Previous posts in this Series:
Many musical artists over the years have lifted spoken words from their original context and placed them in a song. Sometimes the goal of the musical artist is simply to amplify the lifted words and introduce the speaker of them to a wider audience. Other times, and this is especially true in hip-hop sampling of the spoken word, the goal is to use the lifted words in a way that amplifies the message of the artist doing the sampling.
While sampling the spoken word might not be a "cover tune" in the way this series has defined the concept, such sampling is most certainly "bold." The artist lifting the spoken word runs the risk of offending fans of the original spoken message, or maybe misinterpreting that message, or even just creating confusion.
What follows, in no particular order, are ten examples of what I consider to be particularly good examples of setting already existing spoken words to music.
#10: Mr. Fingers' sampling of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream Speech". Mr. Fingers (AKA Larry Heard) helped pioneer Chicago house music in the 1980s. His major chart success came in 1986 with "Can You Feel It," a dance classic. He produced many mixes of the track, including one featuring the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr.delivering the "I Have A Dream" speech from 1963. The beats and rhythm help us realize just how much SOUL is in that speech. I'd love for someone to put Dr. King's "Loving Your Enemies" to music.
#9: Paul Hardcastle - 19 (samples spoken words from the ABC television documentary Vietnam Requiem): I was reminded of Paul Hardcastle and "19" recently by Matt King, producer and my cohost for the new Running on MT podcast. Hardcastle is another electronic music pioneer, and "19" brilliantly dramatizes the plight of the Vietnam vets by taking the words from an important documentary and using music to give them a sense of urgency. We still give mostly lip service to post traumatic stress disorder, but the fact that we got even that far is at least in part due to the efforts of artists like Paul Hardcastle who used their talents to place the issue on the radar.
#8: Paolo Nutini's "Iron Sky" (samples parts of Charlie Chaplain's final speech in "The Great Dictator"). The Scottish artist Paolo Nutini is one of the greatest soul/rock singers of his generation. His "Iron Sky" (from the excellent 2014 album "Caustic Love") carries a powerful message of striving for freedom in the face of propaganda and bullying. He includes a portion of the legendary final speech delivered by Charlie Chaplain in his classic film "The Great Dictator":