Who wouldn’t be familiar with Sheryl Crow’s 2003 single, “The First Cut Is The Deepest.” Quite a striking song that hits hard to the core isn’t it? But believe it or not, Sheryl Crow’s not the first to record nor chart with it.
There were actually 68 versions of the song. The original “The First Cut Is The Deepest” was first performed by P.P Arnold and released in May 1967. The most recent cover was in March 2017 performed by Billy Valentine.
Songwriter Cat Stevens penned and did a demo recording of “The First Cut Is The Deepest” in 1965. He brought the song to P.P Arnold who demonstrated the song’s chart potential in the ’60s. Other cover artists throughout the years have also benefited from the song’s charismatic appeal.
Stevens, himself, gained numerous awards for his song including ASCAP’s “Songwriter of the Year” awards for 2005 and 2006. He also had his own version recorded at the end of 1967 which was included in his 2nd album, New Masters.
What’s In Cat Stevens’ Song
Signed into a publishing deal with Ardmore & Beechwood, Cat Stevens’ demo of “The First Cut Is The Deepest” was sold for 30 pounds.
It’s also worth noting that the song’s conception happened during the early years of the music industry. Recording artists don’t have any specific target audience. Stevens, however, admired folks and blues artists of that time. His early song arrangements then were the use of “folk idioms in melodic acoustic ballads.”
As for the song’s lyrical analysis, “The First Cut Is The Deepest” was a combination of a lover’s woe and grief. It’s a “woe” because the memory of the pain caused by his past lover impairs him to love again at his best. That thought “grieves” him because he knows that’s unfair to his present lover.
The Songwriter’s Version
Steven’s version, however, was laced with rock elements which reportedly did not please him. This caused a strain in his relationship with his producer Mike Hurst which eventually ended in their split.
Heart-tugging songs were not much appealing to Steven’s taste though. He wrote songs like “The First Cut” to attract music producers while expanding his contacts. His end goal is to produce musicals.
Sheryl Crow’s Version
Included in her 2003 album, “The Very Best of Sheryl Crow,” “The First Cut Is The Deepest” reached the top 14 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in March 2004 and no. 1 on 3 of Billboard’s Adult Songs Charts (Alt, Contemporary, and Top 40). This was also Crow’s first hit as a solo artist leading to her Grammy nomination for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.”
Rod Stewart’s Version
Fans of Rod Stewart would unanimously agree that his take of “The First Cut Is The Deepest” remains a strong contender today just as it was in the ’70s. The song automatically was a chart-topper in the UK and it reached no. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Aside from his 1977 version, Stewart also did a live recording of “The First Cut Is The Deepest” in 1993 for MTV Unplugged.
Patricia Ann Cole, also known as PP. Arnold was already an established celebrity of the ’60s. Her soulful treatment of “The First Cut Is the Deepest” could well be attributed to her gospel roots.
Like Sheryl Crow, this song was also P.P Arnold’s first solo but proved to be a commercial success when it peaked at no. 18. Arnold’s version spent 10 weeks total on the UK Singles Chart.
To Arnolds, the song was meant for her as it perfectly described what she was going through at that time.
“It encapsulated everything that I was at the time. Having the courage to get out of that [abusive relationship] and create a life for me and my kids. What a blessing.”