Eugene McDaniels, RIP
August 2, 2011 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Somewhere along the line, you might've heard one of the biggest hits to ever come out of the world of jazz: it was a song originally made famous by Les McCann and Eddie Harris back in 1969, called Compared To What. If you were in the right place at the right time, you might've even caught them doing it live. Or, if you were born a little too late for all that, you might've heard the song performed by John Legend and the Roots. Well, the man who wrote the song, Gene McDaniels, has just left us at age 76. RIP Gene McDaniels.
posted by flapjax at midnite (25 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The McCann/Harris version is one of my faves. McDaniels talks about the song here. And here's a link to a version by Roberta Flack (!).
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:52 AM on August 2, 2011

I love that song. The whole album is great, especially considering they had not played together before.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:52 AM on August 2, 2011

Thanks, flapjax at midnight!

Eugene McDaniels discusses Compared to What
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:54 AM on August 2, 2011

posted by Smart Dalek at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2011

posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 9:00 AM on August 2, 2011

And here's a link to a version by Roberta Flack (!).

Thanks for that! Had no idea she had recorded the song. I notice her version leaves out the cathartic "god damn!" which, in the Les McCann version, gives the song such a kick in the pants.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:11 AM on August 2, 2011

And actually, of course, i it's not "god damn", it's "god damn it!", which is even better. The punch in the rhythm when he sings that, it's a glorious moment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:13 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Totally beaten to the Roberta Flack link.
posted by box at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2011

I think seeing Compared to What covered/referenced in a Coke commercial was what finally broke me off from the world. Heresy. What a tremendous, powerful song. RIP Mr. McDaniels.
posted by penduluum at 9:32 AM on August 2, 2011

All I've known is Roberta Flack's version. Thanks!
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:34 AM on August 2, 2011

Yeah, to my mind the soul/jazz crowd had it all over the folkies when it came to "protest songs" around 1970 or so. This song, Gil-Scott Heron's work, The Last Poets, Marvin Gaye "What's Going On," and more. Hearing "Compared to What" is kick-starting my late morning...
posted by kozad at 9:36 AM on August 2, 2011

Thanks for pointing me at that great song that I didn't know at all.

When I hear the phrase "Compared to what?" the first thing I think of is Marcel the shell with shoes on, complaining about his (her?) size.
posted by edheil at 9:53 AM on August 2, 2011

The 1971 LP "Headless heros of the Apocalypse" is a classic.
posted by jade east at 10:04 AM on August 2, 2011

There's two "god-damn"'s in the tune, both golden:
Possession is / the motivation
That's hangin' up / the God-damn-nation

And don't forget what goes before the second despairing 'god-damn-it":
"We're chicken-feathers all, without one nut"
Words to live by.

That tune, the performance at Montreaux, and the release of the Swizz Movement album at that moment in time are the epitome of jazz, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Glad you got you nine minutes of fame, Euge.

posted by Herodios at 10:11 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think Flapjax can post a record here without my being able to link to the version that was big on the Northern Soul scene.

Mr Flood's Party
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:25 AM on August 2, 2011


Here's Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit covering Compared To What.
posted by elmono at 11:07 AM on August 2, 2011

Ah, "Compared to What" -- incomparable, a masterpiece -- and please, please, let's not forget another song he wrote for Roberta Flack, "Feel Like Makin' Love," a perfect slice of pop/soul that pretty much defined the sound of the mid-1970s. Also, he recorded an amazing album called Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse that's been sampled by countless hip-hop artists -- Beastie Boys on "Get It Together," Pete Rock & CL Smooth's "Soul Brother #1," A Tribe Called Quest's "Interludes from People's Instinctive Travels," and on and on and on .....

posted by blucevalo at 11:36 AM on August 2, 2011

posted by trip and a half at 12:39 PM on August 2, 2011

damn, I used to listen to headless heroes of the apocalypse all the time. RIP.
posted by LouieLoco at 1:09 PM on August 2, 2011

posted by CommonSense at 3:13 PM on August 2, 2011

Some of the best instructional audio, ever...soul satisfying.
posted by Oyéah at 8:08 PM on August 2, 2011

Another version, this time from Northern Ireland DJ David Holmes.
posted by daveje at 2:04 AM on August 3, 2011

I discovered the Swiss Movement record after looking for a song featured in a LOST episode ("Lockdown", since you ask), which turned out to be Compared to What. It's not the McCann/Harris version that was used, though, so if anybody knows which version it was...well, my past self would thank you.
posted by Bukvoed at 1:43 PM on August 3, 2011

Brian Auger's Oblivion Express version from the 1973 album Closer To It is a seminal '70s fusion performance. Auger still does it sometimes, all these years later, in concert, and that's Auger's fine daughter, Savannah, frontin', and his boy on drums, in the family band, from a live performance in Europe in late 1998.

Good wine gets sweeter in time.
posted by paulsc at 2:30 PM on August 3, 2011

Brian Auger's Oblivion Express . . . still does it sometimes, all these years later

By Jove, you're right, Paulsc. I forgot about that. I just saw them last fall, and they did play Compared to What. Excellent show. Recommended, if they come to your town.
posted by Herodios at 3:20 PM on August 3, 2011

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