This cover is by The National with St. Vincent singing a duet with The National’s singer. The original, by Crooked Fingers, is also a male/female duet, so this works nicely. Indeed, having listened to the original, there’s not a lot of difference between these two versions.
The singer from The National has a distinctively deep voice. And I really like St Vincent, although on this song, she’s not really doing anything amazing, she’s just singing (very nicely, but she could be anyone).
It’s a perfectly nice song, in both versions. The original is a bit more interesting musically, but I like the vocals in the new version better.
[READ: March 15, 2012] “Gentleman’s Servant”
If you have read my other three posts about articles from Colonial Williamsburg, you have seen the cover of this magazine. And, man, does it make me uncomfortable. About as uncomfortable as I feared this article was going to make me. I almost didn’t read it. In the previous article I mentioned how the photos look…wrong. And none look more wrong to me than the series of pictures for this article.
However, this article was not about slaves exactly. It was more about servants or valets. The article immediately puts us at our ease by telling us that there are schools today that teach how to be a valet, primarily in England. And they make it out to be not such a bad gig. It puts me in mind of Jeeves and Wooster, and what a lark it must all be.
Of course in the 18th century things were quite different (although it is described as similar duties–caring for the master and the master’s clothes and horse and such). This paragraph tucks in a key phrase as it tries to make it all seem casual:
The ideal British valet of the Georgian era comported himself as a gentleman, too. Virginia waiting men, most enslaved, were to maintain elegance of deportment, but to be unequivocally subservient. Still, they carried themselves differently from other slaves.
Interestingly, it sounds like the waiting man was treated quite well, much better than other slaves–allowed to sleep indoors, for instance. He was also educated (to increase his value). Some slaves were eventually raised to the position of waiting man but others, those who misbehaved, were demoted from the position.
The valet knew everything about his master–that was his job. This gave him unusual advantages in many situations, it even meant certain kinds of freedom. If a slave was known to be a valet, he could more or less go about his business, especially if he was able to forge papers.
This is a strange article because it makes a certain kid of slavery seem not that bad. I know that’s not the point, but it is a little uncomfortable. Of course, history is often uncomfortable. And once in a while you have to read it from the wealthy landowner’s point of view as well, I guess.
Although honestly getting paid to be a valet today might not be such a bad deal–a skilled valet in the UK can earn about $72,000 a year (in addition to accommodations and living expenses). Not too shabby.