On the subject of John Martyn, I have been informed (see comments) that he didn’t write ‘Rather Be The Devil’ but covered it. I was curious to hear the original so I looked it up: it’s very different from Martyn’s version, being more of a typical blues number:
It set me thinking about how different a song can be when performed by different artists, and that led me to the original version of this number:
Like most people I knew Harry Nilssen’s cover but not this one, and there’s no comparison. The Badfinger version is pleasant enough but plodding and dull; and when it comes to the chorus it just sounds plain awful. Compare and contrast: the Nilssen number is utterly heartbreaking:-
All of which leads me to ‘Hallelujah,’ perhaps one of the most covered songs in the history of song, with so many versions that now is the time to call a halt. Cohen himself said it had been covered too much, and some of the versions are saccharinely awful, showing scant respect or understanding. There are some covers I admire, however, probably the best being Rufus Wainright’s:
All right. That’s enough songs for today.