I have a not-so-secret soft spot for cover songs: covers that turn a song inside-out and into something new, sure, but also faithful and reverent covers that showcase a singer's love of a particular tune. Stuck in my head this week is a prime example of the latter category, Amy Winehouse's version of “Our Day Will Come.”
[jump] “Our Day Will Come” was originally recorded by Ruby and the Romantics in 1963 and became their first and biggest hit. Ruby West's voice is warm and full, and the Romantics' backing harmonies match her in richness. The original is almost smug with its self-assurance that whatever obstacles the singer's romantic life might face, they will all be swept away in due time. A little bit of patience is all it takes before she and her beau are together. Their love is just that magical.
Winehouse's cover makes this sentiment sound more wistful than predestined. There's no smugness to be found in her cover. It's all wish – the affirmation you say in the mirror because you want so badly for it to be true. The backing music is almost corny, completely and intentionally retro-ironic, and if it weren't for Winehouse's voice, I'd be grinding my teeth at it. It was recorded during the sessions for her 2003 debut album Frank and later released in 2011 as the first single for the posthumous Lioness compilation.
So much has been written about Winehouse and so much of it now seems beside the point. Her drinking and substance abuse, her appearance, her family and romantic life. (Not: her stage fright, her sense of humor, her artistic choices as choices and not as the serendipitous result of raw talent.) I'm hesitant to add to the pile, so I'll just say this: Amy Winehouse loved girl groups, doo wop, soul and jazz, and all that tasty stuff. She wasn't trying to overwrite Ruby and the Romantics' version of “Our Day Will Come” because who would want to do that? She was paying tribute to it the best way she knew how – with her incontestable vocal talent. And now we are blessed with two stellar versions of “Our Day Will Come,” with no need to choose one over the other.
So, I'm not sure why Winehouse rather than West caught my ear this week. Maybe it's simply that, being more recent, I'm more likely to run into Winehouse's take while out and about in the world. Maybe it's that Winehouse's untimely death and its legacy still looms so large over our collective musical consciousness. It's hard not to respond to that hopeful note in her voice. In another timeline or an alternate universe, maybe Winehouse finally, somehow, got her wish for contentment.