Well, well—I outsourced this week’s interlude to a youngin’ and he comes up with a tune me and my homies were shakin’ our booties to about 100 years ago. And an awesomely kickin’ version it is! I must admit I wasn’t familiar with these peeps but they definitely hittin’ it.
Take it, BH:
When Jared asked me to choose one of his Friday musical interludes, I started going through a mental list of modern-ish tunes that I thought he, as a musician, would appreciate or find interesting — something to help him overcome his bias for music recorded before 1975. Not that there’s anything wrong with the music of my parents’ generation (or the generation of our country’s founding fathers…), but in my opinion, the universe of good music extends beyond the Nixon administration.
So I realize it is more than a little ironic that the song I ended up choosing is neither particularly groundbreaking nor even, in the most basic sense, “modern” — one of the great protest recordings of the soul era, it was written in the late 1960s, by Eugene McDaniels. But the more I thought about it, I realized that this cover — John Legend and the Roots’ take on the jazz-soul anthem, “Compared to What,” from their recent album “Wake Up!” — could well function as a kind of musical bridge across generations.
John Legend and the Roots update this classic — made famous by jazz pianist Les McCann — for today’s hip-hop era, speeding up the pace and amplifying the rhythm [to my ears, they’re slowing the pace–must be some generational time warp–JB]. The song includes a fun saxophone interlude amidst its entreaties to the people to stand against the Man (aka: Very Important People).
Love the lie, and lie the love
A-Hangin’ on, with push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin’ up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?
But best of all, in addition to being a forceful statement against war, poverty, and entrenched power, it is a song whose punchy refrain — “trying to make it real: compared to what?” — invokes those twin favorite concepts of every budget geek: baselines and counterfactuals.