With 44 Grammy nominations and 18 wins, Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, an empress of eleganza, and best known for the Otis Redding-written, civil rights anthem “Respect.” Franklin has the kind of pipes that carry the heft and splendor of history. She’s also the subject of KDUR’s Cover Night fundraiser.
KDUR Cover Night (Saturday, Feb. 18) is an annual institution where amateur and professional bands play cover versions of a famed musician’s songs. This year, Franklin beat out Dolly Parton, Joan Jett, Blondie, and Stevie Nicks as the featured artist through an online poll.
It’s going to take a steel spine to cover a musician like Franklin, who has a four-octave range and has performed at the inaugurations of three presidents (Carter, Clinton, and Obama). About 10 local bands and musicians have set themselves to the task, working their way through Aretha’s oeuvre, including The Outskirts, the Jade Robbins Band, Farmington Hill, Lawn Chair Kings, Bob’s Yr Uncle, and Dirty Faces, each allotted 10 minutes on stage.
One of the trickier parts of covering Franklin is that her music runs a gamut of styles. S”he is arguably the best vocalist of all time, and yes, she is a tricky singer to emulate,” says Erik Nordstrom, guitarist and vocalist with Lawn Chair Kings and Farmington Hill. “I’ve had to remind myself and other musicians that it is nearly impossible to mimic Aretha’s vocal acrobatics … it’s helpful to just be yourself and interpret her music in a style that is comfortable. That’s a cool thing about cover nights: hearing different interpretations of songs that can be quite different and unique.” Franklin wasn’t a prolific songwriter so much as a profound performer. Musicians covering her can choose soft ballads like “Say a Little Prayer,” feminist anthems like “Respect” or “Think,” and powerhouse broken-relationship songs like “Chain, Chain, Chain.” (Bonus bit: The dude who wrote “Chain, Chain, Chain” – Don Covay – was Little Richard’s chauffer and sometimes opening act.)
“We try not to have a whole bunch of people repeat songs,” Bryant Liggett, DGO music columnist and KDUR station manager said. “It keeps it so you aren’t hearing 10 versions of the same song. Otherwise, there aren’t any rules.” Which means you may run into a black metal version of “Son of a Preacher Man” and a speed-bluegrass “Freeway of Love” isn’t out of the realm of possibility. It all depends on how creative and radtastically out-of-control the bands get.
KDUR Cover Night sells out almost every year so it’s best to grab your $10 tix early. (If you are a student and flash your FLC ID, tickets are only $5.) Proceeds go to funding KDUR Community Radio.
Funding public and community radio is getting more and more important. Your 5-10 bucks can support 10 minutes of drinking at the bar or it can be the lifeblood of a radio station. Stations like KDUR are important because they aren’t owned by larger corporations and with nothing more the help of volunteers, a smidge of federal funding, and donations, KDUR fills the wants and needs of Durango without having to please big-wig suits who don’t live anywhere close to Colorado.
“We are giving voice to the community,” Liggett said. “Anyone can come and train and be on KDUR. You can’t do that at a Clear Channel-owned radio station. People listen to KDUR and other little radio stations like ours because we really are reflections of what goes on in the community. That’s important. Having a voice is important.”