a song of dramatic flourish and sweep. It retains its sublime character but Lewis and Stepney add a rich depth and bottom that goes beyond what Lennon imagined for it on The White Album. This song is just so damn gorgeous in whatever form.