Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Hearing "I'll Still Love You" sung in a very unusual way

Elvis Costello wrote "I'll Still Love You" in 10 minutes.

Johnny Cash: Forever Words, an upcoming compilation of various all-star artists performing songs based upon the unrecorded poetry, lyrics and letters of the late Johnny Cash that's due out April 6, includes a lovely and elaborately orchestrated piano ballad featuring Cash's poem, "I'll Still Love You," performed by Elvis Costello. 

More than a dozen different country, blues, gospel, rock and R&B artists, including Willie Nelson, Roseanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss, T Bone Burnett, and the late Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, contributed to Johnny Cash: Forever Words, which was produced by Cash's son, John Carter Cash. Thanks to its recent sneak preview, Costello's composition is already drawing lots of praise from music critics for its non-Johnny Cash-like approach.

Although Cash (who died in 2003) was known throughout much of his legendary career as a country artist, Costello's composition for Johnny Cash: Forever Words shouldn't necessarily be labeled a country song despite the songsmith's appreciation toward country music. Rather, think of it as a mature pop tune about extending love into the afterlife which "brings to mind the likes of Harry Nilsson and Paul McCartney with, thanks to its jazz chording and crooner inflections, a touch of Frank Sinatra," writes Spin music critic Winston Cook-Wilson. 

Another critic suggests that Costello's contribution is "a breathtaking ballad with dramatic strings and a gorgeous sense of melody, sung with a vulnerability that suits the lyrics as Cash poetically reflects on mortality."

"I'll Still Love You" reminds me very much of Costello's original song "You Shouldn't Look At Me This Way" from last year, which he penned for the motion picture Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool.

In a video interview that accompanied the release of "I'll Still Love You," Costello muses about how everything fell into place. "The folio of lyrics was before me on the kitchen table, and there was one lyric that was thought to be one that might suit me," he recalls. "And then I was glancing through the folio and that particular lyric was on the page, and the next thing I could hear it in a very unusual way."

As Costello explains, he didn't hear Cash's musical sensibility in the poem. Instead, he says, "I knew right away it wasn't meant to be played. ... You could hear his musical voice on many of the lyrics on the page but not this one; not me anyway. I heard something completely different."

In this case, according to Costello, he went downstairs to his upright piano and "pretty much wrote what you hear in 10 minutes," in putting the Man in Black's poem to music.

One of these mornings
I'm going rise up flying
One of these mornings
I'll sail away

Beyond the blue
I've gotta promise
There's a world ahead
I want you to know that when I come
I'll still love you

I won't be a stranger
When I get to heaven
'Cause you gave me heaven
Right here on earth
If I get rewarded
With an ancient heart of gold
and for what it's worth
I'll still love you

One of these mornings
When my trouble's over
One of these mornings
When all my suffering is through
I'll go out singing
It'll be a day to sing about
And I'll guarantee for eternity
I'll still love you
I'll still love you

I'll still love you
I'll still love you.

Screenshot photograph of Elvis Costello and "I'll Still Love You" video courtesy of YouTube.com.

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