In 1959 Bobby “Blue” Bland recorded a tune penned by Brook Benton that would become a blues classic. “I’ll Take Care of You” has been recorded over a dozen times by everyone from Etta James to Elvis Costello. The original record is a slow 6/8 ballad (think Ray Charles’ “I Believe”, Theo Huxtable begging to Justine, or Alicia Keys’ “Fallen”) with soothing Blue Bland vocals gliding over the top. Despite my knowing him for his guttural growl and rasp, it is replaced in this song with a sympathetic moan that fits with the lyrics and the instrumental. Thirteen years later Margie Joseph recorded my personal favorite version of the song and closer to what I would’ve expected a Bobby Blue Bland song to sound like.
Fast forward through several iterations of “I’ll Take Care of You” to 2010, when spoken word artist and musician Gil Scott-Heron recorded his last studio record I’m New Here. It has an acoustic adaptation of “I’ll Take Care of You” with piano, strings and bass drum. Gil Scott-Heron’s vocals are extremely gritty and seemingly a slightly off kilter, but not in a bad way. His voice, along with the slow block piano chords and steady bass drum, is haunting, weary and convincing.
Richard Russell produced the album I’m New Here and said that he was heavily influenced by London-based group The xx. With permission from Gil Scott-Heron, he convinced the band’s percussionist/producer Jamie “Jamie xx” Smith to remixed Gil Scott-Heron’s album. We’re New Here was released in 2011 and contained an electronic dance version of “I’ll Take Care of You“. Jamie xx only used Gil Scott-Heron’s vocals but took advantage of the foundation the bass drum laid and turned it to a 2/2 pop song. I appreciate the work that went into “I’ll Take Care of You” remix. The precision it took to put seam together sliced Gil Scott vocals at the 2:00 minute mark is amazing. The very first time I heard it I thought it was some tribal sample, then I realized it was all taken from the original Gil Scott-Heron vocal performance of the song. On We’re New Here “I’ll Take Care of You” is introduced with the interlude “Jazz” where Scott-Heron explains how he equates jazz music with dance music. I think it’s a great introduction into why the song can be flipped in such a way.
In 2012 Drake released “Take Care” as a single from his 2011 album of the same name. It featured Rihanna on vocals. It heavily samples the Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx version. Rihanna does her take of the first verse of “I’ll Take Care of You” and Drake adds a few re-worked parts from the original song as well. I actually think this is a perfect song for Drake to cover considering his ability to walk the fine line of sad emotional rapper and hip-pop stardom. Even though this song has had several arrangements I think the character and spirit of the original piece still comes through in every interpretation.
Bobby “Blue” Bland
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx
Drake feat. Rihanna