R&B Recycling / US R&B

R&B recycling #1: Silk vs. 112

By Melanie Henderson 

Since I was very little, I made it my business to be an expert in music. By the time I got to my late teens and into my early twenties, I considered myself to be an absolute expert in R&B, or what made up modern-day and classic R&B. Then I met someone older than me, and realised that all my favourite songs from the 90s had largely been done before. All of a sudden my musical ego came tumbling to the ground. I thought I knew everything!

Of course, by no means is this a phenomenon. Everybody copies, borrows and steals from others; it’s just a fact of life. Especially today, especially in music. The fun part about talking about it though, is finding cool differences between the versions of the same songs. Kinda like those spot the difference pictures. Hehe. Find 10 differences… you catch my drift.

The roots of borrowing and recycling in R&B music go back to the Motown days, when sometimes as many as four or five versions of the same song were made, but all by different groups. It’s slightly different from a standard live cover, as the recycled song has normally been revamped, changed and rearranged.

Today’s song choice is Silk’s “Cry On,” written by Parks Stewart & Mitchell Jones for the 1994 Mike Binder film: “Blankman.”

The 1994 comedy film "Blankman" soundtrack cover.

The 1994 comedy film “Blankman” soundtrack cover.

The song wasn’t actually a hit single of theirs, considering the 90s boyband contributed heavily to the scene at the time with songs such as “Freak Me.”

It’s important to take into account, also, the fact that the song did not feature on any of Silk’s albums.

It’s one of those special gem song finds.

Perhaps it’s important to mention too that I’ve never seen the film and had never heard Silk’s version of the song until fairly recently.

I discovered the track via a B-side track of Puff Daddy and Faith Evan’s “I’ll Be Missing You” single that I purchased in 1997 when Biggie died. One of the extra tracks was the 112 version of Cry On.

Looking at the song in more depth now, it’s actually gospel more than anything else.

When your burdens seem to weigh you down
Or the road, it seems too far to carry on, oh yeah, yeah
Just look to the hills, you will find your help
Is coming from the Lord, hold on

Even when you feel you can’t go on
And even if you have to mourn
Let your soul cry out to the Lord

Cry on
God understands your tears
He knows, he knows, he knows
He knows how much that you can bear
Your faintest cry, He’s gonna hear, yeah, yeah

Cry on
When there’s nothing else to say
Soon He’ll wipe it
Soon He’ll wipe all your tears away

Without test and trial
You won’t experience real joy, oh no
Gold without fire
It will never ever be pure gold
Yeah, oh
And without hitches
You will never know
The Lord can bring you through, through
Even when you feel you can’t go on, go on
Let your soul cry out to the Lord
To the Lord, to the Lord

And without trials
You will never know
That my God can bring
Bring you through
Yes He can

Even when you feel you can’t go on
Even if you have to mourn
Let your soul cry out to the Lord
Listen to me cry late at night
But that’s alright
Go ahead and cry

Cry on
God understands your tears
He knows how much that you can bear
Faintest cry He’s gonna hear

Cry on
When there’s nothing else to say
He’ll wipe all your tears

Weeping may

Endure for the night
But joy comes in the morning time

Joy comes in the morning time

Comes in the morning time

Bit sad really.

Whichever arrangement you prefer, both versions are equally beautiful in my book. There’s something about US-born male R&B groups that can’t compare with any other kind of vocal harmony.

If you’ve been introduced to the song, well, enjoy 🙂

More gems are on their way soon. Stay tuned.

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