Kovers of Koos Kombuis’ song abound. Some are great and some not. A lot are covers of ‘Lisa Se Klavier’, this one is not. This one opens the Kombuis tribute album ‘Kombuis Musiek’ and, in my humble opinion, is the best track on that album.
Opperman was probably better known as an actor than a singer, coming to South Africa’s attention as Neels, the car mechanic in the sitcom ‘Orkney Snork Nie’ and having a role in the film ‘Boetie Gaan Border Toe’. However, in 1999 he turned his hand (or should that be voice) to singing and produced a great album called ‘Serial Boyfriend’ with a band called Prime Time Addiction. It was probably on the strength of that album that he was asked to submit a cover version for the ‘Kombuis Musiek’ compilation.
‘Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie’ starts off with a contemplative piano (is that Lisa playing?) before a relaxed beat starts and then Frank’s gruff vocals come like rough sandpaper over the smooth music. And it is the juxtaposition of the relaxed, melancholic instrumentation against the dirty and almost disturbing vocals that make this cover work. It gives one a feeling of being safe while travelling through a land littered with outcasts and junkies, needles strewn around the place, people lying around looking dead, a sort of voyeuristic feeling.
Opperman seems to get to the core of the song, a sense of caring about ‘Johnny’, yet acknowledging that the world that he lives in is seedy and fraught. A classic cover of a classic song.
Where to find it:
Kombuis Musiek – Various Artist, Fresh music (2002),FESHCD125