Cover Me: "Get Here" (For Veterans Day)

Cover Me: "Get Here" (For Veterans Day)

Veterans Day is almost upon us.  For those of us who were of a certain age during The Gulf War in 1990/1991, you may remember the tremendous show of support for U.S. troops.  One of these public showings was on radio, which back then was still a major cultural force.  Songs like "Show Me The Way" by Styx and George Michael's "Mothers Pride" received airplay under the context that these were songs perfect for a public desperate to show this would be no Vietnam.  The biggest song of this period?  "Get Here" and its artist, Oleta Adams.

Cover Me: "Get Here" (For Veterans Day)

In 1990/1991, Oleta Adams was coming off a string of great luck.  She was (and is) a gifted piano player and signer who was discovered in a Kansas City bar by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith from the band Tears For Fears.  At the time of her discovery, Tears For Fears was huge, coming off one of the top albums of the 1980s, Songs From The Big Chair.   Adams was eventually recruited to perform with the group on their follow up album, The Seeds Of Love (if you've never heard it, you should).  But Adams didn't just play piano.  She also sang a duet with Orzabal called "Woman In Chains" (Phil Collins played drums) that wasn't your traditional he said/she said duet.  Oleta Adams became the opening act for the supporting tour and a member of the touring band, double duty for this real-life preacher's daughter.

Tears For Fears' label, Fontana Records/PolyGram, signed Adams as a solo artist.  With Orzabal producing, she released Circle of One in 1990.  The album tanked, its first two singles "Rhythm of Life" and "Circle of One" going nowhere.  

But timing is everything sometimes (how dumb is that phrase?).  "Get Here," the third and probably final single, was released in November, 1990.  U.S. troops were positioning and training in Saudi Arabia, with troops from many other nations, getting ready to strike Saddam Hussein's forces, which had taken over Kuwait earlier in the year.  With hundreds of thousands of people away from home preparing to fight the first U.S. war since our Vietnam debacle, Americans rallied to support the troops.  "Get Here" became the most-played anthem of the time and became a Top 5 hit by spring, 1991.  Of course by then, the war was already over.

But Oleta Adams' career was just beginning.

Here's Adams' version of "Get Here."

It's important to note now that Oleta Adams did not write "Get Here."  In fact, she recorded the song because she'd heard the original version while in a record store.  Who wrote and recorded it first?  Brenda Russell, of "Piano In The Dark" fame.  Here's Russell's original version.

Which version is better?

It's hard to open your mind to a different version of a song when you're used to something else.  These two versions are similar in a few ways: 1) Tempo 2) Arrangement 3) Lyrics.  But, if you really listen, the songs are very different.  The Russell version is more of a studio creation.  There are more electronics, lots of keyboards, and you can hear a guitar picking away.  It feels like it was produced for the Smooth Jazz radio stations of the day.  It's tighter, yet more like a demo than a finished product.

Listen again to the Oleta Adams version.  Now, it's more famous and it's more closely tied to an emotional chord for many people.  They hear her version and are taken right back to those days when we kicked some Saddam ass (the first time we kicked his ass).  She's got real piano, not an electric keyboard.  The bass player, Pino Palladino, is all over the track, but in a flawless manner.  He doesn't take over.  He just fills in some spaces and goes with the flow.  The percussion is perfectly tasteful and, when the drums come in, they do just what's needed.  Nothing flashy.  Just as an accent.  

And the Oleta Adams voice - powerful but not overpowering.  Confident, strong; an alto voice in, at the time, a Mariah Carey massive soprano, oversinging world.

If Russell's version was the demo, Adams' version was the perfect final recording.  It stays with you.  It speaks to you.  And, 23 years later, it sounds as fresh as when Oleta Adams recorded it.

But, you know what?  We could be wrong. You have the right to say, "YouChoose Music is dead wrong.  The song blows and was never any good to begin with.  Where are my Sex Pistols LPs?"  

We don't think you'll say that, however. 

What do you say?  Let us know.

Dave Philp is Assistant Professor of Music Management at William Paterson University and Chief Organizer Guy of YouChoose, a live events music fundraising and social media company that has raised many, many thousands of dollars for non-profit causes. Join the good fight and help change your corner of the world by visiting YouChoose now: To sign up for our email newsletter, click HERE. Mmkay?