This week’s REASONS3 can be traced back to 1836, when The Pickwick Papers first alerted the world to the brilliance of Charles Dickens. Over a century later, a musical based on Dickens’ work premiered on the West End and a song was quietly etched into the genes of the human race.
‘If I Ruled the World’ was originally composed by Leslie Bricusse and Cyril Ornadel (cheers, Wikipedia), but thanks to repeated re-interpretations and covers, its roots should rightfully be credited to humanity’s consciousness.
So timeless is the song that, no matter what your age or socio-economic background, it tickles both the part of your brain that knows the world is far from perfect and the part of your heart that honestly believes we will eventually prevail.
If I Ruled the World has been covered by everyone who is anyone, including James Brown, Tom Jones and Sammy Davis Jr. If you’re up for a laugh, a few nobodies have had a crack at it too. Take a look at this Barry shocker (Crocker)!
Before starting our VERSIONS3, I suggest that you grab your headphones and find somewhere quiet to sit. Ready? Let’s go!
VERSIONS3 – If I Ruled The World
1. Harry Secombe
2. Tony Bennett
3. Jamie Cullum
More information: Wikipedia
ONE: Harry Secombe (1963)
It’s Sir Harry Secombe to you. Secombe is best known for his radio antics in the 50’s with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on The Goon Show. In 1963, Secombe sent If I Ruled the World into the UK charts for the first time.
Full of orchestral flourishes from the strings and horns sections, Secombe’s version is an upbeat affair. Full of hope and promise, it would have been the perfect fit for a post-war generation that had seen it all.
Despite his grand and majestic tone, Secombe never offers a pompous word. His voice cheerfully oscillates and warbles throughout, before being joined by the chorus at approximately two minutes.
Make no mistake, Secombe’s If I Ruled The World is the original. It’s there for when you need a simple smile, so check it out here.
TWO: Tony Bennett (1965)
Tony Bennett is synonymous with If I Ruled The World and it is for this reason that his version been given the nod over James Brown’s soulful rendition.
Bennett’s classy crooning is accompanied by the usual culprits of a Las Vegas style big band. Namely, it’s the softened beat of the drummer’s brushes and meandering strokes of the piano that provide the jazz undertones.
There’s an opulence to Bennett’s voice – ‘Like the man in the moon has when the moon beams.’ – that keeps you tuned to his every inflection. His charm is too rich to be pierced by the accompanying strings section, which has all the intensity of the Lawrence of Arabia score.
This version of If I Ruled The World is for the lovers of a great show. Bennett may not convince you of his sincerity, but you’ll hardly have time to notice with all the swooning you’ll be doing.
So click here and swoon away.
THREE: Jamie Cullum (2009)
Released on The Pursuit, If I Ruled The World was a favourite of Cullum’s grandmother and he has been heard publicly dedicating it to her at gigs around the globe.
It starts with the hollow echo of a bass drum and is soon joined by short interruptions from a snare that’s had its edges shaved. The weary beat feels defeated; an eroded shadow of a once purposeful march.
As Cullum begins squeezing the keys of his grand, the deep chords bring a feeling of inevitability. From his very first promise – ‘every day would be the first day of spring’ – it is obvious that Cullum has seen enough and yearns for a better, more compassionate world.
After two minutes, a beautiful piano solo sneaks in. It shines with all the radiance of the stars on a clear night before Cullum deliberately washes it out with a not uncomfortable, yet noisy backdrop; a symbolic acknowledgement of the fleeting clarity that this world now offers.
At three minutes and forty seconds, Cullum’s tone changes; far from grovelling, he’s proudly pleading now – ‘There’d be sunshine in everyone’s sky. If the day ever dawned, when I ruled the world’. Hitting the peak of its crescendo, his voice then dies away, leaving Cullum to mutter a few final words – ‘Every hand would be held up high. Every star would shine in everyones sky’. It’s as if he thinks that no one was listening.
Click here to prove him wrong!