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Why Oh Why Can't I?
September 26, 2011 10:29 AM   Subscribe

It's been missing from YouTube for almost a year, but finally someone has resurrected the iconic video of Patti Labelle building up to a massive "Over The Rainbow" explosion at a 1984 tribute to MLK Jr.
posted by hermitosis (44 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's the melisma motherlode!
posted by Trurl at 10:33 AM on September 26, 2011


The last minute of that video is a religion unto itself.
posted by hermitosis at 10:36 AM on September 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


She is great. No doubt about that. But I continue to prefer the song from the film, by Judy Garland, with the slow tender voice of what seems an innocent young girl, befuddled by what
is taking place, hoping for better things, than what is clearly a mature professional voice, operatic in its quality but so overdone as to lose that sense of youthful innocence I feel in Garland'ws version. But hey, that's just me and what do I know.
posted by Postroad at 10:47 AM on September 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Damn. Goosebumps on the first notes, already.

I was going to say that her hair wasn't as LaBelleriffic as expected, but then I got the front view.

Day-UMN! DAMN, woman!

I really need to go buy a sequined caftan now. Really, really, really.
posted by Madamina at 10:48 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


None can doubt her commitment to Sparkle Motion.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 10:49 AM on September 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


that sense of youthful innocence

Well, we will always have both. During one of the Tyler Clementi suicide threads we talked a little bit about how and why it has evolved into a sort of protest song. In that context, the song becomes about the sadness of innocence lost, and visions of a (hopefully) happier future.
posted by hermitosis at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2011


If you place the loudspeakers just right, the resonant tones of this recording can shatter that totalitarian sculpture of MLK in the new memorial in D.C.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Patti Labelle & Prince, "Wade in the Water" was my moment of religion.
posted by yeloson at 10:55 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


NEVER FORGET
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 11:02 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


In general, I agree with Postroad, but I love how La LaBelle handled the bridge. Garland makes it sound effortless (which is not easy), but LaBelle's interpretation gives it some real heft within the song.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:07 AM on September 26, 2011


I got three minutes in before I remembered to breathe. Great find.
posted by mochapickle at 11:11 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, the sublime genius of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg – two of the great geniuses of our age.

I love this song. One of the reasons I love it so much is because it's so very versatile, such an interesting chord structure that is rendered so simply. It can be sung so eloquently, so beautifully, and yet the melody and harmony have enough to them that instrumental versions capture the spirit beautifully too.

There are a number of wholly different takes on the tune. It was, I believe, somewhat pivotal at a certain moment in the development of piano style in jazz. That's because the great Art Tatum (probably the fastest piano player on record, and a brilliant harmonist) loved the song, and cut at least a dozen versions of it. Here is a particularly good one, a home recording from 1948.

Art Tatum was one of the first wave of stride piano players in New York in the 30s and 40s. These guys were masters who walked the streets from bar to bar "cutting" each other in contests of virtuousity. Their tunes were generally pretty conventional stuff, though very humorous and witty and played sometimes at tremendous speed. But Art Tatum, aside from probably being the fastest among them, also had a very interesting and forward-looking sense of harmony. He loved weird chords and odd runs that sounded angular and strange. You can hear it in his versions of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" – the shifting rhythms, the stops, unexpected resolutions.

In the 1950s, when the young beboppers rose up and overturned the old conventions, the greatest pianist among them was one Bud Powell. Bud clearly idolized Art Tatum, and you can hear it in Powell's version of "Over The Rainbow" from just five years later in 1953. It's similar, having some stride to it, and the harmonic conception is similarly striking, but now it's in the context of bop music. It's really the missing link between the old stride masters and the new hard bop piano players.

Anyway, thanks for the link. It's fantastic.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on September 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


Wow. Amazing stuff. Thanks, hermitosis and koeselitz!
posted by blurker at 11:29 AM on September 26, 2011


fucking a. That last minute is almost tear-inducing.
posted by Think_Long at 12:00 PM on September 26, 2011


Beautiful, I love Ms Labelle.

At Newport Rhode Island's short lived Rhythm & Blues Festival in 1997, I had the peak experience of hearing the inimitable Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin in one day. Oh my.

But wait, there's more: Ruth Brown, Neville Brothers, Ben E. King, Jerry Butler.

The year prior: Charles Brown, Etta James, Allen Toussaint, Pops Staples, Bonnie Raitt, Sam Moore

Why oh why was this fest so short lived?
posted by madamjujujive at 12:02 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this. I've always loved Keith Jarrett's interpretation.
posted by beisny at 12:04 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Impressive, to say the least...

