The focus this week is the song “Sultans of Swing” by the English rock group, Dire Straits. The band formed in London in 1977 with the lineup of Mark Knopfler (lead vocals, lead & rhythm guitar, producer), John Illsey (bass, backing vocals, producer), Pick Withers (drums, occasional backing vocals), and David Knopfler (rhythm guitar, backing vocals). The band was active from 1977 to 1988 and again from 1990 to 1995 with different personnel changes over the years. Only Mark Knopfler and John Illsey lasted from the beginning to the end of the band’s existence. “Sultans of Swing” was their first single from their 1978 self-titled debut album, which was a huge success in both the UK and US.
Knopfler had been playing and writing music for over a decade, making ends meet as a journalist and lecturer before the band’s breakout eponymous album. It was actually produced by Steve Windwood’s less celebrated brother, Muff, and it took months for the album to attract any attention, and “Sultans of Swing” was actually as a single twice before the public finally caught on. The song itself defies, what some would call, the “normalcy” of what a rock song should be. It has four verses, a guitar solo (a pretty amazing one at that), another verse, another solo, almost six minutes long, and has no chorus or bridge. This was almost unheard of at the time. It was this song that literally put the band on everyone’s radar!
Dire Straits sound draws from various influences, including country, folk, the blues rock of artists, like J.J. Cale, and jazz. It was a stripped-down sound when contrasted to punk rock at that time, and it demonstrated the influence of roots rock. Their album releases in order are: Dire Straits (1978), Communiqué (1979), Making Movies (1980), Love and Gold (1982) Brothers in Arms (1985), and On Every Street (1991). Mark Knopfler embarked on a solo career after they disbanded for good and has since declined numerous offers for a reunion. The original is up first, followed by five unique covers that I feel do justice to the song and the band’s legacy. From a solo, Russian pianist to two orthodox Rabbis performing in the streets of Jerusalem, and everything in between. They are in order of the date performed. So, sit back and enjoy!
Dire Straits – “Sultans of Swing” – Album Dire Straits 1978
The first cover is by Brazilian guitarist Ismael Deives, who weaves together an acoustic and Cajun spin to the song, which make it different yet the same. He is accompanied by an ersatz drummer keeping the beat on a wooden box, and a rhythm guitarist providing some accompanying vocals, although you only get quick glimpses of them in the video. While this is not the best vocal cover (he is, after all, not singing in his native tongue), the acoustic guitar work is well worth watching, There is precious little information available about this artist, so I will let the guitar work speak for itself.
Ismael Deives “Sultans of Swing” – Cajun & Acoustic cover – 2013
I’ve become accustomed to not being shocked or taken aback by things that I see on the Internet, but I must admit to being somewhat surprised when I first clicked on a Gat Brothers video. What I was treated to two orthodox rabbis performing “Stairway To Heaven,” at a mall in Jerusalem! Yes, you read that correctly! Not only were they preforming one of Led Zeppelin’s iconic songs, but they were also, in my mind, actually killing it.
Aryeh and Gil Gat, otherwise known as the Gat Brothers, The Breslov Boys, and even to some as The Amazing Rabbis, created a stir when they appeared on Israeli TV’s talent show, Rising Star, in 2013 where they performed Simon and Garfunkel’s hit “Sounds of Silence.” After that performance, they covered many other iconic songs from the past, such as: “Hotel California,” “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Heart of Gold,” and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” to name a few, at various locations in and around Jerusalem. There are also videos of them on YouTube singing their traditional songs in their native tongue. Enjoy!
Gat Brothers “Sultans of Swing” – Live Streets of Jerusalem – 2015
Mary Spender & Josh Turner
Mary Spender is a British singer-songwriter, guitarist, and YouTube personality. Spender writes and performs original songs, and her guitar style has been described as “crisp,” while her songwriting is seen by many as “confessional” and “sultry.” Her YouTube channel is themed on music and music technology, and has included interviews with guitarists KT Tunstall, Jen Majura, Reina del Cid, and others. She has also appeared on other artists YouTube channels in a collaborative effort, including Josh Turner featured in this particular cover
Josh Turner Guitar is a multi-instrumentalist (acoustic guitar and electric guitar), singer, songwriter, and producer based in Brooklyn, New York. Joshua Lee Turner is best known for his YouTube channel, Josh Turner Guitar, where he posts eclectic cover songs and original music since he started the channel in 2007 at age 15. His guitar covers range from rock, R&B, bluegrass, folk, jazz, classical, pop, indie, blues, etc. Josh now tours internationally in support of his own original music, as well as with long-time collaborator Carson McKee, as the folk duo The Other Favorites. In 2020, Josh released Public Life, his second full-length album of original music. He can also be seen collaborating with other artists on their YouTube channels, such as the example below.
Mary Spender & Josh Turner – “Sultans of Swing” – 2022
The Hindley Street Country Club is a cover band from Adelaide, South Australia, formed in 2017 by Constantine Delo and Darren Mullan. Widely regarded by their fans as the “greatest cover band in the world”, the group has achieved a staggering quarter of a billion views on their official YouTube channel, which now has almost 600,000 subscribers. For more info see DUTC#10. What amazes me the most about this cover is that if you close your eyes, you might feel that you’re listening to the original!
The Hindley Street Country Club (HSCC) – “Sultans of Swing” – 2022
Russian pianist Alexandra Kuznetsova, who goes by the artist name Gamazda, was born in Moscow in a family of musicians. She began to playing piano at the age of 3. In 2014, she graduated with honors from the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory and is a laureate of all-Russian and international competitions. In 2019, she created her YouTube channel, Gamazda. What is characteristic and quite unique about Gamazda is her proclivity of covering rock songs – something usually not expected on the piano. However, she is amazingly skilled at it and excites a lot of fans with her covers. Therefore, it is not surprising that she has so many followers & listeners across many different platforms.
Gamazda “Sultans of Swing” – Piano cover – 2022
Los Angeles 2023
4 thoughts on “DUTC#11 March 19, 2023”
Some great research to find those covers. I found them all quite interesting and one was even a bit unorthodox!
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“Unorthodox,” that’s awesome! I’m still chuckling. Thanks.
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Sorry I couldn’t resist!!
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No apology necessary. If it were reversed I would have said the same thing!
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