One song that Jonny Rosch and Friends always play is Compared to What. Each time it is different. That’s because the song showcases the improvisational skills of each player and lets them roll with it. Because of this, it often lasts almost 40 minutes. It’s a real tour de force in Rosch’s arsenal of songs.
Eugene McDaniels, who died this week, wrote Compared to What in 1969. It stays alive, most recently being recorded by John Legend and the Roots on their new album Wake Up. McDaniels was a a major recording artist himself in the early 60s, with several chart busting hits. Then he turned to songwriting and producing, which he did until his death.
McDaniels lived in Maine and often visited his friend, Ann Ruckert, in New York City. A few months ago I had breakfast with him. The conversation turned to Compared to What and he allowed me to record the conversation. He talked of the “muse” that gave birth to the song after the turbulence in the 1960s and how he took it to old colleague Les McCann who recorded the song and made it his biggest hit.
To date, 288 artists have recorded Compared to What. Listen to McDaniel's interview by clicking on the link below.
McDaniels knew Compared to What was perfect for his old bandmate, Les McCann. But there was a problem. McCann and he weren't on speaking terms. In this clip, McDaniels tells how he sneaked into a hotel where McCann was staying to give him the song that would become his biggest hit.
Here are the lyrics:
I love the lie and lie the love
A-Hangin' on, with push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin' up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what? C'mon baby!
Slaughterhouse is killin' hogs
Twisted children killin' frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin' logs
Tired old lady kissin' dogs
I hate the human love of that stinking mutt (I can't use it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what? C'mon baby now!
The President, he's got his war
Folks don't know just what it's for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We're chicken-feathers, all without one nut. God damn it!
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me)
Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin' to duck the wrath of God
Preacher's fillin' us with fright
They all tryin' to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can't use it!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what?
Where's that bee and where's that honey?
Where's my God and where's my money?
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol' young King Tut (He did it now)
Tried to make it real — compared to what?!