Cover Story

James Vincent McMorrow covers Steve Winwood

December 11, 2011 1 Comment

You might have heard about indie musician Greg Laswell and his beef with Glee over a recent episode’s use of a slowed-down arrangement of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” that’s close to his own 2007 deconstruction of the tune. Laswell just wants to have a little credit, you see.

Issues of whether a television show has a responsiblity to disclose the origins of such “inspiration” are nothing new. Another FOX megahit, American Idol, is no stranger to the situation, with past contestants like Chris Daughtry and David Cook called out for doing “covers of a cover.” Just last week, I was screaming at the TV (and via Twitter) after folks heaped praise on The X Factor‘s Melanie Amaro for her dance version of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” since official remixes of the original song already exist. Taking Adele to the club was someone else’s idea first, but like Glee‘s ballad version of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” the revamp was a mere blip until a television behemoth stepped in with the spotlight.

But giving credit to an arrangement might not be so easy to do in today’s environment, or how such credits are included may not enough satisfy the likes of Laswell. Glee could have included a credit in the episode’s end titles, checking the box, though show credits are typically shrunk so small and fly by so quickly (as to promote the next episode or another FOX show) that they’re rendered near impossible to read. And I’ve yet to see record labels successfully handle credits of any kind (songwriters, producers, etc.) in today’s iTunes/MP3 environment. It’s one of the things I miss the most about the switch from physical to digital, and I doubt anyone purchasing the Glee version of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” would be any wiser regarding Laswell’s contributions even if the metadata included the credit.

Still, Laswell’s story has gotten enough attention that I imagine some agreement will be made with the powers-that-be at Glee, perhaps with a check of some size. Whether future lifting of others’ arrangements sans credits would be protected, I’ve got my doubts, but should Glee‘s music supervisors find themselves searching for another familiar upbeat ’80s track now stripped and slowed down, James Vincent McMorrow‘s solo piano cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” makes for an excellent contender.

Earlier this year, the Irish folk singer-songwriter covered Winwood’s 1986 #1 hit for a charity album, Silver Lining, benefiting Headstrong, an Irish charity for youth mental health. Sure, Chaka Khan is nowhere to be heard, helping out, but in McMorrow’s hands, “Higher Love” becomes an intimate, ethereal plea sent to the heavens above. I feel for you, James:

McMorrow has also covered Adele’s “Someone Like You,” though his acoustic take is pretty faithful to the original. No arrangement controversies there.

Purchase James Vincent McMorrow – “Higher Love” (Steve Winwood cover) via iTunes.