Song in Focus #2:

Going to a Town

We are following an unintentional theme here with songs by artists that left this Earth far too young, who were equipped with immense talent. In this post, I will be focusing on the George Michael version of this song, which he released in 2014 for his excellent Symphonica album. This is the version I first discovered as a George Michael fan and his performance grabbed me and does a good job bringing the interesting lyrics to life. But at the end of this post, I will take a look at another version I have yet to listen to, the original by Rufus Wainwright.

Before we get onto the performances, as mentioned the song lyrics written by Rufus are interesting and pretty powerful as well. Here are some quotes from songfacts.com which help explain the words:

  • “I’m so tired of America” Rufus Wainwright sings on this protest song. At the time, George W. Bush was seven years into his presidency and had escalated the war in Afghanistan.”I had no intention of writing ‘Going To A Town,'” Wainwright told Q magazine, October 2007. “It just came out in 10 minutes. I actually enjoy living in New York, enjoying the spoils of empire. That said, the political situation has become so horrific on so many levels that I don’t think anyone can help writing about it.”
  • The town Wainwright refers to in this song is Berlin, Germany, where he met his husband, Jorn Weisbrodt. He made much of the Release The Stars album there.”The song is about going to a city that had already been destroyed and had learned its lesson about the horrors that humanity can inflict,” Wainwright told Rolling Stone. “I felt like the US had no sense of the damage they were about to cause. People reacted very strongly to this song. I would sing it often and get boos.”

I’m going to a town that has already been burnt down
I’m going to a place that has already been disgraced
I’m gonna see some folks who have already been let down
I’m so tired of America

I’m gonna make it up for all of The Sunday Times
I’m gonna make it up for all of the nursery rhymes
They never really seem to want to tell the truth
I’m so tired of you, America

Making my own way home, ain’t gonna be alone
I’ve got a life to lead, America
I’ve got a life to lead

Tell me, do you really think you go to hell for having loved?
Tell me, enough of thinking everything that you’ve done is good
I really need to know, after soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood
I’m so tired of America

I really need to know
I may just never see you again, or might as well
You took advantage of a world that loved you well
I’m going to a town that has already been burnt down
I’m so tired of you, America

Making my own way home, ain’t gonna be alone
I’ve got a life to lead, America
I’ve got a life to lead
I got a soul to feed
I got a dream to heed
And that’s all I need

Making my own way home, ain’t gonna be alone
I’m going to a town
That has already been burnt down

When this song was released in 2007 by Rufus, gay marriage was not yet legal in most of the US and was a very hot topic. The highlighted section below comments on those who use religion to argue against it:

Tell me, do you really think you go to hell for having loved?
Tell me, enough of thinking everything that you’ve done is good
I really need to know, after soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood

So lyrically, it is a song that has plenty to say, a lot of passion, and commentary.

George Michael’s recording was made over the Symphonica era which means the performance was backed by a live orchestra, which adds even more to the song’s more soaring parts.

It is another top performance by George Michael. Sadly he was to die two years later. It is not hard to appreciate why he likely chose to cover the track if you know his thoughts on the war, as well as discrimination towards homosexuality.

One of the things that work so well with George’s cover is his usual standard, of clear, crisp, and stunning vocal, always the right mix of mellow and power. There is that trademark tone of voice and the reason why I tend to be more connected with a George Michael cover than another version-that emotion that goes into each performance.

Now, having said this, I thought I should give a listen to the Rufus Wainwright original. I know of this artist and when I have seen a performance here and there by him I thought he was very good. I know he has a very strong reputation but I am not massively familiar with his work.

Now that I have given a listen (and watched the striking video) I will be revisiting this version again, that’s for sure. He has a great voice, and he definitely brings the power of the song to life. I connect even more with the George Michael version, as I say I tend to do so with his covers, but make no mistake this is a brilliant performance and I am glad I looked it up. I highly recommend giving both versions some time, and if you know of any interesting covers let me know in the comments below, as well as what you think of Going to a Town.

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