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Ezekiel Phillips
Ezekiel Phillips

The Singer Not The Song(1961)


The early Rolling Stones (and in fact, the Rolling Stones throughout their career) were never all about raunchy, bluesy rock. They also penned a fair number of tuneful, poppy romantic songs, even if those were never dominant in their repertoire. "The Singer Not the Song," appearing on the December's Children album in late 1965, is one of the more overlooked ones. In retrospect, it's kind of a bridge between their early, wimpy Merseybeat-like original songs -- which they tended to give to other artists to record, rather than do themselves -- and their more mature pop/rock, non-blues-based tunes, such as "Lady Jane" and, a little later, "Ruby Tuesday." "The Singer Not the Song"'s still been criticized for being a little too sappy, and for the undoubtedly out-of-tune guitars and harmonies (as if those were rare events on early Rolling Stones records). But it's a fairly attractive British Invasion-like pop tune with a tinge of folk-rock in the heavy use of reverberant acoustic guitars (and a tinge of groups like the Beatles in the greater use of harmonies than usual). There are also some hints of tenderness and vulnerability in both the lyrics and the way they're sung, as if to signify that there was more to Mick Jagger and the boys than sardonic rebellion and misogyny. The phrase "it's the singer, not the song" is itself pretty lyrical and abstract for an early Rolling Stones song -- almost philosophical -- and helps put this in a more sophisticated league than earlier pop/rock ballads the group had written. The final chorus, too, has a weird leap into falsetto harmonies, on what's been speculated is an actual attempt to sound like the Four Seasons. Not too many people have heard it (or ever will), but there was a good, somewhat more rock-oriented 1966 cover of the song with organ, folk-rock 12-string guitar, and a key change for the final verse by the Pittsburgh group the Napoleonic Wars, as heard on the obscure '60s garage rock compilation Burghers, Vol. 1. More well known is the version done by Alex Chilton in the mid-'70s, shortly after the breakup of Big Star. The original Rolling Stones version, incidentally, was probably more visible in Britain, where it was used as the B-side of "Get Off of My Cloud" (though it was only an LP track in the States).




The Singer Not the Song(1961)


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This is further underlined by the decidedly homoerotic conclusion, with Anacleto and Keogh locked in each other's arms as they die from their wounds, and by Anacleto's repeated reference to the film's title, in each case making it clear that he's much more interested in 'the singer' (i.e. Keogh) than 'the song' (the religion he preaches). Though Bogarde was deliberately subverting the film, it is this additional tension that lifts it above routine melodrama and has given the film at least a minor cult following.


This unusual western concerns the conflict between a priest and a Mexican bandito from A Night to Remember (1958) director Roy Baker. Father Keogh (John Mills) is a Catholic priest who arrives in the remote Mexican village of Quantano to build a congregation, unaware that the town is terrorized by the ruthless criminal Anacleto (Dirk Bogarde). An atheist, Anacleto has forbidden worship, so when Keogh holds services, Anacleto retaliates by murdering the locals in alphabetical order. Keogh refuses to back down. Impressed by his valor, Anacleto calls his men off and makes the priest an offer -- he'll spare him if he determines which inspires greater good, "the singer" (the priest) or "the song" (religion). Keogh doesn't answer. Meanwhile, one of the clergyman's followers, the young girl Locha (Mylene Demongeot), flees when her family, realizing that she's in love with Keogh, arranges a marriage with someone more suitable. Anacleto finds the girl and offers Keogh another deal. He'll let the girl live if the priest will admit his failure before his congregation.


Ganz became her manager and then basically launched Verve Records, built entirely around his star singer, at which point Fitzgerald, who had believed her lot in life was to sing bop, had one of the crucial breakthroughs in all of jazz, turning to the great American songbooks of writers like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington, fashioning recorded monuments to their genius that brought hers into clearer view.


Stanley Nelson: I think one of the great stories of the music that we used is there's a song called "Hallelujah, I'm Traveling," which was actually written by Bayard Rustin, a great Civil Rights leader. And the only version-- and this was actually written for the Freedom Rides, but the only version that we could find was him singing it, and he sings in this kind of really operatic voice, so it's like "Hallelujah, I'm a-traveling. Hallelujah"-- and it just didn't work for anything in the film, and so we asked the guy who was composing the original music for the film, and he said, "I have a singer who I can ask to do it," and he had her record it and he sent us the recording, and she sounded like Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey or something. It was just like too much vocalization, and I told him, "Have her do it again and have her do it like she's riding on a bus in the middle of the night on the Freedom Rides. She's going through Alabama. It's three in the morning. Everybody else is asleep and she's sitting there with her head up against the window kind of singing to herself. She's just singing the song to herself. Have her do it like that." He sent it back to us and everybody was just bowled over, and it becomes a central point in the film. That one song is something we go back to over and over again in the film.


However, the tort of appropriation of identity was widely recognized in 1959, and presumably existed in Minnesota. The elements of that tort were (and are): (1) taking, (2) identification, (3) benefit to the appropriator, and (4) lack of consent. Elements (3) and (4) would appear to have been satisfied, but elements (1) (a taking) and (2) (identification) demand that third parties recognize the identity that has been ostensibly taken and act in a manner that tangibly benefits the taker. At a minimum, a person whose image is tortuously appropriated must be objectively identifiable; a benefit to the appropriator must accrue before a legal claim arises; and the use must be nonconsensual. In this particular case, it seems unlikely that anyone listening to Bob Dylan sing or contemplating purchasing one of his albums was ever under the misimpression that the singer-songwriter was the Packer defensive back branching out into a new career. 041b061a72


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