Sunday, March 20, 2016

Weekend Diversion: Tom Goss

Sooner or later, we all hear remakes of songs we loved when we were young. Years, even decades later, someone will record a new version, one that may sound completely different than the song we heard in our youth, and we may not like it. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we like the new version. But this is the first time I ever heard a remake of a song and thought, “That’s what I always imagined it could be!” as the inner young gay boy I was smiles in happiness.

The video above is for “Son of a Preacher Man” by Tom Goss. His version keeps the original lyrics, singing them complete with male pronouns. The video features a love story of two gay youths. In Tom’s version, the song is about two boys, one of whom is the son of an anti-gay preacher man.

When I heard the original 1968 version by Dusty Springfield, I instantly liked it, and mostly because I was the son of a preacher man and never heard that part of my identity expressed in pop music, so that was a novel experience. And yet, there was so much more.

I came to really know the song some years after it was released, when I was at or nearing puberty, and suddenly all pop music had new layers of meaning. When I heard the song come on the radio, I imagined in my head a scenario in which the love interest of the son of the preacher man was another boy. It wasn’t that I thought of myself in the role of the son and a boy was courting me, at least not exactly, it was more about what I’ve referred to as "filling in the blanks", inserting my reality as a closeted gay kid into songs that weren’t about me or anyone like me.

This new version portrays what I imagined all those years ago (although I never got quite as specific as Tom’s video, of course). The point is, I imagined the song being about two boys, and this video is. I also like that it ends on a happy note (that some people have compared to the end of the movie The Graduate). It also includes a cameo by actor Deven Green (perhaps best known as Mrs. Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian™) as the lemon-sucking-faced church lady.

The song also has an arrangement that differs from the original in some specific ways, and I think that helps make a break from what was to what this version is without being TOO different. That, combined with the video, gives this version a much more serious take than the original. The whole project was funded through Kickstarter.

Of course the irony in all this is that Dusty Springfield was herself lesbian, though I never knew that until I was well into adulthood; it would have made a big difference to me had I known that at the time, though that was impossible back then. Another irony, “Son of a Preacher Man” was Dusty’s last Top Ten single until she teamed up with the very gay Pet Shop Boys for “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” nearly 20 years later.

Tom Goss, meanwhile, is a 34 year old openly gay independent musician and actor, who at one time was in seminary studying to become a priest. I think I first heard of him when he released his video for “Bears” (below), about, as the Wikipedia link puts it, his “affinity toward Bears, a subset of the gay male culture that describes large, burly, often hairy men.” It is his most-viewed video.

The first video I saw may also have been an earlier video for “Make Believe”: “The human time-lapse video features a (discreetly) naked Goss lying perfectly still on his back while nationally renowned painter Scott G. Brooks transforms his body into a tropical landscape lush with vines and flowers.” [WATCH]. It was—unusual. He performs a variety of songs, and shares them on his YouTube Channel.

So, I liked Tom Goss’ cover of “Son of a Preacher Man”, not the least because he made it about what I imagined in my head all those years ago. I can’t remember a remake ever having done that for me before.

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