Driving home from a family occasion last night, I heard a truly awful cover version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” on the radio. This is a gospel song I had previously considered virtually impossible to do badly. With so many good cover versions out there, it takes almost superhuman diligence to find one that makes you glad you don’t spend a lot of time in cocktail lounges.
You can hear Mayfield himself sing the tune up top. Here’s a typically soulful version from the Blind Boys of Alabama:
Strat cat Jeff Beck has a run at an instrumental version:
How about a reggae version from Ziggy Marley . . .
. . . and a concert version from U2, with a little help from some Jersey guy.
And since on this blog, all roads ultimately lead to Bob Dylan, here is a lo-fi but high-commitment version that is one of the buried treasures of the “Basement Tapes” sessions from 1967.
Moments like this are the reason hardcore Bobcats won’t be satisfied until the bowdlerized official release of The Basement Tapes — larded with outtakes from The Band that were recorded without Dylan, and in some cases much later — is supplanted by a longer, well engineered true-life version that gives a more accurate picture of what happened in that big pink house. After the sustained madness of the 1965-1966 period, Dylan set out to reconnect with his muse — and Curtis Mayfield was one of the songwriters who showed him the way back home.