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  #16  
Old 08-29-2017, 12:48 PM
H165 H165 is offline
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When I'm on stage, I do not want anything to be a distraction to the audience. Stuff changes over time. Certain words and references that were not distracting in the past can now take people completely out of the song and into another zone.

For instance, I now substitute "poodles are weird" in one of the most wryly humorous and audience-pleasing songs I do:

Mason Williams' "J. Edgar Swoop".

I did it for many years in the past with no changes.

I'm never going to give up this song as long as I can still entertain almost everyone with the change of one word.

I do sing songs that are offensive, with no changes. Shel Silverstein's "Stacy Brown Got Two" comes to mind. In that case, the most important task in any performance, audience analysis, keeps things under control.
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  #17  
Old 08-29-2017, 01:09 PM
Perchman Perchman is offline
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I posted to get the opinions of other performing musicians who may have dealt with similar situations.

The lyric doesn't bother me as I see most lyrics as "fiction". Iron Maiden aren't satanists because of Number of the Beast, it's The Omen as a song basically.

The recent upheaval regarding anything related to the Confederacy just raised my awareness and I wanted to hear from others.

I play the song well and enjoy playing it. I'm in Florida and I'm not playing Buffett, but really like Petty, so...

Thanks for the replies!!
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  #18  
Old 08-29-2017, 01:34 PM
Nama Ensou Nama Ensou is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perchman View Post
In practicing for an upcoming gig, I was rehearsing Rebels and really thought about the last verse, singing about "blue bellied devils". I've played this song a hundred times and never been concerned.
It's just one of the songs you do and there's no reason for you to stop playing it just because there's a line that may offend some overthinker.
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  #19  
Old 08-29-2017, 07:10 PM
Denny B Denny B is offline
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What would Tom Petty do?
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  #20  
Old 08-29-2017, 09:00 PM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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If you gotta change someone else's song to make it "acceptable" to you, play a different song.
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  #21  
Old 08-30-2017, 05:46 AM
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Nice thread and a good read. I understand a lot of the sentiments. One poster's reactions to "God Bless the USA" I would imagine not to be dissimilar to Woody Guthrie's reaction to "God Bless America." And that reaction gave the US one of its truest songs. I couldn't sing Newman's "Rednecks" today if my life depended on it, and I still appreciate the message in it, but can no longer countenance the presentation. We all evolve.
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  #22  
Old 08-30-2017, 02:29 PM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
If you gotta change someone else's song to make it "acceptable" to you, play a different song.
A perfectly valid choice to make, so this question is not asking you to change your opinion or practice.

However, your sig says you play jazz guitar. It's an almost a universal practice in jazz to re-harmonize chord progressions, add new passing chords, and improvise elaborations or even entire new melodies to someone else's song. I may be jumping to conclusions, but I assume you do that. I'll also assume you mean the words when you say you wouldn't change a composer's song.

So, I'm sincerely curious: what about the composer's music makes it open to being changed for the performer's reasons, while the words are not?
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  #23  
Old 09-04-2017, 06:10 AM
SunnyDee SunnyDee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perchman View Post
In practicing for an upcoming gig, I was rehearsing Rebels and really thought about the last verse, singing about "blue bellied devils". I've played this song a hundred times and never been concerned. Was I insensitive before? Do I stop playing it? Too political a topic?? Sorry in advance if this is crossing any forum lines.
This would depend who you are performing for, I think. I'm a U.S. southerner deeply disturbed by the division in our country right now. Whether you are singing to a "rebel" audience who might welcome the sentiment or you're singing to the "blue bellied devils" who might be offended, either way, in the U.S., I would not perform this song right now because it would stir feelings that people probably want to escape from for a few hours if they've gone out to listen to music. I know I would. Feelings that were once innocuous are a bit raw today.
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Last edited by SunnyDee; 09-04-2017 at 06:21 AM.
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  #24  
Old 09-04-2017, 06:25 AM
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"Being offended" is a bit of a lifestyle for some these days. I could name off hundreds of tunes that I can almost guarantee will offend someone somewhere. Best course seems to be to select tunes that offend people who are deemed by the audience to deserve offense.
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  #25  
Old 09-04-2017, 10:46 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankHudson View Post
A perfectly valid choice to make, so this question is not asking you to change your opinion or practice.

However, your sig says you play jazz guitar. It's an almost a universal practice in jazz to re-harmonize chord progressions, add new passing chords, and improvise elaborations or even entire new melodies to someone else's song. I may be jumping to conclusions, but I assume you do that. I'll also assume you mean the words when you say you wouldn't change a composer's song.

So, I'm sincerely curious: what about the composer's music makes it open to being changed for the performer's reasons, while the words are not?
Good question. As a sometime jazz performer myself, I would never change the words of a song (I agree with rick, I just wouldn't sing that song if the words bothered me) - but I might sometimes consider changing the chords. The identity of a song, after all, is not in its chords, but in its melody and lyrics. Chords are just there to support the melody. I think of it like a suit of clothes: the song is the person inside; you can dress them up all kinds of ways - and improve how they look - but they're the same person. Still, there are some songs where the chord sequence is one of the prime reasons for choosing the song; I would be horrified to hear anyone changing the chords of that song. With others, they seem to be less integral to the song.

