I think when you create a work of art, it belongs to the human race. I don’t mean from a legal perspective – I’m not talking about copyright law here, an artist deserves to be compensated for their work – but in a greater sense, beyond that artist’s life and death. At some point the trappings of legality and financial considerations fall away, whether we want them to or not, and art’s worth is judged by the degree to which humanity benefits from it. It will lift people up or open their eyes in ways beyond those which its creator may have intended. It will be admired or criticized, emulated or shunned, based on its meaning to every individual – and paradoxically, by extension, on its meaning to the species. Over time it will morph, its influence leaking into other pieces, guaranteeing it a form of immortality not unlike our own ability to procreate.
I understand that making these claims as an author will invite supposition that I’m talking about literature. I’m actually thinking more of music. What got me thinking on this topic was covers, specifically Bad Wolves’ cover of Cranberries’ Zombie. When I was younger I universally hated covers. The original is always better, leave it alone, etc. I look at them differently now.
A good cover is not an attempt to co-opt the original’s success. A good cover is a love letter. A merging of new and old, an homage and an expression of beauty. When a cover comes from a place of love and respect, you can hear it.
I thought I heard that love in the new cover of Zombie, so I did a little research. Did you know that Dolores O’Riordan, the original singer, was scheduled to record the cover WITH Bad Wolves on the day of her death? She was. When she passed away, they went ahead and recorded it without her. It isn’t just an homage or even a love letter – it is a eulogy. That rawness in the lead’s voice is real. It’s grief.
I loved the Cranberries growing up. I would listen to them in the dark, enveloped in Dolores’ voice, soaring on melancholy with my arms wide. Her death rocked me.
But it brings me deep joy to hear her voice carried forward, to learn that her influence has joined that great, eddying river of musical art that carries all of us forward. In its way, it will never leave us; it’s part of us now, and wherever that river ultimately leads, O’Riordan’s haunting voice will always glitter in its waves.