Ghouls? What?

Ghouls – An Editorial by Dawoud Kringle

“The howling of ghouls is a familiar howl drawing you to the abyss.” – Rumi

For those of you who did not grow up on Vincent Price movies like I did, a ghoul is a malignant djinn from ancient Arabic folklore, and introduced into European folklore in the 18th century. Ghouls are notoriously well known for defiling graves and eating the corpses.

I bring this up because former One Direction boy-band singer Zayn Malik released a duet with Jimi Hendrix.

He accomplished this amazing feat by recording his own voice over the original track of the posthumously released song Angel. This was done with the permission and support of Hendrix Experience LLC (a corporation that controls all of Hendrix’ music, and run by Jaime Hendrix, a greedy, manipulative woman who maneuvered her way into being the sole owner and controller of Hendrix’ estate). This painting of a moustache on the Mona Lisa is Malik’s and Hendrix Experience LLC’s idea of paying tribute to Jimi Hendirx’ 80th birthday (which happened on November 27th, 2022. To be fair, they also released a beautifully remixed and mastered recording of Hendrix’s 1969 performance at the LA Forum).

These ghoulish addendums to recordings by deceased masters is nothing new. Alicia Keys opened the 50th Grammy Awards Ceremony by doing a “duet” with a hologram of Frank Sinatra. Kenny G robbed Louis Armstrong’s grave with a recording and video of What A Wonderful World. And for God knows what reason, Randy Bachman sang some faux-jazz crap over the great Lenny Breau‘s Quiet Blue.

The production staff of record companies who dream up these bizarre projects are, of course, only interested in generating profit. There is no other reason for them to do so. And I have nothing against their pursuit of financial gains. But there has to be a sense of integrity. What one sells must be of good quality based on a sound concept.

And the artists who execute it claim, and may even believe, that they are paying tribute to the late masters, and building on their legacy. But this is not true.

Mind you, I am not saying there’s anything wrong with covers. Covers are an essential part and process of extending the musical possibilities latent within a piece of music. Even with European classical music, which is based almost entirely upon covers, personal interpretation is a large part of its paradgin of artistry. Personally, I don’t even have a problem with sampling (provided the owners / creators of the original are acknowledged and compensated). There are countless examples of sampling done in brilliant and artistic ways.

And I will even give a pass to people like Natalie Cole and Dweezil Zappa who did their own techno-necromantic duets with their parent’s recordings.

But for the rest of us, overdubbing one’s own (often half-assed) performance over a classic is like installing a dance floor with laser lights and stripper poles in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It’s worse than the pitiful imitators in “tribute” bands. It presumes to not only improve upon but claim a place in a legacy they have not earned and will never deserve.

To add insult to injury, there are actually people who like this kind of thing and praise it for all of the qualities it can never achieve! I’ve read and heard with my own ears these kudos, and I’m shocked into speechlessness.

In an effort to be completely objective, I gave Malik’s superimposition on the Hendrix classic a fair hearing before I went off half-cocked writing this blistering editorial. And it was AWFUL! He defiled the monumentally beautiful and impassioned original work by one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century with the impotent whining of a lobotomized eunuch. It’s actually worse than Kenny G’s milquetoast slime irreverently spewing out of his soprano saxophone all over Sachmo!

But don’t take my word for it. For those of you who wish to contaminate your ears with the abomination Malik and Hendrix Experience LLC released into the world, here it is:

What’s next? Justin Beiber rapping with Tupac Shakur on Me Against The World? Cardi B singing with Bob Marely on No Woman No Cry?

I understand that my boomer-ish ranting will do little to nothing to stop this kind of grave robbing. Good musical taste is subjective and sanity is not determined by statistics alone. And as long as a dollar is to be made, someone will do it.

But dress a ghoul in an expensive suit, and it is still, and will always be, a ghoul.