This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

February 27, 2009

Somebody to Lean On

Filed under: Old School Friday — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 1:15 am

Friday Earbud Selections–Old School Friday Bonus Edition

“Lean On Me” is one of those songs that I will frequently get in my head–and then it stays there on constant loop for three or four days. The version playing in my mind’s radio is a mash up of the original 1972 Bill Withers version, and the 1986 cover by Club Nouveau. I have decided not to do videos on this site–so I am breaking the rules of the OSF meme. Hopefully the streaming songs will be an acceptable stand-in. (I apologize in advance for the annoying ad accompanying the stream. If anyone knows of sites where you can link to individual streaming songs without ads I’d appreciate knowing about them.)

“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers play-ville-de-lumiere-by-gold

What to say about Bill Withers? If you had a thing for singer-musician–songwriters, you had a thing for Bill Withers. If you had a thing for a deep soulful stare with a voice to match, you had a thing for Bill Withers. If you had a thing for country men–long before the “Dirty South” was a popular musical category–you had a thing for Bill Withers.

I had a thing for Bill Withers.

His “Lean on Me,” a song that has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, is one of those songs that can and should be remade over and over again just because it is such a perfect and timeless tune.  He had many others. As a child I was fascinated by “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I had never known romantic love at that point. But I was sure that I wanted someone one day to love me and miss me if I ever left as much as Bill missed his woman. And, I could feel the pissed-offness and mounting suspicion of this man singing “Who is he, and what is he to you” even though, again, I could hardly have experienced that kind of thing myself at such a young age.

Yup–Dadgummit, ah, I had a thing for Bill Withers.

“Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau

play-ville-de-lumiere-by-gold

Club Nouveau’s cover of “Lean on Me” is fluffy and fun and funky. It doesn’t aim for more than that and that’s why it is still, IMO, a classic get-your-booty-on-the-dance-floor cut. I love how they open the song with just a piano track that sounds very similar to the original. Then they bust out with the go-go beat. My older relatives used to hate this about the song. They’d hear the opening notes and think that our local Black people’s radio station was about to flash back to the Good Old Days. But they’d be fooled. It’d be the new version.

Pump it up–what? Pump it up–who? Pump it up, home boy, just like that!

I could be mistaken, but I think I heard Club Nouveau sing this and their handful of other hits one time at a night club. I cannot be sure. It seems like I recall there being drinking involved and perhaps an episode of being sick in the toilet for an extended period of time. So I cannot attest to their live performance. Still like the song, however.

Yes, these versions sure do take me back. Disconcerting, though, how now the “new” version is also considered “old school”…

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