Adam Lambert Sings Controversial Ring of Fire


In response to the recent Adam Lambert photos post, Forrest Black commented on Adam Lambert’s performance during country week on American Idol, saying:

“I’m a big Cash fan and I really enjoyed Lambert’s rendition a lot. I thought it had the right level of heat. I expected something more Elvis country, but this was a version of the song I’d listen to again on purpose.”

On the show, at the time of the performance, American Idol judge Randy Jackson compared Adam Lambert’s rendition of “Ring of Fire” to Nine Inch Nails singing Johnny Cash. In point of fact, Johnny Cash sang NIN’s Hurt so Trent Reznor and Johnny Cash have collaborated. The cross-promo Johnny Cash and Trent Reznor did with the Hurt video was pretty awesome because it introduced a lot of each of their fans to great new music. The man in black and the man with a honey with head like hole black as your soul do have similar measures of anger and anguish and torment and insight in their work.

At any rate, Blue Blood has been receiving emails informing us that Adam Lambert’s American Idol performance of “Ring of Fire” was not his rendition at all. These emails then go on to detail erroneous “facts” which the writers appear to fervently believe.

The Random House Dictionary defines rendition as “an interpretation, as of a role or a piece of music”. The American Heritage Dictionary defines rendition as “An interpretation of a musical score or a dramatic piece, a performance of a musical or dramatic work”. Princeton University’s WordNet defines rendition as “a performance of a musical composition or a dramatic role, the act of interpreting something as expressed in an artistic performance”.

On American Idol, Adam Lambert told country singer (and American Idol performer coach for country week) Randy Travis that he had “found” an alternative arrangement for “Ring of Fire” which he liked. Use of the word found implies that it is not his own arrangement. Given the whole point of a pop idol is for them to be capable of working with composers and stylists and directors and photographers etc., while still bringing a lot of their own to the table, I’m pretty sure everyone on American Idol every season has help with every musical arrangement they use. The American Idol contestants are singing cover tunes, so they are being judged on singing ability and charisma and not on songwriting, lyrics, or composition.

In the judging episode this week, judge Randy Jackson referred to it as the Jeff Buckley arrangement. Randy Jackson may have meant that the arrangement was reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. Jeff Buckley does not appear to have ever done any official version of “Ring of Fire”, although we can’t vouch for what might have happened during drunk karaoke some time. Some people feel the arrangement was by genre-bending Doors-like band The Tea Party. Although whoever put the Middle Eastern-tinged take on “Ring of Fire” together may have been inspired by the Tea Party’s song “Sister Awake”, the Tea Party does not appear to have ever done any version of “Ring of Fire”. Although, once again, we can’t vouch for what might have happened during drunk karaoke some time. Some particularly pissed-off people on the internet seem to feel strongly that this particular version of “Ring of Fire” was the Dilana version from Rock Star Supernova. Yeah, I didn’t know what they were talking about either, even though this references a show which runs on CBS and I usually see what they are plugging because I watch CSI (only the Vegas one). Apparently Rock Star Supernova was a show where otherwise generally gainfully employed musicians Tommy Lee (Motley Crue, Methods of Mayhem, Sex Tap), Jason Newsted (Metallica), and Gilby Clarke (I know I’m supposed to say GNR, but I fucking loooooved Kill for Thrills.) form a supergroup and then hopefuls compete for who will join them. Apparently, Dilana was not the winner of the CBS reality show, but they took the runner-up on tour anyway. At any rate, her rendition of “Ring of Fire” is below, so you can judge the similarities for yourself.

Now it is kind of poetic to see people freaking out over who did the musical arrangement for a particular performance of the song Johnny Cash made famous. Partly there is the humor factor of watching folks with no idea what an arrangement even is try to debate technical aspects of music. I know I’m not qualified to do that, not being a musician and all myself, but apparently there are a lot of non-musicians who feel passionately up to the task of such a debate.

Most everyone knows that Johnny Cash sang the best-known version (rendition if you will) of “Ring of Fire”. He did not sing the first published version of the song, however, nor did he receive a songwriting credit on it. Anita Carter, Johnny Cash’s then-future sister-in-law, released her rendition of the song well before Johnny Cash did. Songwriter/band manager Merle Kilgore and Johnny Cash’s then-future wife June Carter are officially credited with writing “Ring of Fire”. In the movie, Walk the Line, there is a scene where June Carter is penning the tune and she said in interviews that the song came to her while she was driving around trying to figure out what to do about her irresistible attraction to this bad boy who was already married. Some conjecture that, because of her religious beliefs, June Carter might have also been literally afraid of the hellfire that might consume her for stealing a married man from his wife. Now that Johnny Cash, Merle Kilgore, and June Carter are all dead, there is a ferocious legal dispute over who really wrote “Ring of Fire”. Johnny Cash’s first wife Vivian Cash says in her memoir, I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny, that of course Johnny Cash wrote the song and he told her, at the time, that he was giving June Carter credit because he felt sorry for how broke she was. Former Johnny Cash backing musician Curly Lewis has testified that Johnny Cash and Merle Kilgore wrote the song together and the lyrics refer to June Carter’s ladyparts in specific. Personally, I want to watch the estate hearing where the judge has to listen to a tape of Curly Lewis saying “We got a female part involved . . . vagina is the ring of fire”.

So, anyway, everybody is clear that American Idol is a competition for who brings the best charisma, good looks, nice vocal timbre, and impressive range, right? Not a songwriting and composing competition for people who scorn covers. Good. I’m glad that is clear and I look forward to all your non-angry emails telling us you’ve seen the light.

Love is a burning thing
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher

And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
The ring of fire

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher

And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
The ring of fire

The taste of love is sweet
When hearts like ours meet
I fell for you like a child
Oh, but the fire went wild

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
Cool new version of johnny cash
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
The ring of fire

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down down, down down, down down
And the flames went higher higher higher

And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
The ring of fire

And it burns, burns, burns

The ring of fire

The ring of fire
Oh yeah!
The ring of fire

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avatar Posted by on March 19, 2009. Filed under Blue Blood. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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