In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
You know Mandy Patinkin best for playing the part of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, or you may know him best as a regular on Showtime’s Homeland. If you fall in either of those camps, you may not know that Patinkin is a living legend in the musical theater world. He created the role of Georges Seurat in Sunday in the Park with George, and he won a Best Actor Tony for his performance as Che in Evita. He’s performed on Broadway over the course of five decades. And, as you can imagine, he knows his way around a cover song.
Mandy Patinkin – Taxi (Harry Chapin cover)
Patinkin’s cover of “Cat’s in the Cradle” missed the cut for our recent article about the song, so it seems only fair to post his cover of another one of Chapin’s story-song hits. This cover of “Taxi” comes from Patinkin’s 1994 album Experiment, where it was the only non-show tune on the collection.
Mandy Patinkin – Send In the Clowns (Stephen Sondheim cover)
Stephen Sondheim famously wrote “Send In the Clowns” for Glynis Johns, who he said “had a lovely, crystal voice, but sustaining notes was not her thing.” So he wrote short phrases and questions that she could act as well as sing. In 2002, Patinkin put together Celebrating Sondheim, accompanied on piano by his longtime musical collaborator Paul Ford. His “Send In the Clowns” conveys heartbreak and resignation without once resorting to cliché.
Mandy Patinkin – Life’s a Gas (T. Rex cover)
When Ford retired, Patinkin wondered if that meant he would have to as well. Then he met Thomas Bartlett, who he says “introduced me to an entirely new way of making music—in his studio, hours of playing, singing, and recording, never searching for the illusion of perfection.” That led to a series of collaborations, which Patinkin called diaries. The first, Diary: January 27, 2018, contains two Randy Newman songs, one each by Messers L & R Wainwright, and a most unlikely version of “Life’s a Gas.” Patinkin and Bartlett have stripped the song of most of what Marc Bolan gave it, but most certainly not to its detriment.
Mandy Patinkin – Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts (Bob Dylan cover)
Diary: April/May 2018 has three Randy Newman songs, as well as a cover of “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts.” Bob Dylan’s lengthy tale from Blood on the Tracks is noted for its cinematic qualities. They’re all on display here, as Patinkin delivers the lyrics in the voice of a grizzled prospector spinning a yarn. Bartlett’s Mellotron pulses, quiet yet insistent, adding a serene relentlessness to the song.
Mandy Patinkin – Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing (The Magnetic Fields cover)
Patinkin’s most recent diary, December 2018, was just released last week. It contains one more Randy Newman song and three songs written by Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields. “Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing,” from Merritt’s magnum opus 69 Love Songs, is very stately here. Suffice to say, you won’t miss the ukulele.