There’s a few reasons I posted this tune, but first and foremost; it’s really really good. Seriously, listen to it and tell me you do not like it. Fantastically harmonic, groovy and certainly soulful; it’s no surprise it crossed over to pop audiences when released in 1966. No, the real surprise is that jazz musicians still liked it. Unlike the cringing and face-palming following any rendition of “Birdland” and “Chameleon”, nobody is particularly bothered with how smooth Mercy, Mercy, Mercy is. It’s a piece that’s simply the sign of a remarkable composer, of a beautiful, undying tune.

Which was precisely the point. Amidst times of conflict (as so many 60s songs were written), Mercy, Mercy, Mercy was open about its message of love, forgiveness and all that hippie shit. But nobody could ever say it quite as well as how Cannonball introduces the song himself: “Sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity. When it happens sometimes we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up. Sometimes we don’t know, just what to do when adversity takes over. And I have advice for all of us. I got it from my pianist Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune. And it sounds like what you’re supposed to say when you have that kinda problem. It’s called Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

I could rave on about how it was a watershed moment in Zawinul’s career, in which he truly hit his compositional spark that led the way for his work with Miles Davis as a co-founder of fusion, or how it was the first glimpse of the Weather Report sound. But I don’t have to. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy stands up by itself. Any label of post-bop, soul jazz or proto-fusion doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

And if all this praise makes the tune itself seem anti-climactic, then you’ve just missed the point of what great music is.

Advertisements