Song Of The Day 4/21/2015: Dionne Warwick – “Geh Vorbei”

Speaking In Tongues: Germany wasn’t quite as quick to pick up on rock and roll in the 50’s and early part of the ’60s as the rest of the Western world. Hamburg excepted a little, because outside of cities in England that town was most responsible for giving the Beatles a place to hone their craft. But that’s expected since Hamburg was in the British zone of occupation after World War II, so I’m guessing the exchange was more equal. I’m not sure how that worked on account of my not being alive yet. Never mind that, the point being the young people of Germany were still feeding off a heavy diet of jazz while the rest of us were turning into juvenile delinquents.

For some reason it was therefore believed that rock and roll, or indeed any other English-language-centric music, wouldn’t fly in Deutschland. Especially East Germany where the Communist bloc feared the influence of das kapitalists, but even in West Germany. Eventually this would prove to be bunk, but in the early-to-mid ’60s this led labels to encourage their artists to record German-language versions of their hits. The process was painstakingly accomplished through phonetic spellings and, one would hope, very disciplined dialect coaches. The Beatles recorded a pair of their hits in German somewhat reluctantly, resulting in the global cult favorites “Sie Liebt Dich” and “Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand.” But you also had Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and another gentleman we’ll unveil at the end of this week who gave their hits over to that harsh, consonant-rich yet curiously romantic language.

I like Dionne Warwick’s German version of her hit “Walk On By” the best, though. It retains an appealing naïveté, a blitheness that cuts through the crossing gate of annihilated romanticism, metered self-restraint and bleak, grey but ultra-functional architecture overseen by piercing eyes with a ghastly depletedness who’ve seen the promises of neo-futurism dissolve in the turncoat shadows of exasperating time. So just keep walkin', Übermensch.

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