One of the things I love about a truly great song is how open it is to interpretation. At any time some new musician could come and breathe new life into it. Like Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Whether or not you actually like Paul Simon, I think most people would agree it's a great song. Great lyrics, great groove, great chorus. On a recent jaunt through YouTube land I found five different versions including the original that I liked (there were at least five other ones as well, but these were my favorites.) Let's start with Mr. Simon himself.
Although I wouldn't exactly call myself a big Paul Simon fan, I do definitely have respect for him. Whereas most old school pop singers keep on doing the same thing again and again until it almost seems pathetic, he has always constantly reinvented himself and tried new things. Of course, it also helps that he surrounds himself with the best musicians. Like the drummer Steve Gadd who came up with the drum groove solo at the beginning of the song. I don't know squat about drumming, but apparently this beat is very difficult to play and he always does it so lightly and with such feeling. Truly a master.
The drummer here doesn't have the touch Steve Gadd does, but Rosemary Clooney is a better singer than Paul Simon. This interpretation is my absolute favorite, but then I am a big Rosemary Clooney fan. She had such an unusual voice and such a great sense of rhythm.
Cadence gets out of having to compete with Steve Gadd by turning the drum solo into a beat box. Nice use of playback too.
I had never heard of the Platinum Pied Pipers, but by their picture I figured they would perform hard-edged jazz or maybe R&B. Quite a surprise that they have such a lounge-y, soft groove.
Playgroup even does a Reggae version. And it works. Mr. Simon, thanks for writing such a great song.
My vote still goes out to Rosemary. Do you have a favorite?