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