CYNDI LAUPER / “Until You Come Back To Me”
If you only know Cyndi Lauper from the apex of her popularity—bopping and hiccupping her way through neon-lit music videos—her remake of Aretha Franklin’s 1974 #1 R&B hit “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” will come as quite the surprise. Cyndi’s cover is charming and sophisticated, a mature take on a much-loved R&B classic. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised to hear this more grown-up side of Cyndi. She is, after all (are you ready for this?) 52 years old. What I like most about Cyndi’s remake is the (re)arrangement. Listen to the original: the background vocals, the string section and most of all, Aretha’s powerful lead, lend the song a ‘big,’ orchestral feel. The new arrangement is more in line with the sentiment of the lyrics. It’s subtle and understated. There are no background vocalists at all. The musicians—drum, piano, bass and guitar—all play their parts in an open, minimalist style that showcases Cyndi’s voice and the small yet effective changes she makes to the main melody. During the second half of the song, someone in Cyndi’s band adds a playful, Wonder-esque harmonica to the mix. It’s a nice touch, and not without some irony, given that Stevie Wonder actually wrote the song (along with his mentor Clarence Paul) back in 1967. Then I checked the liner notes and found out that the harmonica player on Cyndi’s version of “Until You Come Back To Me” isn’t doing his best Stevie Wonder impression after all. It is Stevie Wonder! So, in 2003, a pop singer from the Eighties remakes an R&B classic from the Seventies along with the man who originally wrote it in the Sixties. Sounds perfect to me. —Mtume ya Salaam Bonus tracks: Cyndi Lauper – “My Baby Just Cares For Me” from At Last (Sony, 2003) Aretha Franklin – “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” from 30 Greatest Hits (Atlantic, 1990) Child can not sing Mtume, this is the kind of stuff that makes me believe that sometimes there is something wrong with your ears! This (52-year-old) child can not sing worth spit. Not only is there no comparison but on top of that, even Stevie Wonder can’t save it. (I immediately thought Stevie when the harmonica came in—I was listening before I read your write up). Stevie’s presence is the one thing that forces me to reconsider for a second…but naw, it still ain’t happening. One of the reasons it’s not happening for me, other than the main reason (that I don’t think much of Cyndi Lauper’s vocal work) is that when I was first enjoying the song, I was driving through Southside Chicago in my uncle’s second car. It was a sunny, warm day (which is already a give away that something special was happening), and I was just cruising, going nowhere in particular, just cruising and Aretha was singing…. And I still get that feeling of floating down an avenue every time I hear Aretha. Then here comes this child busting my bubble and blowing my high. And then, Mtume, how insensitive can you be? To add blasphemy to desecration, you drop this child’s mangled take on “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” which has been immortalized by Nina Simone. Now, because of Stevie’s presence, I’m willing to allow that Cyndi’s version of “Come Back To Me” is not a total desecration of something sacred, but there is none, not one, no excuse for what she does to “My Baby.” BTW, although there doesn’t seem to be a chorus on Cyndi’s version, they did multi-track her voice (I guess they couldn’t find no backup singers who wanted this sorry version on their resume). Mtume, what the hell are you smoking out there in Cali? Tell me this is an end of the year joke. Tell me maybe you were having a Katrina flashback. Tell me you’re a sucker for Stevie Wonder harmonica. Just don’t tell me to listen to Cyndi Lauper. —Kalamu ya Salaam I'm having a little trouble Baba, I’m having a little trouble writing this, because as I attempt to type, Asante and I are dancing and singing along to Cyndi’s wildly uptempo ska remake of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.”
If I never made another cent I’d still be rich as Gates-a-feller Gold dust on my feet On the sunny side of the street!And to answer your first question, I’m not smoking, I’m drinking. I’m drinking the happy juice and I got extra for anybody who wants some. Ha-haaaa!!!!!! —Mtume ya Salaam
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