Mr. Bojangles #BOTB showdown!

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Mr. Bojangles was written and recorded in 1968 by Jerry Jeff Walker. The song inspiration came from Walker spending time in a New Orléans jail for public intoxication where he met a street performer. This is what he said…

I met a homeless white man who called himself “Mr. Bojangles” to conceal his true identity from the police. He had been arrested as part of a police sweep of indigent people that was carried out following a high-profile murder. The two men and others in the cell chatted about all manner of things, but when Mr. Bojangles told a story about his dog, the mood in the room turned heavy. Someone else in the cell asked for something to lighten the mood, and Mr. Bojangles obliged with a tap dance.

In 1970, the country music band Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGDB) covered Walker’s song and it climbed the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart to #9.

 

 

This is the version I grew up hearing and I bet you did, too. Assuming you’re a member of the 50+…I mean 30+ club. Hey, 50 is the new 30! Don’t go against the grain folks just accept and move on.

Where was I? Oh yeah…the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band! I’m sorry to say, I won’t be using NGDB in this showdown, but I decided to go with lesser known or different covers altogether. Good thing? Bad thing? Call it what you will, but I just have to go with how the music moves me.

I invite you to listen to two different covers released in 1971 both by female artists in Mr. Bojangles #BOTB showdown!

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I present to you the soft, jazzy vocals of Nancy Wilson.

 

 

musical butterfly

 

and the smoky, bluesy tone of Nina Simone!

 

 

In both versions the slow melody causes the lyrics to speak to my heart more over the slightly upbeat tempo of the original. The composition isn’t bad (or that of NGDB) in taking it down a notion. It allowed the story to fill my senses better. How about you, did you feel the song more?

The survey plugin is having issues, so I removed it. Please leave your vote in comments. Thanks!

Just for the fun when I was a kid I loved watching music variety shows. I remember watching Sammy Davis do Mr. Bojangles on his TV program and another popular one featured the handsome Tom Jones. I think my mom had a crush on him, but who can blame her? I found this vid with Tom (I don’t know if he actually recorded the song) singing and Sammy acting the part of Mr. Bojangles. I actually enjoyed Tom Jones’ song performance. If you have time, listen and enjoy! 😉

 

 

Oh yeah, don’t forget to tell me in comments what you liked/disliked about today’s artists and which version moved you the most. I invite you to hop over to STMcC to learn how this all works and to visit more epic #BoTB performances. I’ll have the results next week this time so please come back to see if your pick gets named the winner. Have a bandtastic day!

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32 thoughts on “Mr. Bojangles #BOTB showdown!

  1. Debbie D.

    Hi Cathy; Looks like there’s a problem with your voting plug-in, but I chose Nina Simone. Her vocals are much stronger IMO. Not a fan of breathy voices. LOVE the Tom Jones/Sammy Davis video! ♥
    If 50 is the new 30, then I’m hoping 60 is the new 40, because that’s where I’m at. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Debbie D.

      This is the error message from the plug-in:

      There was a problem in /home/ckennedy/public_html/wp-content/plugins/awesome-surveys/includes/class-awesome-surveys-ajax-actions.php on line 384 (bad array?) at 2015-07-15 06:12:56

      Reply
    2. Cathy Kennedy Post author

      Debbie, first off thanks for the heads up on my survey plugin. I will have to check into that. This may have been the cause of yesterday’s freeze up of my site. The Techie guy may have disabled it to make my site work again. Oh well…thanks for voting. I’ll chalk up your vote for Nina!

      Reply
  2. Shady Del Knight

    Good morning, dear Cathy! This is an interesting match-up. As a boomer, the version of “Bojangles” that I knew best was the one by the Dirt Band. I think I remember seeing that Tom Jones – Sammy Davis, Jr. vignette back in 1970 and I remember seeing Sammy perform the song solo on occasion. I never heard either of these ladies’ versions. To my ears the tempo and arrangement used in the bluesy Nina Simone recording doesn’t fit the theme and mood of the story song as well as does Nancy Wilson’s slow, breathy interpretation accompanied by harmonica. Therefore, I voted for Nancy Wilson. Thank you, dear friend Cathy!

    Reply
    1. Cathy Kennedy Post author

      Tom, thanks for joining me in the 2nd July round of BOTB. I’m happy to see another vote go to Nancy. Her breathiness isn’t favored my most, but I rather like it. Have a songtastic week!

      Reply
  3. Janie Junebug

    I went with Nina Simone because her rendition is a bit more dramatic. Nancy Wilson is a little too light and breathy. I did indeed grow up with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band version. I still have the album. I didn’t know the story behind the song. We always assumed it was about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, but he wasn’t poverty stricken. In fact, his funeral had a huge turnout. He was very much loved. So thanks for the information.

    Love,
    Janie

    Reply
    1. Janie Junebug

      I just watched Sammy Davis, Jr. I haven’t seen a clip of him in such a long time. I loved it when I was young and he sang and danced Mr. Bojangles. Tom Jones has a beautiful voice, though.

