THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a salute to the greatest songs of all time. I’m making my top 100 in real time, and every post has covers of the classic tune.
Yesterday, we hit #11–so it’s time to publish a master list. We’ll keep it here.
For today, we’ll see where William DeVaughn falls on the list.
The first time I heard this song I was in San Francisco. Andrew, a blues guitar player and the Reverend at my wedding, had an old, scratched up 45, which he played for me. I remember thinking: Is this written by Snoop Dogg? Because it’s all about the bling. But unlike gangsta rap, it’s about gratitude and love and it moves so smooth it’s like God is cradling you while you listen. Or at least Curtis Mayfield. Originally titled, “A Cadillac Don’t Come Easy,” DeVaughn’s song was a smash hit: Two million copies sold, and #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (which mattered, at the time).
It also may be the first recorded use of the word, “Gangsta,” in the song’s chorus and the refrain at the fadeout: “Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin’ the scene with a gangsta lean.” All the etymology sources I found attribute the word to the 1980s, but it’s clearly being used here, way back in 1974.
Further listening: This was his only hit. The rest of the album is good, but not GOAT good.
I’m putting this in at #5 on my list, pushing Biggie’s “Juicy” down a peg and coming in right below “Better Things” by The Kinks. Ordering a top 10 list of songs is hard–because they’re all great and some of it is just based on my mood at the moment. I think this’ll get easier when I’ve got a larger list. Again, find the whole thing here.
Covers: NWA sampled the song on their cut, “Gangsta Gangsta,” but there’s also some great cover versions. Massive Attack and Yo La Tengo made the best ones, but there’s also lots of reggae versions. My favorite is by Bunny Rugs Clarke. I’ve posted some of the big ones, then a bunch of indie ones.