Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pussy


If a singer performs a cover of a classic song, doesn't he have have an obligation to perform it the way the composer intended? When Aaron Neville performed the Randy Newman song, "Louisiana 1927," he altered the line, "isn't it a shame what the river has done to this poor crackers' land?" The word "cracker"was replaced by Neville, who was loath to offend white people (whereas Newman was not), with the word "farmer." He deprived the song of some of its idiomatic power, but such an alteration is minor, and has little or no effect on the sense of the song.

When Philippine pop singer Regine Velasquez recorded a cover of the Gordon Lightfoot song "Pussywillows, Cattails", the title was changed to "Weeping Willows Cattails" without explanation. But the explanation is obvious. Ms Velasquez, known as "Asia's Songbird," whether the rest of Asia knows it or not, did not want to use the word "pussy," lest her fans, who evidently know enough naughty English, think she was referring to a vagina, and not to the furry catkins of a budding willow tree - which probably none of them have seen. They have likely never seen a weeping willow either, so the alteration is additionally nonsensical.

Lightfoot's beautiful song is all about the telltale signs - in a northern climate - of the "warm breath of Spring," a season that doesn't exist in the Philippines. He was also playing with the cat metaphor in both words. What amazed me was that Velasquez liked the song enough that she was willing to record it in such a stupidly bowdlerized version, just to prevent some ignoramuses from sniggering at the perfectly harmless word pussywillow.

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