I just learned today that “Shout!,” the Isley Brothers’ classic, never reached higher than #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959, in a single that covered both sides of the 45. Listening to the recording now (and forever), that is simply stunning. There may not be a more exciting, spontaneous, rousing recording of any song by any artist, ever.
Yet somehow it was quickly forgotten, until a fake group called “Otis Day and the Knights” performed a terrific cover in the 1978 comedy “Animal House,” and suddenly it was a standard at wedding and parties all over the country. Why? It’s just wonderful, that’s all, and nobody sang it like the Isley Brothers. For the most part, nobody tries: there were a few obscure covers before the song was rediscovered (The Beatles did a version in 1964), but it is one of those songs where nobody wants to be compared to the sublime original.
This kind of thing gives me hope. Good ideas get lost, bad ones thrive (for a while), hacks and phonies make millions and great artists die in gutters. But now and then justice happens, maybe by fate, maybe by luck, and just maybe because life is more ethical than we think it is.