One Song/Three Versions – Love Hurts

When I first heard that the great filmmaker Ken Burns had done a documentary on country music, I wasn’t particularly enthused. There are some country (and country-rock) songs I like but overall I am not a huge fan. I decided to give it a shot anyway and boy am I glad I did.

I’m somewhat of an amateur historian of music anyway and this was a history lesson and a half. It filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. And let us not forget that “hillbilly” music intersected with blues and became rockabilly. Last time I checked you could still see the whole series at least here in the States on PBS online.

In many ways, the series did less of an introduction of new people to me and more fleshing out of people I’d heard of. For example, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. I will quote here from the Performing Songwriter blog:

In the spring of 1945, 19-year-old Matilda Genevieve Scaduto was working as an elevator operator at the Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee. One afternoon, she struck up a conversation with one of the guests, a musician from Georgia with the poetic name of Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant. Five days later, Matilda (Felice was Boudleaux’s pet name for her) and Boudleaux ran off together and one of the great songwriting partnerships was born.

Over the next 30 years, the couple would write nearly 6,000 songs together, selling over 200 million records with artists such as Roy Orbison, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Buddy Holly, Eddy Arnold, Bobbie Gentry, Gram Parsons, Simon & Garfunkel and most memorably, the Everly Brothers. The Bryants’ list of classics includes “Bye Bye Love,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream,*” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Love Hurts” and “Rocky Top.”

“Their stuff fit us like a glove because it was designed to fit,” said Don Everly. “Boudleaux would sit down and talk with us. A lot of his songs were written because he was getting inside our heads—trying to find out where we were going, what we wanted, what words were right.”

“They were masters,” added Phil Everly. “Anybody would be a fool not to watch how they did it. That’s the level that you wanted to be at. I learned more from them than from anybody.”

Roy Orbison actually had the first hit with “Love Hurts” and you should check that one out too. But I’ll go with the Everlys here since their version is nice and they’re so linked in with the Bryants:

Spotify link

Per Wikipedia, “They tried to sell their compositions to a number of country music artists but were either ignored or rejected until Little Jimmy Dickens recorded their song “Country Boy.” It went to #7 on the country charts in 1948 and opened the door to a working relationship with Fred Rose at Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, Tennessee.”

So given that their first hit was a country tune, for the second version, I nominate the one from Gram Parsons’ second and final solo album, Grievous Angel. The album was released posthumously in early 1974, four months after his death from a drug overdose.

Parsons is not only a key figure in country-rock history, but he is also the guy who was a key player (per Burns’ documentary) in converting Emmylou Harris from a folkie to a country gal. Here is their duet:

Spotify link

And so inevitably, we come to the version that I bet a lot of you thought was an original. I know I did. Despite my predilection for early rockers I’d never heard the Everlys version, never heard Roy Orbison’s. I’d never heard of it before the Scottish band Nazareth did it.

Per Wikipedia, “The Nazareth version is the most popular version of the song and the only rendition to become a hit single in the United States, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1976. Nazareth’s version was an international hit, peaking at No. 1 in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, and Norway.” (Jim Capaldi of Traffic had a hit with it in the UK as well.)

Nazareth is a hard rock band and so theirs is performed more like a heavy power ballad. It comes from the album Hair of the Dog whose title song is a great bit of ballsy rock (later covered by Guns ‘N Roses):

Spotify link

Per Performing Songwriter, Felice and Boudleux’s chart run continued from the ’60s through the ’80s with hits by Charley Pride, Glen Campbell, Joe Stampley, and Moe Bandy. By the time Boudleaux passed away in 1987, they’d had over 1,500 recordings of their songs.

Felice continued to collaborate with various writers, and at the time of her death in 2003, was working on a one-woman play. The pair were inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

*Boudleaux wrote “All I Have To Do is Dream” for Felice who says she dreamed of him before meeting him. Now *that’s* romantic.

22 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – Love Hurts

    1. I wasn’t a big fan of the Nazareth version either but it was a bit of an earworm. I heard Jim Capaldi’s version and found it disappointingly sappy given his Traffic pedigree. But the world knows the Nazareth version and others often cover their cover.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The cover of Nazareth is not quite “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, but I do like it. The melodies don’t seem to tire, which means they consistently sound nice all the way through.

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      1. Sure, the Nazareth version sounds a bit bombastic, but when you are young (and love hurts) may the smoky, straightfoward voice of Dan McCafferty just be right for you. Otherwise, I prefer the Everly version.

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  2. Fantastic Doc. I thought of you when Burns covered Felice and Boudleaux. What a cool story they were and good on you for picking up on it. Parsons version with Harris was my hook into the tune. They just sound so good together.
    The whole Everly connection is gold. I seen them twice and both times they knocked it out of the park. The band they had at the time, led by Albert Lee were second to none. (we already talked about the influence on the Beatles). Those two guys sound perfect to my ear. Good on you for picking this out of the series and giving it some love.
    (hey I liked the “sappy” Capaldi version)
    Hope there’s a little more writing inspiration from Burns in your future.

