Friday, 9 May 2008

Tom Waits Covers #1: Solomon Burke

I've promised to share some of my favourite Tom Waits covers for ages. One of the reasons it's taken so long is that I realised I had quite a lot to say about them, so instead of writing about a selection of songs in one post I've decided it will be more productive to take it one at a time. So, for starters, here's Solomon Burke, the King of Rock & Soul, and his version of Diamond in Your Mind from his brilliant comeback album Don't Give Up On Me.

MP3: Solomon Burke – Diamond In Your Mind

As far as I know there's no studio recording by Waits of this song although I'm sure I once heard a demo on KCRW. The song was originally written for the Waits/Robert Wilson production of Woyzeck but there are more lyrics in Burke's version than there are in the play. Solomon Burke – the "Wonder Boy Preacher" - also objected to the original line, "Zerelda Samuels said she ain't never prayed". He outlines why in this extract from a 2002 interview:

That song was written by Tom Waits. Have you met him? Solomon Burke: "No. We had one discussion on the phone, and that was the lyric change where he wrote that "she never prayed," and I said, "No, no, no - you have to call him, you have to get him on the phone." I don't care how big of a sinner you are: If someone cuts off your arm, you are going to pray to God. They said, "With all due respect, Dr Burke, you do not change the words to a Tom Waits song." I told them, "With all due respect, as a man of God, I am telling you this song is religiously incorrect." We stopped the whole session until we got a call back from him, and he said, "Okay."

(Source: "Solomon Burke Brings It Home" by Jonathan Valania. Philadelpia Weekly. July 17, 2002 Volume XXXI, No. 29, © 2003 Review Publishing – found at the superb Tom Waits Library)

I’ve just finished David Smay’s 33 1/3 book on Swordfishtrombones – probably the most illuminating book I've read about Tom Waits' work. In it he explains that "diamond mind" is a Buddhist state of enlightenment. It's no surprise then that the only version of the song performed by Waits that is available commercially is on the concert album Healing the Divide, a fundraiser for Tibetan monks.

MP3: Tom Waits & The Kronos Quartet – Diamond In Your Mind (live)

If you'd like play compare and contrast on the two versions, leave a comment below.

Incidentally, Solomon Burke is performing at the Barbican in London on 3 July and also at Glastonbury. If you’ve never seen him, it's a spectacle to behold.

Buy at Amazon

Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me

Various Artists (inc Tom Waits) - Healing The Divide
David Smay – 331/3 Swordfishtrombones (book)

Related Links

Tom Waits Announces Tour Guided By Stars


L said...

What a great bunch of posts on Waits. Really phenomenal. I discovered him by accident playing a little folk club in '74 or '75, chatted very briefly afterwards (he demonstrated how he makes the sound of trucks whizzing by on the highway). He's certainly tuned to a different channel than most of us; thankfully, he has the talent to bring forth what he hears and sees. Nice job on the blog.

L said...

PS: Solomon Burke covering Tom Waits? Yowza. Who woulda thought? You're absolutely right - seeing Burke live (upholstered like a sofa and as large as one; but what a talent!) was a spectacle.

Related Posts with Thumbnails



Back to TOP

Glamour Bomb Templates