Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong (2013)
starts at around 23:28, so go back.
–Billie heard the Everlys’ Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, and thought, since he was rich and famous, he’d like to cover it. His wife urged Norah, who he’d once met at an awards gala, as someone to do it with him. So it happened, over a total of 9 days. The Everlys, of course, came from a steeped tradition going back generations. But if you’ve got the money and a hint o’ time, well, that cures all defects.
The Everlys – Songs Our Daddy Taught Us (1958)
–This must have been a bit of a weird album; after a couple of big hits like “Wake Up, Little Susie” (banned in Toronto in ‘58), the Everlys had to provide more content, overnight. So. . .songs they knew from youth and had sung forever. Even Phil at 76 admitted that they didn’t really know what they were singing; they were just striving for good harmonies and music and to please an audience and so on.
They explicitly used only an acoustic guitar and bass; they wanted the songs to sound like they would be heard on a porch. What they knew. What they had.
Or that would give cache’, too, a bit like Billie Joe and Norah now.
Notice _1_ sounds like a cacophony with all kinds of things happening at the same time so that the import of the song, lyrically, is lost. Drums destroying any sense of the music.
I like how the Everlys’ voices hadn’t even seemed to break by 20; Kentucky never met science. Those steel-stringed acoustics, those voices like silken filaments (ever tried to break silk?). Vulnerable, enduring, frail, resonant.
The Bailes Brothers akaThe Bailey Brothers (1949)
Of course, nothing comes from nowhere, and the Everlys (songs our daddy taught us) learned from the Bailes, or Bailey Brothers; that’s where they got the harmony. The Everlys’ dad could easily have introduced this one, since it was in his puberty.
The steel guitar put the melancholy in the song, and the banjo lends the bouzouki-type sound; if one hasn’t a grand piano or a sophisticated horn or wind instrument, one has voices or banjo with its available steel strings. Notice this sound.
Importantly, Billie Joe Armstrong made Norah Jones swear that she would listen to no other versions of the Everlys’ album. Clearly, however, he did; his entire approach to the song, and obviously the lead riff from _1_, is based on the original by the Baileys. Yep, women. Keep ‘em in the dark. Never let them know or they might mess it up. Billie Joe just wanted to make sure Norah sang the high Don part. This overproduced version, _1_, actually loses something by Jones not being ½ way in control of the song, as she isn’t. It gets throwaway honky-tonk instead of meaningfully moving. Still, good song; captivating, captive female; I can get into that, but in the end I’m a man and it ends up being a long way from a “Rocking Good Way” with Brook Benton and Dinah Washington.
This song is not about Billie Joe of Green Day, or Norah Jones; it’s about a young girl, and that’s where this great music came from. Would Billie Joe, or Norah, or for that matter even Phil or Don Everly, choose “oh so many years” as a chorus line?
The song was written a long time ago by a woman for a man. The later renditions are great, as I’ve said above, but I am haunted by the missing voice in this song. And that’s the lead voice of the woman in this song, and also the one who wrote it. It sure ain’t, ain’t, ever Billy Joe. I hope a great female singer will do this song again one day and put it in its rightful place in the country pantheon.
. . . → Read More: Zorg Report: A Brief History of "Oh So Many Years"