They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Christine McVie is the Mona Lisa of ’70s rock music. She always seemed one cool remove away from the maelstrom of Fleetwood Mac, but there was a lot going on behind that sardonic gaze, and she let it out in her songs, where she specialized in first-person accounts of romances that could be right even when they felt so wrong – and, of course, vice versa. She turns 69 today, and we’re celebrating with five covers that give a whole different meaning to the phrase “one cool remove away.”
MP3: Ketchy Shuby – Over My Head (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Miami-based Ketchy Shuby have a style of music so much their own they had to coin a new name for it – downtown soul. Their Downtown Soul Record Singles Club album is an all-cover collection that features “Over My Head,” from 1975’s Fleetwood Mac. They bring the song an itchy groove that feels so good to scratch. If you like what you hear, go here to get the whole Ketchy Shuby album.
MP3: Anna Ternheim – Little Lies (Fleetwood Mac cover)
In the ’80s, while Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham kept a careful eye on which songs would go toward their solo careers, McVie was stepping up to write some of the band’s biggest chart hits. One from 1987’s Tango in the Night was “Little Lies,” where McVie bears her regrets with sugar-coated stoicism and chooses to believe what she knows she can’t. Stripping the song of its dated production, Anna Ternheim cuts it to the very tender quick and reveals the wishes to be old echoes, hollow and dead.
MP3: The Decemberists – Think About Me (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Bridging the Distance is a benefit album that collects ’70s and ’80s covers performed by bands from the Portland, OR area. The Decemberists are one of the bigger names on the album; they take “Think About Me” from the 1979 ulterior masterpiece Tusk and somehow manage to stay faithful to the original while making it all their own.
MP3: Birdsong at Morning – Never Make Me Cry (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Birdsong at Morning’s members have quite the unusual background for a band – wunza college professor, wunza media consultant, and wunza vice president of operations. (Furthermore, two of the three attended the New England Conservatory of Music.) Together, they write and record acoustic adult music they describe as “ambitious, refined, insightful, patient, and often heartbreakingly beautiful,” and like the man says, it ain’t bragging if you can do it. What they do with “Never Make Me Cry,” the quietest and arguably the purest moment on Tusk, deserves to be shou – er, whispered from the highest rooftops.
MP3: Willie Nelson – Songbird (Fleetwood Mac cover)
“Songbird,” from the behemother of all Mac albums, 1977’s Rumours, has become McVie’s signature work, attracting covers by the score from Eva Cassidy to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to… why, Willie Nelson, who titled his 2006 Ryan Adams-produced album after it. This isn’t Schmaltzy Willie, or Stoner Willie – this is Sweetheart Willie, imbuing the song with his own hard-won sensibility, making the romance of McVie’s words all the more authentic.