What makes us like a song? The first time I heard Romeo & Juliet was a cover version by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. It’s a raw version and I was gripped by the naked emotion of Ray’s voice and her exposed acoustic guitar. In college this song was on my top-10 favorites list, and years later when my sister and I saw the Indigo Girls in concert at Red Rocks, we barely breathed when Ray pulled this one out and transfixed us.
I was unaware for many years this is a Dire Straits song. The first time I heard their original version on the radio, I did a double-take. This was before Spotify or Shazam and it took a few more accidental encounters with the song before I learned that Mark Knopfler wrote it and Dire Straits released it in 1980, a dozen years before the Indigo Girls covered it. Whichever version you prefer, Knopfler did a great service for the world when he wrote this song.
Over the years I’ve seen passionate comments both ways – some say the Dire Straits version is the original and best; the Indigo Girls ruined everything about it. Indigo Girls fans vehemently argue that Amy Ray exposed the intense emotional undercurrent, while Dire Straits fans counter that it’s the undercurrent that makes the original version so compelling – the energy is intense but buried, and that’s the hallmark of a true artist.
Arguments become fierce and sometimes even aggressive. Who’s right?
I encourage you to listen to both versions. Over the years, the Dire Straits version has worked its way into my regular playlist while the Indigo Girls version is still one of my go-to songs when I want to feel raw emotion. For me there is space for both.