"Samson & Delilah (If I Had My Way)"
Original Artist: Traditional
Release Date: September 20th, 2015
In case you are new to Gaslight Records: Live at the Gaslight is our way of showcasing modern artists reworking their favourite songs from at least 50 years ago.
We'd really appreciate y'all spreading the word, and in turn supporting the top quality artists we'll be showcasing here.
Also, if you're a band/artist/legend that would like to get a song up on this site and then bask in the mountain of free publicity that comes with it, all you have to do is record a tune and email it to [email protected]
For the fourth instalment of our Live At The Gaslight series, we are proud to present singer/songwriter Mark Cohen, from Buffalo, New York, covering the traditional “Samson & Delilah (If I Had My Way)”.“The original song seemed incomplete to me and I just wanted to finish the story. To me, the song was asking for this verse to be written.”
The song dates back to the early twentieth century, with the first known recordings made in the 1920s by blues singers Blind Willie Johnson and Reverend Gary Davis. Since these early blues renditions, numerous artists have covered “If I Had My Way” including: Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Peter, Paul & Mary, Bruce Springsteen and The Grateful Dead.
Mark Cohen has been performing his adaptation of the song since the mid-1960s. Cohen’s version is lyrically similar to the versions sung by Dave Van Ronk and Peter, Paul & Mary, and comes across as somewhat of a mix of the two. He had this to say of the comparison:
“Right on target. I only cover a song when it feels natural to me. Dave’s was Dave’s; and Peter, Paul & Mary’s version had such energy and their harmonies were so beautiful, I was really taken by it.
It wasn’t only the harmonies that grabbed me but the ways in which they used point and counterpoint - call and response, like a Gospel song.
On my arrangement, I was never aware of the way the guitar and vocal worked together until I listened back to the recording. I got to playing the first verse slowly and with a strong guitar rhythm. It sets up the rest of the story and the rest of the song. Each verse speeds up, the tempo taking it to another level. The song becomes a real killer at the final crescendo and chord strums.”
In this recording, Cohen has adapted the story of “Samson & Delilah (If I Had My Way)” to include a fourth and final verse that he wrote. His lyrics fit in as though they always existed within the song.
“The original song seemed incomplete to me and I just wanted to finish the story. To me, the song was asking for this verse to be written.”
Be sure to read more about Cohen below and have a listen to his original track, "Thank God For You", along with his instrumental cover of "Wildwood Flower".
Thanks for listening, and remember, don’t touch that dial...
Cover Photo Credit: Jack Hirschorn
Other versions of this track
After spending a year in Greece, Mark Cohen returned to New York City in 1972 and found his place in the Greenwich Village folk scene. He released two albums in the late ‘70s: Fare Well, Traveller (1977) and Plutonium (1979), for Folkways Records.
He still plays various venues in the New York region and regularly records with his band, The Spirits. For upcoming shows, check www.cohenandthespirits.net. We’ve included the title track from his latest album below, entitled “Thank God For You” (available here).