Ann Powers writes longingly of the “wave of Eva-mania” in the late 1990s, and I remember it well. So it surprised her and others when American Idol contestant David Archuleta won compliments from the panel for his “original” cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
It’s a peculiar thing about music that you internalize the first time you heard a particular song as being the “original” in your mind. It’s not impossible for David, who performed the same arrangement of “Imagine” years ago on a morning television show, to have experienced the Eva Cassidy track before – or instead of — the recording that everyone my age grew up on.
When Lori and I recently traveled on the Cayamo cruise, we heard no less than three different artists giving us their take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” However, like David Archuleta channelling Eva Cassidy, all of those performers — to my ears — were really riffing on the Jeff Buckley arrangement.
I don’t think I personally listened to any of Leonard Cohen’s songs until after hearing Buckley perform that cover, and I regretted at the time that I hadn’t discovered his work earlier in my life. Even if the AI performance doesn’t inspire folks to revisit Eva Cassidy’s arrangements, perhaps a new generation of listeners can start to experience the works of the Beatles as something more than that old stuff sitting on their folks’ iPods?