Zarah Leander - www.wikipedia.org
Friday, 09 July 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 27 2021 - Otepää Slim
Curious, how some songs are covered by more than one artist. And bizarre is the trend towards streaming bits of familiar numbers into a new composition. Or what are known as remixes, mashups. One of the strangest examples of a so-called remix is The Notorious B.I.G. rapping away with the Guess Who’s classic hit “These eyes” entering his stream of consciousness. Check that out on You Tube, and see if you don’t agree that this is doing a great song a disservice.
Estonians have long taken melodies popular elsewhere and created their own lyrics. This practice began in the 19th century, mostly taking tunes from the Germans. This reached its apogee during the 1920s and 30s, lead by bandleaders such as John Pori taking schlagers
and creating their own lyrics in their mother tongue. The popular Swedish contra-alto Zarah Leander, who sang in German and became somewhat of nightingale in the Nazi court, saw her hits taken only recently, in 2016 and performed in Estonian as a musical. Too bad that the slimster missed that show in Estonia, which had a reasonable run on the boards.
During Soviet occupation years it was common to take the songs of English and American artists, have those such as Heldur Karmo, who as a lyricist was non-pareil, put words to them. Jaak Joala sang quite a few Beatles songs and more. Silvi Vrait also had hits that were popularized by others singing originally in English. And of course no royalties were paid, outright theft of material by the crooked and corrupt terror regime.
(As an aside, the slender one has a Silvi Vrait - originally Wright - story from the last years of occupation. The lean machine, somewhat worse for the wear after an evening of carousing in Tallinn was at the taxi stand, when Vrait stumbled up, asking where the gracile guy was headed, hoping to share the next cab. She had also been imbibing, considerably. And then the innuendos, come-ons, the impression was that she was interested in sharing more than a taxi. The slimster might be deluding himself 32 years later, but hey – no white in the hair, muscle had not yet turned into flab, and what worry lines? None. Alas, Vrait is no longer with us; some blamed hard living for her early passing from this earthly orb).
Then there is the wonderful ensemble Lindpriid. Singing, for example Tiki-tiki-tak, to the tune of the Pete Seeger hit “Little Boxes”. They’ve recorded more musical covers, including Kris Kristofferson’s song, made into a huge hit by Janis Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee”. And curiously, these talented vocalists covered “Lili Marlene”.
More recently a nod goes to “Mu Hobune on Tilluke” performed by Bläck Rokit. This is a great song, sung techno-pop to the tune made popular by Diana Ross’ “Upside Down”. Love the lyrics - humorous, and just like Ross this will keep your fingers snapping. Do check this one out on YouTube as well.
And finally our refugee community. Jüri Lipp was among the first younger performers to take popular songs and put Estonian lyrics to them. Merely three examples – the melodies of “Polly Wolly Doodle”, “Quando, Quando” and “These Boots Were Made for Walking”. All in a beautiful baritone. Sadly, Lipp, a diabetic, passed away far too young, at the age of 28.
Then there were Peeter Kopvillem and Alar Kivilo, singing the Harry Nilsson classic “Everybody’s Talkin’” as “Inimesed Tänavatel”.
Finally, if memory serves, Positiivsed mehed (Hillar Tork, Mark Teose and Erik Teose) sang a few covers along with originals at ESTO 1984, elsewhere, but research did not uncover names, no recordings, alas, in the overgrown collection. Nor on YouTube.
A good musical tradition, when respecting the original artist. Not like B.I.G. In the swelter of summer it is genuinely fun and entertaining to visit the past.Otepää Slim