Who Owns That Song?

On occasion a singer-songwriter becomes so identified with a song written by another singer-songwriter that the ownership of the song seems to transfer.  This came to mind when John Prine passed away a couple of weeks ago.  Early in her career, Bonnie Raitt made Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” her own.  Enjoy this early performance by Bonnie and take a look at this poignant duet from just a few months ago.

Another classic example is Patti Smith’s version of “Because the Night”, written by Bruce Springsteen.  You get the same feeling watching Patti and Bruce perform the song together that you do when watching Raitt and Prine – this is Patti’s song.

And then there’s Elvis Costello’s cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”.   A Costello performance staple for decades, the history of the song is particularly interesting.  Lowe originally released it with his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974.    Lowe became Costello’s producer a couple of years later, working on his first five albums, and Costello’s version of the song was first released as the B-side of a Nick Lowe 1978 single.  When it became a hit, the track was added to the American release of Armed Forces.  Lowe generally performs softer acoustic versions of the song these days, but when he gets on stage with Elvis, it’s the Costello version they’ll do (drop into this video at 3:00).  Enjoy Costello’s comic intro below, or go straight to the song at about 1:00.

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