Saturday, 16 December 2017

Eddie Floyd's Knock on Wood - an un-replicable classic

There is no better Soul-R&B recording that Eddie Floyd singing Knock on Wood - it has been covered many times, but all cover versions are hoplessly inferior - why?

The reason is quite simple: the rhythm section - bass and rhythm guitars and drums (the keyboards can only be heard in the 'middle eight' from 1:46).

Eddie Floyd's singing is great, the brass section is great, the main introducing riff is one of the best ever and supplemented by a superb second riff in the verses... But it is the rhythm playing which cannot be replicated, and that is due to its syncopation.

Syncopation is the hardest thing to do well (as a broad generalisation!) - and the Stax-label house-band (aka Booker T and the MGs) that played with Eddie Floyd was a group of first rate musicians that played together A Lot.

Also they were mostly black (an exception was the genius rhythm guitarist Steve Cropper, who co-wrote and played on Knock on Wood); and most of the best players of syncopation-based music are 'American' blacks (who invented it, with ragtime - and several other forms including ska/ reggae).

This probably means that this music has become essentially un-replicable in modern times - since 'rap' displaced singing among blacks, synthesiser replaced real-instruments, and house-bands are a thing of the past...

Still, we have the recordings: what I said about Knock on Wood also applies in essence to Hold on I'm Coming, by Sam and Dave - although the vocals in KoW are another major reason why it is de facto un-replicable.


  1. Why the inverted commas around 'American'?

  2. To include North and South parts of the continent, and the West Indies - 'the Americas'.

  3. I agree with your evaluation of Booker T & The MGs, but to be racially fair we should note they were 50/50 white/black. Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn (almost as good a bass player as Cropper is a guitar player) were white; the eponymous Booker T. Jones and Al Jackson (a drummer so precise he was called "the Timekeeper"; murdered in mysterious circumstances in 1975) were black. To see them in action in living colour, watch the film of Otis Redding, the real King of Soul, performing at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967...

  4. I hate rap with a passion. It permanently ruined American music by amputation. An entire branch of American creativity a river of music that nourished heart and soul died.

    Now it's all broken apart ghettos growing apart sterile and strange.

  5. Toots Hibbert's version of Knock On Wood is just as good to my ears although it owes so much to the original.

  6. @LP - Absolutely. Given the spontaneous power of singing, of the singing voice, how it moves people of so many types in so many places... To eliminate this - and to somehow sustain Not-singing as a norm for nearly 40 years so far - represents a great triumph of evil.