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- Posted on Jul 8th 2009 3:00PM by Benjy Eisen
The Song: 'Blowin' in the Wind' (original version by Bob Dylan)
The Contestants: Stevie Wonder vs. Jay Brannan
In this corner -- Stevie Wonder: When Bob Dylan unleashed 'Blowin' in the Wind' as the lead track off his now-iconic 1963 album 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan,' there was no way for anybody to predict that his song about social unrest would blow as far and wide as it has. Dylan himself wasn't that big yet, but when Peter, Paul and Mary turned 'Blowin' in the Wind' into a No. 2 hit (the same year the original was released), they broke Dylan into stardom and turned the song into a popular standard for countless folkies to come. But the song also cut across genres and demographic lines. The earliest and most striking example of this is R&B great Stevie Wonder, who in 1966 turned the tune inside out and upside down, landing it somewhere near Motown ... and in the Top 10. Check it out for yourself and decide if this is how the tune goes when it pops into your head.
Stevie Wonder, 'Blowin' in the Wind'
In this corner -- Jay Brannan: When this Texan folk-slinger and actor released a collection of covers this past spring, 'Blowin' in the Wind' was nestled inconspicuously between songs by Joni Mitchell and, unexpectedly, the Verve Pipe. More surprising than the inclusion of that latter band was the way Brannan rearranged Dylan's classic song. It's not the standard folk interpretation you'd hear at any given Open Mic Night in America. Brannan's subtle vocal phrasing, framed against sparse percussion and near-absent instrumentation, presents yet another opportunity for the listener to focus on the words and the message, which, 46 years later, still ring true. Listen to his version and hear it for yourself.
Jay Brannan, 'Blowin' in the Wind'