Remakes of the Soul

Red Red Wine by UB40 came on Spotify recently, prompting a discussion amongst a group of us of what constitutes a good music remake.  The song, of course, was originally written by Neil Diamond.  The UB40 version is totally different and enjoyable in its own way, making it, in my opinion, a successful remake.  The Joe Cocker remake of the Beatles' classic With a Little Help from My Friends, is another example.  All Along the Watchtower, first by Bob Dylan and then Jimi Hendrix, is great as well. 

Poor remakes make the song worse.  Michael Bolton's version of Otis Redding's Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay is such an instance.  He screams throughout it, making what should be a mellow listen quite tense.  So too is Miley Cyrus singing Nirvana's Smells like Teen Spirit.  Kurt Cobain was rolling over in his grave during that.

Then there are useless or unnecessary remakes—more properly titled 'covers'—which do not make any significant changes to the song.  It is simply a different voice singing the same melody.  It is not necessarily bad, but just did not add anything to the music lexicon, hence it being unnecessary.  Buck 22 did not need to remake Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus.  The original probably should not have been made in the first place.  Sorry to be hard on the Cyrus family.

The spiritual life is all about remakes.  Prayer is inevitably unoriginal.  It is a variation on the theme of a soul's union with God.  Nevertheless, writes John Cassian, "there are as many forms of prayer as there are states of soul or, rather, there are as many as the totality of states experienced by souls together."

We must pray in a way that is unique to us, and though it will be a copy of Christ's prayer to the Father, it can be a good remake.

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