Best Cover Songs 8 - Sway ( ¿Quién será?)
When Marimba rhythm starts to play...
All through this series, we encounter eternal tunes that seemingly transcend time and space. There must be something in the musical genes of a tune that enables its immortality. Perhaps it is the same gene that also confers transferability - a tune that resonates in any language, in any nation. Join me once again in a musical journey through the marvel of ¿Quién será? also known as 'Sway'.
When Mexican composers Luis Demetrio and Pablo Beltran Ruiz created a mambo tune called ¿Quién será? back in 1953, little did they know that it will continue to play across the world decades forward. Originally it was a mambo instrumental number and the Spanish lyrics were added later.
Original recording from 1953
The Spanish version of the song reached much wider audience when it featured in the soundtrack of a popular Mexican comedy film Escuela de vagabundos in 1954. Mexican matinee idol Pedro Infante played the lead in this film and sang the ditty making many a woman's heart melt.
This is the original Spanish version of the song with added lyrics as the previous versions were purelyinstrumental. The film, a romantic comedy of errors, was a commercial and critical success and still enjoys repeat airplay on Spanish TV.
Pedro Infante - Quién será
Spanish Lyrics for ¿Quién será?
In 1954, the tune came to the attention of Dean Martin. With english lyrics written by Norman Gimbel, 'Sway' was born. The single was released to high acclaim and reached number 15 on the Billboard chart in US. In the UK it reached number 6 in the charts.
Originally released as a single, the song also featured in Dean Martin's album Hey Brother, Pour the wine.
Dean Martin's 'Sway'
Eileen Barton - Sway (1954)
Singer and performer Eileen Barton was a protégé of Frank Sinatra after having been a child performer for some year. She had a massive number one hit with her single 'If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake' for Capitol Records in 1949 and followed this with a series of Billboard hits.
In 1954 she moved to Coral Records where she recorded the English version of ¿Quién será? following Dean' Martin's footsteps - I suspect this may be the first female rendition of 'Sway'
Eileen Barton - Sway ( Coral Records 61185) 1954
A Touch of Tabasco
Popular Actress and singer Rosemary Clooney (George Clooney's aunt ) joined the RCA label in 1959 after leaving Columbia records. With latin american music proving ever os popular, she joined up with Cuban bandleader Perez Prado to produce a studio album called ' A Touch of Tabasco'. ( apparently the album was promoted with bottles of tabasco sauce!).
The song 'Sway' featured in the album and proved a popular hit for Rosemary Clooney. It also featured other popualr melodies of the day such as 'Corazon de Melon', 'Magic Is the Moonlight' 'Mack the Knife', a Rodger's and Hammerstein number 'Bali Ha'i', a Cole Porter classic 'You Do Something to Me' and the Gershwin melody 'I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' amongst others.
Rosemary Clooney - Sway
The song seamlessly moved into the winging sixties and became even more popular. Singer Bobby Rydell recorded his version in 1960. Rydell burst into popularity after winning a talent show on the TV series Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club in 1950. In the early sixties he gained immense popularity as a Teen idol, touring the world and having a series of hits on the Billboard charts.
His songs 'Kissin' time' and 'We got love' were chart hits. In 1960 he recorded 'Sway' and also the evergreen hit 'Volare'.
Bobby Rydell singing 'Sway'
Multilingual singer Connie Francis covered the track in her 1960 album ' Connie Francis sings spanish and Latin American Favourites'. She covered the original spanish version of the song in this album released under the MGM record label.
She is a regular in this series. She was a chart topping artist in the 50s and 60s and remained a popular draw singing in concerts.
Connie Francis - ¿Quién será?
Ben E King
Of the 'Stand by me' fame, Ben E King, also recorded the song in 1961 for his debut album Spanish Harlem in 1961. King enjoyed solo success and was also the lead singer in the chart topping act 'The Drifters'.
Among other tracks the album also featured our old favourite Besame Mucho ( see Best cover songs 7 in this series), 'Amour' , 'Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps' , ' Love me, Love me' and the eponymous title track 'Spanish Harlem' .
Ben E King sings ' Sway'
Across the pond in the UK, singer Cliff Richard recorded his version in 1963 for his album 'When in Spain' with his band The Shadows for Columbia Records.
It was an album of popular Spanish standards and it reached number 8 in the UK album chart. It contains many of the old favourites such as Perfidia , Amor Amor Amor, Vaya Con Dios, Tus Besos, along with our Quién será.
Julie London Croons in
The sultry, talented beauty Julie London, did an album in the same year (1963) called 'Latin in a Satin Mood'. It featured many a latter day classic including ' Perfidia', 'Vaya con dios', 'Bésame Mucho', 'Be Mine tonight' and another impeccable cover of our eponymous hit 'Sway'. Julie lends her smoky and sensual vocals to our classic and makes it her own as she does with many of the other numbers in this popular album.
Movie Magic - Out To Sea (1997)
After a long hiatus in the seventies and eighties when there was so much new music that a sway cover wasn't considered necessary, the song enjoyed a resurgence in the 90s. This resurgence emerged as an unlikely rendition in a little known comedy film, Out to sea featuring Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon. It features the vocals of Brent Spiner, ( aka Data from Star Trek- The Next Generation) playing a cruise crooner called Gil Goldwyn. A trifle laboured perhaps but a brave attempt nonetheless.
