Taylor Swift is one of the biggest hitmakers in the world, having sold over 200 million records in the planet. She started at age 14 as a country singer and jumped into other genres, thereby expanding her fanbase. She composed most of her songs but found out later, in the complicated sphere of intellectual property, that she couldn’t use her recordings for her own use such as, say, product endorsements. What does she do?
Since the recording companies own the masters but Swift still owns the copyright to her songs, she started two years ago re-recording her albums and called it the Taylor Swift versions. She now has the wherewithal and became her own producer. It even afforded her to tailor-suit (pardon the pun) to her more mature view of her own music.
The Beatles, the group who drastically changed pop music history, was not as fortunate. They signed off their rights to their own songs early on, just before they conquered the music world. Their catalogue of songs changed hands like a volleyball and was, for a time, even owned by the singer Michael Jackson. It was only recently that one of the living members of the Fab Four, Paul McCartney, was able to buy back the rights to Beatles compositions – but not all.
But these are legal ownerships. That is not what I set out to talk about when I thought of today’s column. I have been rummaging YouTube and my memories lately in search of a song or kind of a song that could serve as the theme for a film I am doing. The act precipitated into a thought of singers who “own” their songs. We are referring to certain songs that, even if they have had many covers, you cannot help but identify with specific singers.
Take for instance, “Til My Heartaches End,” a composition by Vehnee Saturno that you assign to nobody else but Ella Mae Saison. Even if others have sung this with more soul and better technique, perhaps, it is still Ella Mae’s. Or there is “Kahit Na” by Willy Cruz that could only be Zsa Zsa Padilla’s. Or “Nakapagtataka” by Jim Paredes is best interpreted by Hajji Alejandro, with dear departed Danny Javier coming a decent second. Then there is the heart-tugging “Kahit Isang Saglit,” a song of regret by Louie Ocampo which could only be by Verni Varga’s. Sorry, Martin.
I realize that the above are old songs, classics if you may. They are representative of the so-called Golden Era of OPM. And we yearn for such rises in history where creators, by a stroke of the universe, simultaneously become possessed with energy and inspiration to come up with compounded body of works that defines a generation.
Of course, there are songs that you could blanch, boil, roast, fry, or serve raw. The Beatles pieces have been turned into jazz, rock, and symphony orchestra classic interpretations. Every time they come out exquisite. And then there are songs that not everyone can tame, such as “Roar” by Taylor Swift (yes, again) that has, ironically, disowned a sister, er, a singer.