We all know how Emmylou Harris became a successful artist. She started her sterling reputation of unique covers in a lot of songs since the release of her album ‘Pieces of the Sky’ back in ‘75. Some of the materials she interpreted since that time have been either classic country (Hank Williams, Dolly Parton), mellow folk and pop-rock (James Taylor, the Beatles), or, more recently, gritty Americana (Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin). Still, she relied on pulling more left-field sources, for example, like what she did in the past, she recorded Donna Summer’s disco tune “On the Radio” as a country ballad. Not only that, she has given the Fifties hit “Mr. Sandman” the bubbly Trio treatment in harmony with Parton and Linda Ronstadt.
Back in ‘95, as Harris moved from Nashville’s division of Warner Bros. to Elektra label, she veered from mainstream country music and made one of the most acclaimed albums of her career, Wrecking Ball. The album was produced by Daniel Lanois, previously best known for his collaborations with an ambient-music icon and producer Brian Eno, with whom he co-produced U2’s career-making albums, The Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree, among others. Lanois, who contributed the writing of “Blackhawk” and co-writing of “Deeper Well,” to the LP, also joined Harris on one of the more adventurous covers of her career, a thrilling, intense take on one of the most unusual Jimi Hendrix originals of the rock guitarist’s short, meteoric career, “May This Be Love.”
Abuzz with electric guitars and atmospherically dense, unlike the melodic Hendrix original which was driven largely by an uncharacteristically sweet, more soulful Hendrix vocal, the Harris-Lanois collaboration was given an additional acoustic cover in 2014 for the deluxe version of Wrecking Ball. It was an emphasizing rhythm and melody and getting closer to the spirit of Hendrix’s 1967 original from Are You Experienced, which also contained such Hendrix classics as “Purple Haze,” “Foxy Lady” and “Hey Joe.” “May This Be Love” had previously been covered in 1990 by the Pretenders, on the album, Packed.
He would have been 75 years old today. Hendrix died of a drug overdose in London on September 18th, 1970. He was 27 years old when he passed away. In 1992, Hendrix and his bandmates in the Jimi Hendrix Experience were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the same year Harris was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry. She joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
What do you say, is the cover of Emmylou Harris better than Jimi Hendrix’s version? Let us know in the comment section below.
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