THE ORIGINAL: The Guess Who (1969)
This song is pretty funky for a bunch of dudes from the Great White North.
That twangy twin guitar riff with the drum hit, the short groan of Burton Cummings, and then rest of the band bashes in under the lead guitar, and Burton comes back in with his growly, pleading scream, “American woman, stay away from meeeeee! American womaaan, mama let me beeheee!” I think it qualifies as the most iconic 30 seconds in rock music.
This song kicks ass, but in an odd, mellow sort of way. I’m surprised that the whole thing wasn’t recorded any louder, but I’m glad they made the lead vocal the focus. Burton was one angry Canadian who was seemingly wronged by some American hippie chick, and he wants her to stay the fuck away from him. I’ve sometimes wondered if she put him off American women forever.
THE COVER: Lenny Kravitz (1999)
This stripped-down cover follows the same arrangement, but Lenny is very bass-heavy here. He repeats the opening guitar lick throughout with a minor key change, bashing cymbals, bass drum hits, hand claps, groaning, and his own showy lead during the bridge.
This version is a bit of a slow grind, ideal for strippers because the groove is perfect for booty bouncing. I know from experience, dudes love this song in the clubs. When this came out, I thought it was corny and sort of lazy, but after a few listens right now, I think this is funkier than a week-old pot of collard greens!
WHO DOES IT BETTER?
I love the original. Burton’s vocal is exquisite. But now that I’m really digging the Lenny version… it’s a tie!
NOW YOU DECIDE!