Monday, October 18, 2010

Niela Miller

 Niela Miller
16" x 12.5"
oil on wood, 2005

Last week I had just mentioned my song Hungary in the post with the same name. The song didn't cross my mind in 25 years but now it did, not just once but twice. I bought a record this week with recordings by Niela Miller and the last song of the album Jenny Gal begins with the same dissonant guitar chord as my Hungary. Miller's then weaves into song while mine drones into oblivion. Of course similarities between songs is not so uncommon even when the sources are as disparate as they could be. It's in the nature of music. Even if I incessantly search for new and different tunes I delight in that moment of recognition. In When I Was in Colon by Valerie Colon I hear My Bonnie is Over the Ocean, in a 1950s recording of Cantonese opera (The Moon/Two Green Lotus Bitterly Imprisoned, also in this Top 100—post and painting will follow soon) I hear the iconic organ opening of Iron Butterfly's In-a-Gadda-da-Vida, and so on and so forth. Sometimes the similarities are pure coincidence, sometimes willingly plagiarism. Back to Niela Miller's album Songs for Leaving it's easy to hear Hey Joe in her Baby Don't Go to Town. There's no 'Joe' in the song neither do we have Jimi's majestic guitar solo, but there is no coincidence in the similarities. As history will have it Niela Miller had a boyfriend named Billy Roberts, indeed the Roberts found as the song's authorship credit for the Jimi Hendrix monster hit. Before Hendrix in 1967 it was already a hit for Love (whose Arthur Lee was a friend of Hendrix'), Tim Rose, and for the Leaves in 1963. Apparently Roberts had started playing it in 1961 fusing Miller's song with Carl Smith's country hit Hey Joe! Niela Miller's Baby Don't Go to Town is few years older than Billy Roberts' Hey Joe. I'm sure Niela Miller had her sources too. Hey Joe has 'traditional' written all over it.

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