Thursday, May 19, 2011

Artist Vs. Song

I recently asked for blog post suggestions on Facebook, and Kyle Gardner suggested a very interesting topic. Here is what he said:
"My Dad always said in his day songs were popular not artists. Artists would remake the same song. I always thought it would be interesting to research this. I like the idea that the music is the star not simply the musician."

I like this. This has always been an interesting concept to me. Why is it that these days everyone knows about Britney Spears, but only a handful of people know more than 10 songs she has released? On the flip side, why does everyone know the song "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" but few people know who wrote it?
Obviously those are just general examples, but there is a point behind it.
These days, money is poured into people or acts with the proper image, top notch performance ability, and talent. Many writers may go into composing one Justin Bieber song.
Back in the day, things were different. One person would write great music, and perform it brilliantly. These people caught the attention of record labels, who might offer some extra income by selling recorded music.
Written music was extremely flexible. Take, for example, "Ain't No Grave" If you're thinking Johnny Cash, then yeah, that song. But that's a pretty modern way of thinking.

You see, "Ain't No Grave" was written by a 12 year old boy named Claude Ely in 1934. He was sick and bedridden, so he taught himself how to play the guitar. When he was told that he would be dying soon, he said "No I most certainly am not" and played what would become known as "Ain't No Grave." He got better, attributed his health to an act of God, and went on to become a travelling preacher playing that song frequently.
This song has been released dozens of times by dozens of chart-topping bands and artists from a wide array of genres.

So why is it that once a song is released these days, no one is allowed to touch it? Why should that be ruled off limits for promotional purposes? Why do we let the artists become the stars rather than the music?


  1. Great article. We love Brother Claude Ely's music and "Ain't No Grave." Good point about artist v. music!

  2. You got it right! Maybe because the music industry nowadays just selling artist name, not the song itself.

  3. It used to be about the music. Now it is all branding.
    The music died a long time ago, just ask Don McLean.

  4. agree with @BKK, I like just listen songs no matter what artist is behind

  5. Agree completely, I happen to like Baby by Justin Beiber. I just pretend it's a girl singing it and it's fine.

  6. This is like the "of course, duh" for the nowadays music industry.
    In this modern peaceful time, the money is the symbol of power. Thus, everyone seeks it regarding the outcome.
    At least, there are still some musicians still holding on with the inspiration from deep inside, and don't care much about money.
    Btw, you guys should check out Per-Olov Kindgren. He is an exceptional guitarist. His pieces are just wonderful and can touch the toughest heart.

  7. Artist play the songs, even if they didn't write it, right?

    I think it's a 50/50 :p

  8. Artists don't really make any money anyway. The whole concept that downloading music hurts artists is a disingenuous lie from the music industry.

  9. even the most popular artists get forgotten with time...

  10. People now listen just to say "I like (some artist name)".
    It's like you buy products, but actually pay for the brand.

  11. I agree, but I think it's a 50/50 split.

  12. Difference is, no one will remember Britney Spears in years to come, she will be a train wreck who dies. People will always remember Johny Cash.

  13. You make a good point, but back then there wasn't google; you couldn't simply look up who played a song. back then, the song was probably became famous because no one had the capability to know who actually wrote it

    in this day and age anyways, whats the point of covering a song? i mean, apart from the parody spoofs of Friday, who would want to make a serious cover of that?

  14. another interesting thing about songs and the artist behind them is the issue of what they do. like how do you react to a song about promoting peace when the artist who wrote and/or sang it gets busted partying and getting into fights, right?

  15. Claude Ely was touched by God :O

    I prefer the concept of "artists", but not in a fanatical kind of way.

  16. Did not know bout Ely. Interesting read.

  17. I don't know...

    Take for example Hawkwind between 1969 and 1976... They released a bunch of albums then and a lot of great songs... nobody cares about the songs, they care about the style and sound Hawkwind had during those years.

    On the other hand, go listen to a group called AUM... they do a stomping cover of Tobacco Road