Brent Spiner singing 'Sway'
Movie Magic- Dark City (1998)
The vastly underrated cult science fiction movie ( see it if you love a dystopian sci-fi blended with Raymond Chandleresque noir thriller) Dark City was released in 1998. Directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow, I,Robot) and a screenplay by Proyas, Dobbs and David S Goyer, the film was not a massive hit in cinemas but like Blade runner went on to enjoy cult fandom on DVD release. The film starred Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt.
In a brilliantly picturised nightclub scene, we see Jennifer Connelly's character singing the song 'Sway' to an assembled audience. The vocals on the soundtrack were rendered by singer Anita Kelsey. Connelly's beautiful visage lends an ethereal glamour to the popular melody.
Anita Kelsey - Sway from the film 'Dark City'
Michael Bublé resurrects the classic
In 2003, the phenomenon that is Michael Bublé, reinvented and resurrected the melody for the modern audience, as he had done since with many a Sinatra and Dean Martin classic. Canadian Michael Bublé comes from an Italian family and says his owes his love for the Dean Martin and Sinatra classics due to his Grandfather's vinyl collection. Encouraged by his grandpa, who apparently also drive him for his performances and nurtured his love of the classic American hits, Bublé has become a global phenomenon.
Bublé's is a silky smooth modern rendition worthy of the original interpreters. It featured in his eponymous album 'Michael Bublé'. The song has since enjoyed repeat play in all his live tours, to rapturous audience response, as you can see below...
Michale Buble sings 'Sway'
The Pussycat Dolls did an amazing rendition of the song for the soundtrack of a 2004 Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez film ' Shall we Dance'. The song was alter also included in their debut album PCD. Their lively, jazzed up dance music version is one of the highlights of their album. It updates the classic to the modern ears and lends it some pizzazz.
The film was a remake of a hit Japanese movie of the same title where a bored estate lawyer ( an accountant in Japanese version) finds himself taking ballroom dancing lessons secretly to liven up his days.
Pussycat Dolls - 'Sway'
The English harmony trio Puppini sisters ( Italian-born singer Marcella Puppini and English singers Kate Mullins and Emma Smith - yes they are not related) covered the song in their 2007 album, Betcha Bottom Dollar. They have opened for Michael Buble during his tours and have also performed with him on TV.
There is a gloriously slow rendition with a swing undertone in the grand burlesque tradition.
Jennifer Lopez took the song back to its Spanish roots in the same year. She recorded a smoky original version of Quien Sera in 2007.
As far back in 1959, the melody travelled east and was covered by the Popular Japanese duo Peanuts ( Za Pīnattsu). The twins Emi Itō and Yumi Itō had a hit number with their rendition of 'Sway'. It became a popular item in their live repertoire as in their early years they mostly covered popular international songs in Japanese before moving to original songs in their later years.
Japanese version of 'Sway'
International - Finnish
The King of Finnish Tango music scene, Olavi Virta, was a popular singer in the fifities and sixties. His enormous output of songs during his heyday include over 600 original and cover renditions. He also appeared in many Finnish Films and theatrical productions.
He covered Quien Sera in 1959. In Finnish it was called 'Keinu kanssani'
Olavi Virta- Quien Sera - ( Sway)
International - Italian
Italian singer Mina, covered the song in 1962. The Italian version was called Chi sarà and proved a popular hit for Mina.
She is one of the most successful Italian singers of all time and one of the most versatile. She had a fantastic vocal range and was able to do justice to swing, pop as well as traditional Italian melodies.
Mina - Chi sarà ( Sway)
International - Turkish
Like many songs in this series, there is a transferable quality to the tune and it travels well across continents, here is a Turkish version rendered by their hit artist, Ajda Pekkan, first in 1976.
The song is called 'kim ne derse desin aşk için' in Turkish.
Björk - Icelandic
International - Icelandic
Quirky artist Björk, covered the song in 1990 for her album Gling-Gló, as "Í dansi með þér".
Björk - "Í dansi með þér" ( Sway)
Anzhelika Varum - Russian
International - Russian
Evergreen Russian songstress Anzhelika Varum has had hit album after hit album in her native Russia since 1991.
Her catchy cover is Sway is called "Румба" (Rumba) in Russian. The video is a sizzling dance rendition and is well choreographed.
Румба (Rumba) - Sway Cover
Matthew Morrison - Glee
Matthew Morrison delivered his version of Sway in Glee Season 2 Episode 8- called 'Furt'. Here he gives a barnstoming live performance in London.
Back where we started....
Yet again in this series, we see the glorious celebration of a wonderful melody that can travel through space and time, touching hearts everywhere - across continents and cultures. I enjoy these trips down the musical memory lane, and hopefully you do too.
Whatever your musical tastes, I am sure you'll agree it is wonderful to see a song interpreted by such diverse artists who transmit their love of music to the listener's ears.
We now come a full circle. From Pablo Ruiz we come to Kalimba - a Mexican singer of immense talent, who renders Quien Será to a modern audience with immense glle and celebration in this live performance.
Copyright © Mohan Kumar 2015
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Mohan Kumar