A couple months ago, I played the “one song, x number of ways” game for #RomanticTuesday with a couple of famous duets. One was “Endless Love” and the other was “If This World Were Mine.” I’ve also done it with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” from earlier this year. Today, I’m doing it again, but with a song that isn’t quite as well known, but is a great song nonetheless.
Growing up, I associated today’s song with Aretha Franklin; mainly because it was her version that I became familiar with. However, it turned out that her version was a cover of a song that had already been a top 30 pop hit a year or two before Franklin touched it. The original performer of the song was Scottish singer Lulu (born Marie Lawrie in Glasgow). Lulu’s biggest hit was “To Sir With Love,” which hit #1 on the pop chart in 1967, and stayed there for five weeks. Looking for a new direction, she began work on an album called New Routes with Atlantic Records producers Arif Mardin, Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with the outstanding musicians there, the song represented a more mature sound for Lulu. Lulu often bemoaned the fact that of the songs recorded for New Routes, she felt that the producers couldn’t get the best out of the material that she was given; but noted that it was this song, that she brought to the sessions, that was the best thing they did together.
Franklin, working on her first album of new material since 1970’s Spirit In The Dark, covered the song as part of the sessions for her Young, Gifted And Black album. At this point in time, Franklin began adding covers of pop songs to her repertoire of soul originals and R&B covers that she had been doing for years. In an interesting coincidence, Franklin’s version of the tune was produced by the same trio that handled Lulu’s original. The song was released as the B-side to her massive hit “Rock Steady”; it gained enough attention to become a top ten R&B hit itself (but only managed to climb to #73 pop). This is the version that I grew to love, simply because I heard it first, and Franklin and the Sweet Inspirations on backup vocals give a great performance.
The song, penned by Jim Doris, has proven to be influential enough to have been covered by many different artists over the years. Either with or without the parenthetical addition to the title, it has been covered by artists as diverse as Oleta Adams, Buster Poindexter, Tina Arena, Rod McKuen, Bill Medley, Joe Tex, Irma Thomas and quite a few others. While fooling around looking for the previous two versions, I found a cover done by singer Morgan James. I have written about James before in this post, and I have been keeping an eye on her career. She recently released her version of Joni Mitchell’s classic Blue album, accompanied primarily with a piano and it’s lovely. Here she takes her powerhouse voice and offers her take on “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)”.
Truly, I can’t pick a winner here. There isn’t a bad performance in the bunch. Franklin’s is better known to me, while Lulu had a bigger pop hit with her version. James’ version has never been released anywhere other than on YouTube to my knowledge, but it isn’t exactly a poor performance by any means. I hope you enjoy this ode to being in love with someone so much that it makes you “crazy, baby”, and as always, thanks for listening and reading.