Friday Night Music

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50 years ago next month The Beatles arrived on America’s shores and began the “British invasion” that revolutionized American rock ‘n roll. What is frequently ignored is the extent to which the British bands gave American teenagers sanitized covers of African-American blues and rhythm and blues. Over 20 of the songs recorded by the Beatles in 1963 and 1964 were covers.

Of course, this simply continued the practice that started from the first when white artists covered the rhythm and blues hits of black artists. A sanitized version of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters record, Work with me Annie, was recorded by “Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs” as Dance With Me Henry; and Pat Boone, with his white bucks, sweater, and perfectly combed hair, had huge hits with lifeless covers of Fats Domino’s Ain’t that a Shame and Little Richard’s Tutti Fruiti.

In all cases, the white cover versions of the Black originals were “pale” imitations of the real thing. Although Fats Domino and Little Richard crossed over to become stars with white audiences, some of the original artists remained obscure and virtually unknown. One such artist was Johnny Adams. Most people associate the song “Please Release Me” with Engelbert Humperdinck, who had a huge hit with the song in 1967.  Listen to Johnny Adams original version below and you will hear the way the song was meant to be sung.

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