      Reply
      1. Cathy Kennedy Post author

        Janie, Sammy Davis, Jr was a fun to watch entertainer. He was the skinniest feller ever and he didn’t appear to be very tall, but you know how TV viewing is deceiving to the eye. Tom Jones was electric. I think my mom had a crush on him. He was rather handsome in his youth. 😀 Thanks for voting, Nina!

        Reply
    1. Cathy Kennedy Post author

      Marci, so glad you decided to hop over and vote. Unfortunately, Nitty Gritty isn’t included in the ballad this round. I’m sorry, if I didn’t make this clear at the start. Sometimes it gets overlooked. Oh well…it’s nice meeting you all the same. Now to check out your blog! 😉

      Reply
  4. Cherdo

    This is another tough one; I like the ladies’ versions a lot. Both have great voices; controlled delivery. Nina Simone is a legend! But so is Nancy Wilson…

    I’m gonna go with NANCY WILSON. Her rhythmic choice was a tad better, I think. Her vocals are almost fragile; I like that.

    Reply
    1. Cathy Kennedy Post author

      Cherdo, yes…that’s a good way of describing Nancy’s voice “fragile”. I like her vocals, too. I’m siding with Nancy Wilson in this round, as well. Thanks for voting!

      Reply
  5. Mary B

    Great song choice and a tough one to vote for! I liked them both, but I am leaning a bit more toward Nina Simone so my vote goes to her.

    Reply
  6. dcrelief

    Cathy – I remember every word to this song. Unfortunately it got played to death, in my neck of the woods; I stopped enjoying it. Strange, I know. Still I want it upbeat… I want that faster tempo. And – I think the male voice is better telling the story (IMO). However, we have two talented female challengers here – great choices by the way.

    I couldn’t get into Nancy’s version so, my vote is for Nina Simone. Have a great weekend.

    Reply
  7. Jeffrey Scott

    Not particularly fond of either version. Much to slow for me. Of hte two, I think I do like the Nina Simone version the best. The Nancy Wilson version was much to slow for me and seemed to drag on.
    Ironically enough, I always thought Jim Croce sang this song. Well, you learn something new every day.

    Reply
  8. John Holton

    Of the two, I like Nina Simone’s better; it’s a little faster, closer to the original. Nancy’s is just a downer. For sheer entertainment value, though, Sammy’s is the greatest.

    Reply
  9. Far Away Eyes

    I would have voted JJW or the Dirt Band over the ladies. For some reason or other it just seems kind of wrong sung by a woman, at least to me. I am most familiar with the Dirt
    Band version and love most of their stuff, but the JJW is classic and I believe him when he sings it.

    Anyway…those are not the choices. I’ll give my vote to Nina. I like her a lot and although I still feel this should be sung by males, I like her version better than Nancy’s.

    Interesting BATTLE, with two very different versions for sure.

    Reply
  10. Stephen T. McCarthy

    CATHY ~
    To be totally honest, I didn’t play either of these videos all the way through. They both seemed to go on, and on, and on…

    Of the two, my vote goes to NINA SIMONE.

    But… have you ever heard the JIM STAFFORD cover? I think it might be my very favorite of them all. It’s very theatrical, but Stafford really pulls it off! That guy was a peculiar genius who still impresses the hell outta me:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fvKv5vZ8To

    ~ D-FensDogG
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

    Reply
    1. Cathy Kennedy Post author

      Stephen, I think I have heard Jim Stafford’s cover before, but just forgot about it until you shared it with me. I love Jim Stafford! Everything he does is fabulous. Jim’s cover is nicely done. I like his story telling set to music ~ perfect job. I think this style makes the lyrics feel real. Thanks for the reminder and for the vote.

      Reply
  11. Arlee Bird

    I still prefer the Nitty Gritty version. Both of these female versions had a bit of weird factor to them for me. Wilson was overly breathy and the arrangement just didn’t stir me all that much. Simone’s version didn’t grab me that much either but I did like it better.

    Nina Simone for my vote.

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

    Reply
  12. Guilie Castillo

    Good choices for a battle, Cathy! I’m voting mainstream here; Nina’s vocals are hard to beat, although I did like Wilson’s breathiness (I’ll look up more of her stuff; had never heard of her). Someone else mentioned Jim Croce–yes, I always thought this song was his, too, so thanks for the education 🙂
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    Reply
  13. dolorah

    Going with Nina on this one. This is a beautiful song of a life lived in conformity, and the joy of the show. So Nancy’s slower version just doesn’t convey the same story. Now, young Tom and Sammy could give Nitty Gritty a good battle, and that would be hard to choose. The ladies just can’t pull off that drunk tank persona that a male singer embodies for the era.

    Reply
  14. Birgit

    Given the song I can’t pick Nancy-sounds too much like Marilyn Monroe to me and her style doesn’t the song for me. Nina has a bit of a grit to her voice which captures it better. Now if Tom Jones was in the running, I’d vote for that:) Sammy was not tall, my mom never thought he had an ass-lol. He dancing in this reminds me of Bill Bojangles Robinson, most famous for dancing with Shirley Temple. Fred Astaire thought Bill Robinson was the best dancer he ever met.

    Reply

Put a smile on my face, leave a comment! Have a purrfect day!