At the other end of the spectrum (no pun intended) of the rainbow, in terms of simplicity, is Iz.
posted by HuronBob at 12:04 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bud Powell's version of Over The Rainbow.

[Koeselitz: I think you might have linked to Art Tatum twice, and I'm linking Powell here to help everyone appreciate your beautiful comment.]
posted by ferdydurke at 12:25 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, my sister played Iz' version at her wedding (cheesy, I know, but whatever) and my 2 year old latched on to this one song the way 2 year olds do and now, every single night, going on 6 months now, before bed, it's "Hear Aunt Heather wedding song! Hear wedding song!" And you know, I don't hate it with seething fury at all, in fact I slightly more than tolerate it. This is the highest complement one can possibly pay to a song.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:37 PM on September 26, 2011


[This is good.]
posted by chunking express at 12:38 PM on September 26, 2011


GOD DAMN!

I literally laughed out loud with pure joy when she hit the end and did her little dance.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:39 PM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


[Ha, thanks ferdydurke.]
posted by koeselitz at 12:41 PM on September 26, 2011


so awesome. thank you.
posted by lukievan at 12:46 PM on September 26, 2011


If I'm reincarnated as another human, please let me be a woman with an instrument like Patti's. I want to be able to do that so bad.
posted by dabitch at 12:47 PM on September 26, 2011


I ♥ Patti LaBelle!
posted by ericb at 12:57 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why oh why was this fest so short lived?

Because (at least IIRC), it was a hybrid of the Jazz and Folk Festivals, thrown together when the two festivals were struggling to survive. Once they got back on their feet (or at least the Folk Festival did, I'm not sure how the Jazz Festival is doing), I think the other one seemed redundant (or at least commercially unsupportable).
posted by yerfatma at 12:59 PM on September 26, 2011


I find Patti's singing to be a little too much for me. On the other hand, I used to see her a lot on late night talk shows (Arsenio?) where she talked about how many women in her family she had lost to cancer and how she was at the age where they had all died and how she was just grabbing life by the throat and was going to get every ounce of life out of whatever time she had left. So yeah, go git'em Patti!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:05 PM on September 26, 2011


There are a number of wholly different takes on the tune. It was, I believe, somewhat pivotal at a certain moment in the development of piano style in jazz.

Brings to mind how Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'My Favorite Things' has become a jazz staple over the years.
posted by ericb at 1:13 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank-you - - I'm going to file this with our previous spine-tingling song discussion.
posted by fairmettle at 1:24 PM on September 26, 2011


Wow, great post and amazing thread! There is a goose-bump festival going on on my skin.
posted by mumimor at 1:29 PM on September 26, 2011


How is it that this woman has never sung "And I Am Telling You"?! (previously) What can be done to make this happen?
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:36 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Start a Facebook page insisting upon it! Go door to door with a petition if need be.
posted by hermitosis at 1:43 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, her flapping her arms like wings dance at the end is just spectacular.
posted by anitanita at 2:02 PM on September 26, 2011


Masterful.
posted by ColdChef at 2:57 PM on September 26, 2011


Came into the thread a skeptic.

Left as a convert.
posted by the bricabrac man at 4:11 PM on September 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


yes, that's something else - but i think my favorite patti labelle moment is "the bells" with laura nyro and labelle

just listen
posted by pyramid termite at 6:01 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lord have mercy. I feel like I've been to church.
posted by 4ster at 6:32 PM on September 26, 2011


That last minute is almost tear-inducing.

I blazed past "almost" at about 3:15 and was full-on laugh-sobbing from joy a few seconds later. Thanks so much for this post, hermitosis.
posted by donnagirl at 7:00 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to go to church with Patti, I recommend starting here. From about 1:10-1:20, she delivers notes that I believe could change me physically if she desired them to.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 7:00 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Her version of Hymne à l'moure is pretty good also.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:33 PM on September 26, 2011


Hot damn.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:04 PM on September 26, 2011


This is incredible and I, too, am left in tears, but I am also in hysterics because I keep thinking of Maya Rudolph in the national anthem skit on SNL... I can't breathe...
posted by tristeza at 10:16 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love that Maya Rudolph sketch. I can't tell you how many times I inject a "Duh-WHUT" into everyday conversations.
posted by hermitosis at 10:40 PM on September 26, 2011


If Only You Knew is one of her best songs, though apparently it's hard as hell to find a decent quality version on youtube. She stays pretty calm with it until 3:30, then she decides to start going for it.
posted by yeloson at 10:51 PM on September 26, 2011


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