“It’s the singer , not the song, that makes the music move along” - one of rock’s greatest songwriters, Pete Townshend, wrote that line in The Who’s song “Join together with the band”. It’s always been one of my favorite lyrics, the main reason I chose to cover that song. And my version is quite different from the original (which actually features a lot of harmonica playing) - I turned it into a Chicago-style shuffle.
The Blues has always been about individual expression, saying something in your own unique way. Much more emphasis is always placed on performance than on songwriting. My first mentor, Ted Cooper , always did this, playing the same song in different ways, in different tempos, according to how he was feeling it at that moment. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what song we were playing until he started singing the lyrics...But It's not just in the Blues - rock musicians often treat a song as a living, breathing and ever-evolving entity, a vehicle for self expression. Even artists who are known primarily as songwriters like to change their own compositions around. Look no further than the greatest ever, Nobel prize winner Bob Dylan, who performs his own songs in radically different ways, or Bruce Springsteen, who changed the rocking “Thunder road” to a quiet piano ballad - while the song was still a new hit!
Needless to say, I also enjoy treating songs as living, breathing expressions, whether I wrote them or someone else. I also enjoy letting the musicians who play with me put their own stamp on the music - I might play a song differently with a particular guitarist than with another , or a drummer might give it a different flavor than I was expecting - and these changes help keep the music fresh and alive.
That’s part of the beauty of live music - even an old song has new meanings, and speaks to you in new ways every time it’s played. So go out and hear a show - you’ll hear something new every time!
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