Changing the melody is one of those things I have real mixed feelings about. I hate the way some jazz singers play fast and loose with an original melody, in a way that most instrumentalists don't (until they start soloing, that is, which is where messing around with it is right and proper). Most jazz standards have beautiful melodies, and these singers seem to think they can improve on them. (Some rhythmic variation is OK, but changing the notes? )

Of course - as with offence over lyrics - being offended about someone changing chords or melody depends on your tastes and viewpoint.

Having (belatedly) checked our Petty's lyrics, the only legitimate cause for offence I can see there is he is adopting the voice of a southern man. "I was born a rebel, down in Dixie..." - well, was he really? Is Gainsville, Florida close enough? (Sorry I'm British I wouldn't know...) Even if it is, he seems to be adopting a specific persona that is not his. I can well imagine that a genuine "rebel, born in Dixie" might object to his characterization - that would be a genuine cause for offence. ("we're not all like that!")

And of course, if you are covering Petty's song, and you were born nowhere near the southern states, that's another stage removed from the "I" you are pretending to be. IMO, the only legitimate (unassailable) reason for singing such a song is if one identifies with the persona ("yeah that song is about me!").

Naturally, I'm aware that Mick Jagger once sang "I was born in a crossfire hurricane" - an unlikely meteorological phenomenon in Kent, England - and nobody seemed to mind... (The rest of the lyrics are plausible enough: driving rain is common enough in Kent, as is howling at one's ma... ) Perhaps adopting the voice of a white slaver in Brown Sugar is a bit nearer the knuckle...
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Last edited by Kerbie; 09-04-2017 at 11:19 AM. Reason: Removed language
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  #26  
Old 09-04-2017, 10:57 AM
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I've been playing and teaching some absolute classic songs with sketchy messages and often stop to talk about it. Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix talks of "goin' down to shoot my ol' Lady". Boom Boom by Muddy Waters likewise. I'm a Christian who is asked to, and does, teach Black Sabbath and Metallica songs among others. I make a point to discuss the lyrics, and how very often they can be put into context, or interpreted in different ways. Many of the old blues standards have lyrics that are questionable today but they live on. I know some modern women who rock out to these songs but would not, for one second, condone the lyrics. It's the beat. It's rock. It's fun. God knows your heart and lets you chose to play fun songs. What can I say?
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  #27  
Old 09-04-2017, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perchman View Post
In practicing for an upcoming gig, I was rehearsing Rebels and really thought about the last verse, singing about "blue bellied devils". I've played this song a hundred times and never been concerned. Was I insensitive before? Do I stop playing it? Too political a topic?? Sorry in advance if this is crossing any forum lines.
The civil war ended in 1865. Its 2017.
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  #28  
Old 09-04-2017, 01:00 PM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Originally Posted by pf400 View Post
I've been playing and teaching some absolute classic songs with sketchy messages and often stop to talk about it. Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix talks of "goin' down to shoot my ol' Lady". Boom Boom by Muddy Waters likewise. I'm a Christian who is asked to, and does, teach Black Sabbath and Metallica songs among others. I make a point to discuss the lyrics, and how very often they can be put into context, or interpreted in different ways. Many of the old blues standards have lyrics that are questionable today but they live on. I know some modern women who rock out to these songs but would not, for one second, condone the lyrics. It's the beat. It's rock. It's fun. God knows your heart and lets you chose to play fun songs. What can I say?
Agreed. If we all had to support every lyric ethically, or justify them as expressing our own lives, us blues fans would probably end up with nothing to play...
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  #29  
Old 09-04-2017, 08:39 PM
Denny B Denny B is offline
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My take on this topic is always the same...

Johnny Cash sang "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die..."

That's a pretty cold blooded act...

But, you know, Johnny didn't really do that...

It's just a lyric in a great song...

If a song bothers YOU, then don't play it...

Otherwise, just respect the singer/songwriter and play it as written...
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  #30  
Old 09-05-2017, 04:15 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denny B View Post
My take on this topic is always the same...

Johnny Cash sang "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die..."

That's a pretty cold blooded act...

But, you know, Johnny didn't really do that...
Sure, but there was an undoubted frisson when he sang it in San Quentin and you heard prisoners cheering...

I'm not saying he shouldn't have done it - I think it's a great moment in the history of popular music - but I can understand an objection that he was making any murderers present in the audience feel better about their crime, less guilty.
Quote:
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Otherwise, just respect the singer/songwriter and play it as written...
Agree. But it can depend on what you mean by "as written". Lyrics and melody, sure. Chords, yes (usually).
Tempo, feel, key? Maybe not. There's a point where you end up just mimicking the original performance as close as you can get, like a tribute act. I wouldn't say that's necessarily a mark of respect. It's more respectful to show that the song is strong enough that you can deliver it in your own voice and it's still that song by that composer - it can be adapted in various ways and still be a great song.
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