1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Master Jack”

Master Jack – Four Jacks & A Jill

Master Jack - Four Jacks & A Jill

Master Jack – Four Jacks & A Jill

‘Master Jack’ has been one of the most successful South African songs on the US Billboard charts. Yes, we had seen Hugh Masakela top the US charts with ‘Grazing In The Grass’, but that was recorded and produced in the US while the Four Jacks & A Jill version of ‘Master Jack’ was completely recorded and produced in South Africa. With its simple guitar tune, Glenys Lynne’s innocent vocals and positive lyrics, the song made its way to number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would also make it to number 33 in Germany as the band recorded a German version of it. This would inspire cover versions by the likes of Trini Lopez and German singer Heidi Bruhl.

The song was written by David Marks and some interpretations of the lyrics are that it was referring to BJ Vorster, who would become the Prime Minister of South Africa, while others think that it related to Hendrik Verwoed, the architect of apartheid. Some say that Master Jack refers to a mine foreman, an interpretation that holds water as Marks did work on the mines. Marks himself has also said that the assassination of Hendrik Verwoed helped him to complete the song, so it seems there are a number of ‘faces’ to this Master Jack.

However you chose to interpret the song, nothing can take away the beauty and simplicity of the Four Jacks & A Jill version which is a gentle track that floats on a cloud of melancholy with a pensive angel on lead vocals, harmonising with the other angels who have traded in their harps for a folk guitar. ‘Master Jack’ is a South African classic and will be with us for a long time, as long as we live in a strange, strange world.

Where to find it:
The Heart And Soul Of – Four Jacks & A Jill (2001), Gallo, CDREDD 661


Master Jack – David Marks

Hidden Years - David Marks

Hidden Years – David Marks

Sometimes it’s better to have someone else sing the songs you write and when you listen to David Marks working his way through this classic tune that he penned you can’t help yearing for the flowery pop of the Four Jacks and the beautiful voice of Jill (Glenys Lynne). However, there is something strange, strange and alluring about this version which can be found on David Marks’ album ‘The Hidden Year’.

He slows the song down, dismisses that lovely plucked guitar work and replaces it with a lush orchestration and electric guitar. It must also be said that Marks does not have the best singing voice (but better than some that have committed their voice to vinyl – Anneline Kriel springing immediately to mind) and he puts emphasis on words in what I would regard as strange, strange places.

Despite all this, Marks’ version is interesting as it gives one an insight into perhaps how the song originally sounded in his mind and its not often you get to hear this where the artist who had a hit with a song is not the one who wrote it. And here we get the idea that this song was about the beauty of the world around us, not only from the lyrics, but from the way Marks sings and arranges this version. There is a sense of a person in a beautiful landscape, with a wide sky full of stars above them, slowly swirling round to take it all in. There is a depth to this version that Four Jacks and A Jill’s one never had. Both are great tracks to listen to, Four Jacks for those frivolous moments when you don’t feel like deeper feelings, but just want to be happy, and Marks’ version for when you want to sit back and contemplate life, the universe and everything.

Where to find it:
David Marks – The Hidden Years – Songs from 1964 to 1994, 3rd Ear Music, 3eM CD 003

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