When an artist covers a song, it can be seen as an improvement, an homage, or a desecration (see Madonna’s “American Pie”). But 1980s pop star Annie Lennox’s latest soulful cut of “Georgia On My Mind”—recently released in advance of her Oct. 27 collection of standards Nostalgia—is just a reminder of what a timeless masterpiece it is.
After it was penned by jazz bandleader Hoagy Carmichael (an Indiana native) in 1930, there was debate as to whether the song addressed our fair state or an eponymous woman. When Georgia-born Ray Charles recorded the definitive version in 1960, and then when he performed it before the State General Assembly in 1979, the same year it became the official state song, any doubt about the artwork’s muse was thought to have been eradicated. But on her website, former Eurythmic Lennox tries to re-open the case:
It contains the wishful feeling you get about a place you’ve loved—especially when it’s changed or it no longer exists. It’s like the essence of deep homesickness. I get the sense that Ray Charles most likely sang it with a woman in mind, but, then again, he could have been singing about a place. It actually doesn’t matter whether it’s about a place or a person. It’s just a really tender vibe!
It may not matter to the Scottish songstress, but it matters to us. Nevertheless, Lennox’s rendition is a welcome addition to the state archives—whether she thinks she’s singing about our homeland or not.