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Bowie Cover of the Week: EgoB is back with “Wild is the Wind”

EgoB is back with a cover of “Wild is the Wind,” which is my selection for “Cover of the Week.”

Before I get to his version of the song, I should briefly review its history. Bowie himself was covering the song on Station to Station (1976). He made a video and released it as a single upon his version’s inclusion on the compilation album, Changestwobowie (1981). But Bowie himself was paying homage to Nina Simone, who originally covered the song all the way back in 1959 and made it a regular part of her set (she’s subsequently recorded different versions). But the song did not originate with Simone— it was written by the highly accomplished but largely forgotten songwriters Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for a 1957 movie of the same name, and originally recorded by Johnny Mathis. That version was a hit at the time and nominated for an Oscar. Despite its auspicious origin, I rarely see references to the Johnny Mathis version these days. Others, like George Michael, have recorded the song, and it seems like Simone’s version is used as the model (which was the case for Bowie).

Which brings us to EgoB’s version. “Wild is the Wind” is a delicate, emotional song. EgoB performs it with a gruff sounding voice that portrays a poignant vulnerability beneath the facade of toughness. This juxtaposition creates a haunting beauty. The roughness the voice serves as a conduit for the fragility expressed by the song’s lyrics and melody. EgoB’s video has visual elements, consistent with those of his other Bowie covers, which distort and cloud his appearance but here less so than most of his others. His voice also seems less distorted than usual (for his Bowie covers— he does a lot more than cover Bowie).

This has an interesting effect on how I experience the video. I’ve grown to appreciate EgoB’s music, and within that context this video is more revealing, but not totally revealing. That’s consistent with how he performs the song. EgoB is a master of electronic effects, but this is stripped down for him. His face is clearly visible, though the whole scene is darkened and discolored. It’s like his sincerity is breaking through the artifice.

The artifice of what? Well, at the risk of being overly obvious , he didn’t write the song. Its essentially a cover of a cover of a cover that was originally recorded by someone who didn’t write the song, and two people wrote the song so the piece of art is not the expression of any one person’s thoughts or emotions. So, in that respect, the song belongs to nobody. Nonethless, all of the versions I mentioned sound great, including this one. They don’t only sound great— they sound personal. Hey, art is an act— EgoB, Bowie, Simone and everyone else could simply be doing their jobs and sounding sincere, but they each put their stamp on the song and claim it as their own.

Sticking with EgoB— what he’s doing here is breaking through these layers that separate him from the song’s provenance. That gruff delivery evokes someone who seems invulnerable on the outside exposing his more complicated internal truth. But, in that the visuals are not totally without distortion we’re left with the impression that the exposure is not total. This technique is another kind of nod to Bowie, who was performing even the most emotional songs in the guise of some character, all the time.

Station to Station is widely considered to be one of Bowie’s very best albums, yet it contains a mere six songs, three on each side of the original vinyl album. Both sides begin with delusional, disoriented songs (“Station to Station” on side one, “TVC 15” on side two,” are followed by more soulful songs somewhat recalling Bowie’s previous album, Young Americans (“Golden Years” and “Stay”) and then end with songs that are almost prayerful. “Word on a Wing,” which ends the first side, really is a prayer, though his delivery of “Wild is the Wind” comes off as a kind of yearning for connectedness with something greater and more meaningful than what’s rolling around in the confines of his head. I’ll write more on Bowie’s use of the song on the album later, so as not to take away from what EgoB is doing with it, which I consider to be a triumph.

A couple more things about EgoB— I’ve posted several of his videos in the past as well as an interview, which you can link to HERE. He was also kind enough to compose the sound logo I have begun to incorporate into the start of my video interview, like the one I posted Saturday with Anthony DeCurtis, which you can link to HERE.

And here more links, to other versions of “Wild in the Wind”:

Link to Bowie’s version HERE.

Link to Johnny Mathis version HERE.

Link to Nina Simone’s version HERE.

Link to George Michael’s version HERE.

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