Songs of love and hate: When musicians pen tracks to each other

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Cat Power has just released a hymn to Bob Dylan. She's by no means the only musician to reference another

When Cat Power wrote her steamy open letter to Bob Dylan, "Song for Bobby", for her new covers album Jukebox, she was following a long tradition.

It was a nod not only to Dylan's own "Song to Woody", but to all the words musicians have felt moved to write to each other. Dylan has attracted more than his share, usually bemoaning his latest direction (as with David Bowie's "Song for Bob Dylan" in 1971).

But many others have wanted to get their point across to peers and rivals in the most public way possible. As with Lily Allen's implicitly bitchy "Cheryl Tweedy", or 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G.'s fatal feud, the sniping can be lacerating – the more so when the rock stars in question know each other uncomfortably well.



CAT POWER to BOB DYLAN
'Song for Bobby' (2008)
This sultry number was inspired by Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) meeting her hero in Paris last year. She presents herself as a crazed stalker-fan. Marshall's knowingly giddy confession ends with her disbelief at Dylan "supposedly asking to see me", before blurting, "I want you to be my man!"

Watch Cat Power performing 'Song For Bobby' live







BOB DYLAN TO WOODY GUTHRIE
'Song to Woody' (1961)
This was an ambitious 21-year-old's tip of the hat to an elder. He was taking pilgrimages to the Huntington's Disease-stricken radical singer – and adopting his sick, gasping voice – at the time. But he was also using Guthrie as a sounding board to sketch out his future. "The very last thing I'd like to do," he concludes, "is to say I've been hittin' some hard travellin' too". His Never-Ending Tour, and last album set in a Thirties of the mind, start here.

JOHN LENNON to PAUL McCARTNEY
'How Do You Sleep?' (1971)
The bitterly litigious end to The Beatles boiled over in this vicious attack by Lennon on his songwriting ex. "So Sgt Pepper took you by surprise," he begins. Subsequent lyrics align Lennon with the "freaks" and McCartney with "straights", with the latter's career "muzak to my ears". Lennon later claimed the song was written to himself. An even more bilious take chosen by Yoko for the Imagine movie, with the equally disgruntled George Harrison riding shotgun, makes it plain there was only one target.

PAUL McCARTNEY to JOHN LENNON
'Here Today' (1982)
McCartney's initial riposte was Band On the Run's note-perfect Lennon parody "Let Me Roll It", and that album's sheer quality. But Lennon's 1980 murder also inspired McCartney's last great song. Set to brooding "Eleanor Rigby" strings, it is a haiku-elegant, emotionally naked memoir: "I still remember how it was before/and I am holding back the tears no more". An attempt to conjure Lennon by writing to him beyond the grave, it imagines his acerbic response – a final, fantasy collaboration.

PINK FLOYD to SYD BARRETT
'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' (1975)
Pink Floyd seemed to suffer survivors' guilt as they built stadium success on the foundations set by lost leader Syd Barrett, let go as his mind collapsed in 1968. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" beamed out a cosmic message of support to Syd, wherever he might be: "Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun..." It also implicitly acknowledged the "black hole" he left at their music's core, his loss powering their lucrative melancholy.

LYNYRD SKYNYRD to NEIL YOUNG
'Sweet Home Alabama' (1974)
"Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her/ Well, I heard ol' Neil put her down/ Well, I hope Neil Young will remember/ don't need him around anyhow." Skynyrd songwriter Ronnie Van Zant's response to Young's lurid vision of black people "screamin' and bullwhips cracking" in "Southern Man" (1970), and the similarly hostile "Alabama" (1972), sounded like a declaration of war. That it was the signal in Skynyrd concerts to unfurl the Confederate flag reinforced the impression. In reality, the band were Young fans, and the song mostly attacked his self-righteousness.

JAY-Z to NAS
'Takeover' (2001)
NAS to JAY-Z
'Ether' (2001)
After The Notorious B.I.G.'s murder in 1997, Jay-Z and Nas were the initially friendly rivals for New York's rap crown. "Takeover" turned this into a five-year feud. Over a pumped-up Doors sample, Jay-Z sneers at the veteran Nas's "one hot album every 10-year average", and alludes to having sex with Carmen Bryant, Nas's ex and the mother of his child. Nas hit back twice as hard with "Ether", dismantling Jay-Z's sexuality, even, most cruelly, pitying him ("what's sad is, I love you... you traded your soul for riches"). To be "ethered" became a verb for ruthlessness in hip-hop. Subsequent bouts saw Jay-Z's mum tell him he'd gone too far, and Nas try to hang a Jay-Z effigy. Both rappers, having benefited from the publicity, guested on each other's last albums.

PETE DOHERTY and CARL BARAT to each other
'Can't Stand Me Now' (2004)
The Libertines' final album was made in a spirit of fractious exhaustion between leaders Barat and Doherty, after the latter burgled Barat's flat. "Your light fingers... into darkness cast us," Barat chides. Voices collide, as each puts his case: "Have we enough to keep it together/ Or do we just keep on pretending, and hope our luck is never ending?" Here was the answer. They were finished.

Watch The Libertines' video for 'Can't Stand Me Now







'Jukebox', by Cat Power, is out on Matador

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy