On “Bastard Son,” one of the early recordings by John Wesley Harding, the singer, songwriter, novelist and overall renaissance man self-describes himself as the bastard son of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, a description that seems to be pretty much accurate. Whether you are listening to one of the albums released under his nom de plume or reading one of his novels under his given name Wesley Stace, the conclusion is the same. This is one talented guy.
A few years ago I attended a musical variety show with bunch of artists playing a few songs apiece. Eric Bazilian, frontman for ’80s new-wave band The Hooters, played a couple Hooters hits for his set before closing with a surprise cover: Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” (as in, “What if God was…”). His version was revelatory, loud and rocking and fun, a far cry from the self-serious lite-FM ballad that dominated airwaves in the mid-’90s. It totally reinvented the song, doing everything a great cover should.
I only learned later that it was not, in fact, a cover. Bazilian in fact wrote the song for Osborne, never properly releasing it himself. But his version made me reappraise a song I had grown to hate through overexposure (no knock on Joan, a talented song-interpreter on several terrific soul-covers albums who gets unfairly tarred by the “one-hit wonder” brush).