Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Starting a new year from the old has often the effect of bestowing clarity on the observer, a post-festive pause in the storm, allowing evaluation of the present and a filter to the past, seeking a better way forward. That’s the idea, anyway, and anyone wondering about New Year’s resolutions (assuming anyone still does) needs the ability to clear their eyes and brush away any blurring of intent.
That’s where Johnny Nash comes in. On “I Can See Clearly Now,” Nash writes lucidly about that movement, should you stumble upon it. To me the song always seemed to be a song of hope, one designed to welcome positive thoughts for the way ahead, enticing them to become actions.
“I Can See Clearly Now” spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard chart and soon certified gold, doing well also in markets of the UK, Australia and South Africa, ironically all areas where the record buying population was largely white. Nash, an American by birth and upbringing, was one of the first non-Jamaican artists to break a wider recognition of Reggae. Indeed, the prime aim of his mid-60s move to Kingston had been to broker a wider acceptance of the musical styles of the West Indies. Ironically, his success arguably led to a later fade from the spotlight, as the artists who were making the songs he championed, in the style he had possibly softened up an audience for, no longer needed introduction, with the likes of Bob Marley (who wrote or co-wrote four of the songs on I Can See Clearly Now) now able to stand on the world stage in their own right.
Nash died, aged 80, in 2020, but had benefitted from a resurgence in interest, as films and TV bought up the rights for “I Can See Clearly Now,” most notably through Jimmy Cliff’s version from the 1993 film Cool Runnings. It is a song of hope and, as such, it never fails to lift my mood.