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Bowie Cover of the Week: Yara Lapidus (with Gail Ann Dorsey) covers “The Man Who Sold the World”

“The Man Who Sold the World” is one of the most covered Bowie songs that I find through this process of identifying a “cover of the week.” I think this owes in part to another cover of this song— Nirvana’s version, recorded in 1993 and released in 1995. That version is so well known that the song is often mistaken as originating from Nirvana (covers often identify it as a “Nirvana/Bowie” song). Bowie himself began performing the song live again following the success of the Nirvana version and he would occasionally make jokes about fans thanking him for covering the song.

All that was an indication of the song’s flexibility. Bowie’s original 1970 version appeared on the album of the same name, which is much closer to a heavy metal album, along the lines of what Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were doing around that time, than anything else Bowie would do later. Nirvana’s version was in the grunge style. And that brings us to Yara Lapidus.

Yara’s version of this song is soft, calming and pretty. She is (apparently) French and sings in French and Arabic (the YouTube description, which calls the song, ‘ELLI,” includes the note, “for the first time in Arabic”). The video features footage of her and others walking in Paris, ending up at the recently renamed “Rue David Bowie.”

Gail Ann Dorsey is listed as having “produced, programmed and arranged” this version, although she’s not listed as having played on the song. Dorsey, of course, was Bowie’s long-time bassist, who has a terrific stage presence and a strong voice (she would sing the Freddy Mercury part when Bowie would perform “Under Pressure” live). Dorsey and Bowie had a strong connection and her involvement with this song gives it a special imprimatur.

Yara has a web page, which you can link to HERE. As of this writing, “The Man Who Sold with World” does not yet appear on that web site. According to Google translate, this is some of how the website describes her:

Deep and light in the same momentum, Yara Lapidus has not forgotten to be adventurous. Do not rely, moreover, on the young woman to embrace a rectilinear artistic trajectory. She goes where the heart leads her, ordering her energy constantly renewed. The desire to survey other territories. The desire to print another mood. The desire for the challenge, too…Yara Lapidus, polyglot, determined, playful and ambitious in her desires for universalist melting pop.

Anyway, it all makes for a beautiful song that takes Bowie’s as a starting point but turns it into something new and different. Easy choice for cover of the week.

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