Thursday, September 15th, 2011

XV's "Wichita" And Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" Throughout The Past 40 Years Of Musical History

Here is a nice black-and-white video for the song "Wichita" by the young rapper XV, who is from Wichita, Kansas. The song is good, though I wish XV had done a little more with the chorus. The star producer Just Blaze, who is most famous for his work with Jay-Z, constructed the beat for XV's song using samples of the classic pop standard "Wichita Lineman" as recorded by Johnny Harris and the Dells.

Jimmy Webb wrote "Wichita Lineman" for Glen Campbell, who made it into a no. 1 hit in 1968. It's about a powerline technician who's been working hard and misses his sweetheart. (I can never help but think it's about a college football player, like the beginning to Lou Reed's "Coney Island Baby.") But it's been recorded a million times since then, by everyone from Sammy Davis Jr. to Ray Charles to Johnny Cash to Kool & the Gang to Sergio Mendes.

Willie Hutch and Dennis Brown and R.E.M., too. And Urge Overkill, who's version might be my favorite.

And Freedy Johnston.

The opening chords that Freedy strums there offer a glimpse into how the tune has crept into lots of other songs over the years. Don Henley's "The Heart of the Matter," for example.

(I am embarrassed to admit how much I like that song. It is disgusting in so many ways, I know, starting with the fact that it is by Don Henley. I can't help it. I love it. The melody of that chorus is just a killer.)

And Prince's "The Cross," which, of course, no one ever need be ashamed to absolutely worship. (Watch that clip quickly, as it is totally mind-blowingly awesome, and Prince videos never stay up on YouTube for very long.)

And Just Blaze is not the first person to sample "Wichita Lineman" in a rap song.

Ghostface Killah's "Pokerface," produced by K. Flack five years ago, used a sample of Sunday's Child's 1970 version.

Wow! Now that I'm listening to it, I might like that Sunday's Child version even better than Urge Overkill's take on it.

I swear that dramatic repetitive break from Johnny Harris' version has been used somewhere else I know very well, too. But I can't put my finger on it.

Great. Now I'm tortured for the rest of the day.

5 Comments / Post A Comment

roboloki (#1,724)

can i wear a harvard t shirt to his concert?

Dave Bry (#422)

Do you like apples?

John W (#6,405)

Only sort of missing: "Witchita Lineman was a Song I Once Heard" by The KLF.

rjlarimer (#264)

Freeeeeeedy!! Great artist, great version of the song. What's he up to these days?

s. (#775)

I will agree with you about UO (who are criminally under-appreciated, and due for a critical reevaluation, if only for their late-career collaboration with the Butcher Brothers), and that Henley song (Henley sucks, but he's a pro, and at that point in his career his craft was enough to occasionally turn out something special), but without Just Blaze there's not much to that XV track.

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