Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“Pure Imagination” is a song that entire generations have grown up knowing. Written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, the dreamy ode to the powers of creativity has fascinated viewers of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for decades. Gene Wilder’s film performance is full of both whimsy and a strange intensity, while the music backing him alternates between almost Christmas-like strings and runs of notes that are almost unsettling in their similarity to a horror movie soundtrack. It’s as if the song is meant to celebrate the best of what the human mind can come up with while still hinting at darker corners.
It’s that original dichotomy that makes “Pure Imagination” such a perfect song for interpretation. It’s Willy Wonka’s invitation to come join him in a world that’s different from the humdrum reality that Charlie Bucket has grown up with. It’s also a brief look into the mind of character whose mind works differently than that of the rest of us. There are so many layers in the original that almost any direction can be taken with a cover version. Dozens of artists have taken a stab at it. Here are five great takes on this film classic.