In the first of a possible series, here are two versions of “Proud Mary”. Which one’s better? You decide, good people!
The song itself is all about cutting loose the 9 to 5 life ‘working for the man’ in the city , to take hold of one’s own destiny, and … work on a riverboat way down South, where people on the river are ‘happy to give’. Life on the river is a socialists dream, apparently, standing in direct opposition to the life in the North where money sure does come in handy. But, apart from some dubious statements about how easy life is on the river, this has become a rock standard, interpreted many times over the years, proving just how universal the sentiments found in it are. The song was written in 1969 by John Fogerty, primary songwriter for roots-rock daddies Creedence Clearwater Revival. Since then, it’s been covered by many artists, from Star Trek actor and sometime singer Leonard Nimoy, to Elvis (on his On Stage – February, 1970 LP), to American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino.
But now, to the showdown.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
The original version of the song is a meat and potatoes rock song, with country-soul overtones. The song’s author John Fogerty gives us the straight goods here, making this sound as though he’s the one covering the tune. That’s one of the song’s strengths – that it sounds older than it is. It’s one of those ones which I imagine many songwriters are kicking themselves over, wishing they’d written it. This take on the track is found on CCR’s Bayou Country album. Listen/Watch
Ike & Tina Turner
Ike and Tina took the tune in 1971, and made it into a slow-jam R&B tune – “nice and easy” – and then ratcheted it up into a sweaty, gospel-tinged workout, accented by horns, and Ike’s stabbing lead guitar work – “nice and rough”. This of course frames Tina’s raw vocal delivery, which kicks this song in the ass, and solidifies her as a force to be reckoned with once again. Their version of the song appears on their Workin’ Together album and of course on the compilation album Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner . Ike and Tina’s version is ‘Proud Mary’ on an epic scale, built for a live setting, with the excitement and energy of a top-flight interpretive team giving it their all. Listen/Watch
So, which is it to be? Roots-rocking CCR? Or hot and sexy Tina? Or is there a third option? Does Nimoy take it, for instance?
Give me the news! What do you think, good people?