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I'm Gonna Be Strong - Gene Pitney

For those receiving regular posts, I apologise for the blip whereby you haven't had the last few, all due to a Wix upgrading and my own technical shortcomings. Please go back and catch up on the great tracks you've missed.

It's said that a great song is a great song, but often the song only becomes great due a particular version, the crucial factor being the interpretation of the singer, the production or even the contribution of a particular musician. Of course all of these contribute to a lesser or greater degree, but once a classic version has been recorded, so often subsequent renderings by other artists fall flat. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weils' "I'm Gonna Be Strong" was originally recorded by fifties pop crooner Franke Laine but wasn't successful until Gene Pitney released his version a year later. Those interested can listen to Laine's version at their leisure but, suffice to say, Pitney's beautiful rendering of the first three words of the song alone - "I can see..." - are more memorable, more emotive and more soulful than the the whole of the original. And it just gets better, each Cynthia Weil line relished more and more, till the final killer: "how I'll break down and cry". Totally Orbisonesque, the song builds and builds, telling of one of those small, world-ending tragedies we've all experienced, and Weil's lyrics have never been finer, especially in the final sacrificial verse, where Pitney's vocal is so powerful it sounds like it's double tracked, but it isn't.

It's rewarding to read the lyrics as he sings them, to savour the door-creaking emphasis Pitney puts on certain words, particularly some of the line starters, that sound like the slow tearing apart of his heart. It's only 2 minutes 18 seconds, but worth every heartbeat.

I can see you're slipping away from me and you're so afraid I'll plead with you to stay but I'm gonna be strong and let you go your way.

Our love is gone there's no sense in holding on 'cause your pity now would be too much to bare so I'm gonna be strong and pretend I don't care.

I'm gonna be strong and stand as tall as I can yes I'm gonna be strong and let you run along and take it like a man.

When you say it's the end I'll just hand you a line I'll smile and say "don't you worry I'm fine" and you'll never know darling after you kiss me goodbye - how I'll break down and cry.


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