Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Lovely Song, But...

The song is 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' by Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo`ole.

As a starting point, I find it hilarious that when your surname is "Kamakawiwo`ole", the part that gets a shortened to a nickname is his first name, Israel (shortened to 'Iz'). Yeah, that's the part people will have difficulty with!

It's a lovely cover version - the ukulele makes a great accompaniment, and his voice is ideally suited to the song - soft, and yet able to reach high notes while still sounding deep. Perhaps most strikingly, the segue into 'What a Wonderful World' (and back again) works perfectly, and makes a whole that is larger than the sum of the parts. I listened to this a lot, and really loved it. 

That is, until I started noticing one aspect that, once discovered, I couldn't help but be bothered by.
(below the jump, in case you don't want the song ruined for you)

He completely mangles the lyrics! When you listen to what he's actually saying, it's infuriating. It's like he was asked to do a cover of the song on 10 seconds notice, and he's phoning it in based on his vague recollections of how the words are meant to go. In terms what he comes up with, half of them aren't actual sentences, half of them don't rhyme, and none of them tell any kind of consistent story of anything. Here's his version, with my liner notes:

Somewhere over the Rainbow,
Way Up High,
And the Dreams that you dream of
Once in a Lullaby.

[So we have two clauses that begin a sentence, followed by a segue into 'And the dreams.. '. The first idea never gets finished - what exactly is happening somewhere over the rainbow, way up high? We never find out]

Oh Somewhere over the Rainbow
Blue Birds Fly.
And the Dreams that you dream of
Dreams really do come true

[Okay, so now we know what's happening over the rainbow, and the first two lines make a complete sentence. The second two lines, however, do not - if you chopped out the second 'Dreams' and replaced it with 'They', we'd be back in happy grammar land, but no. Still, it's close enough to get the idea, so I'll give him a pass here.]

Somewhere over the Rainbow
Blue Birds Fly.
And the Dreams that you dare to
Oh why, oh why, can't I

[This is perhaps the worst of the bunch. We've got not one, but two dangling clauses strung together, neither of which bears any obvious relation to the other one.  'The dreams that you dare to...'  - dare to what? dream, perhaps, is implied, but that doesn't help us much - next he's lamenting his inability to do something, but there's no obvious verb. Moreover, even if we correct his first line, we're left with no verb at all in the first half - 'The dreams that you dare to [dream]' is a single compound noun, so without any other verb it's unclear what he's lamenting in the second half of the sentence. Either way, I've got no idea what he's getting at.] 

What's worse, is that the original makes perfect sense, as you'd expect. Here's the relevant parts of the Judy Garland version:

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

Sure is a lot clearer now what the hell's going on, isn't it! Was he forced to sing Edward Lear style nonsense in order to avoid copyright issues? Mr Kamakawiwo`ole has unfortunately passed away, so I guess we'll never know.

Sadly, I can't hear the song without being bothered by this. I hope I haven't ruined it for you too.

1 comment:

  1. If you like Iz K- check out singer/songwriter Victoria Vox!
    The Mid Atlantic loves Victoria Vox!