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    1. It’s funny but if you had asked me if I planned this post or if I knew I was gonna do it even two weeks ago I would have said it wasn’t even on my radar. But this post gave me a chance to weave in the show, the Bryants, a couple of versions, some history, etc. I always look for that.
      As to your seeing the Everlys, if you said that before I don’t recall it. I wouldn’t have pegged you as a fan of theirs. Yeah, Albert was their guy for a long time. Saw him last year as you know. What a great player. As to the Capaldi version, maybe I didn’t give it enough love. But it sure wasn’t Traffic.
      I still haven’t watched episode 8 but everything up to now has been great. But where the hell is Glen Campbell? Barely in it, not even a bio. Major, major oversight.

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      1. Good stuff Doc. So many buttons pushed by the series. The history alone was interesting and like you said connected the dots.
        Phil and Don had the sound and yeah Capaldi’s take sure isn’t Traffic. I had no idea he had a hit in England with it. I have a few solo albums by him and that’s where I found it.
        I’m sure there are are few people miffed by commission in the Burns film. It was a gig genre to tackle. Jerry Jeff Walker is a fave with me and he got passing mention with the Willie/Waylon/Clark gang. The one big omission for me was Allison Krauss. She is the type of person that keeps the flame burning with all that’s good in the music and man can she play and sing.

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        1. Yeah, agreed about Jerry Jeff. And holy shit, yeah Alison Krauss. She’s only won more Grammys than anybody. Some reviewers said they should have dumped some of the early rock and roll stuff. Maybe so but I dug that part and it was relevant. Well, at least they got old Duane in there and that’s all that matters! Do you know he snuck “Will the Circle be Unbroken” into one of his solos on Fillmore East?

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        2. I had no idea about Allison and the Grammys (you know me and awards) all I know is she is the real deal. Proof is in the listening as usual.
          The rock and roll stuff was essential in my book. I agree. I still hear it all over rock.
          Speaking of hearing roots, Duane was oozing it but like all great talents he put it through his creative mind. And i did not know about the “Circle’ but it kinda proves my point. Very cool!
          (The majority of the last episode is stuff that never turned my crank. He had to put it in just because of the shear numbers of the sales. He brings it back down to the “roots” at the end).

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        3. “She has won 27 Grammy Awards and is the most awarded singer and the most awarded female artist in Grammy history.” Actually it’s not the Fillmore album per se it’s “Mountain Jam” from “Eat a Peach” and you can hear him play it slowly starting about 28:00.
          My banjo-playing, bluegrass-loving buddy Steve was on vacation cruising around Australia when this was being broadcast so when he came home the other day I told him and he’s recording the series. Still showing in the Philly area I guess.

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        4. Holy shit. Maybe they get it right once in a while.
          I will go listen to that in a bit. Imagine all the times I’ve listened to it and I’m going to get something new. I love music.
          I think Steve will like it considering how much attention Burns payed to bluegrass Bill Monroe and earl really were innovators. I told you that Howe Gelb called Monroe the father of “Speed Metal”. Something like that.

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        5. He will love it and then get depressed that he cannot play banjo like Scruggs. This is the downside of playing an instrument. You’re always getting better and thinking, “Hey I’m getting pretty good.” And then some fucking 12-year-old plays Eddie Van Halen shit or something and you want to throw it away.

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        6. So cool on Duane doing that. It even sounds better now knowing where he gets the inspiration.
          Bluegrass musicians blow me away. I’ve had a take on the shelf for a while (Did do one with Steve Earle and Del McCoury which you commented on. Steve and i will get you yet)

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        7. I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I’ve just watched (and listened to) close to 16 hours of country music. While I now have a greater appreciation of it and realize I like more of it than I thought, I can say I like it not much more than I did before. I can listen to blues all day and all night, hang with and jam with those guys. But country music feels like an alien planet to me. It starts with that singing which I cannot get past. It’s like you’ve said several times before about stuff you’re not into. You don’t have time for everything so you pick your choices. Mine are blues, jazz, pop, rock, soul, even classical. Country is distant. I just can’t live there. It’s no accident those guys are all from rural Oklahoma, Texas, etc. It’s long way from Philly. Pete spent a lot of time trying to sway me to his tastes. Never worked.

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  3. I’m hoping that documentary appears on Netflix over here at some point (some of the other PBS docs have).

    Anyhoo, it’s Gram and Emmylou’s version that I know best. That’s a proper great version… those two sound great together.

    Never heard the Nazareth take before… and it’s unlikely I’d do so again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s funny. It was a pretty massive hit back in the day for Nazareth. I was not a big fan but at least I got introduced to it. But in these parts it was inescapable.

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