Case in point, "Folsom Prison Blues," by Johnny Cash. For those who don't know the song, listen to this.
Just so you know that this song can be done differently, here it is live.
So you can hear it's a little more upbeat in it's live version. However, the mood is still dark.
Then you get crap from American Idol like this:
Really asshole? I mean, Johnny Cash would shoot you in Hollywood just to keep you from playing his song like that. What the Hell man? Instead of solemn and sad, it's completely upbeat and exciting. This guy isn't the only one to do this.
It's not just men. Women can screw it up too. I mean, do you not know what it means to "shoot a man in Reno?" It's nothing to get happy about!
So I know what you might be saying/thinking, "Well, after a few years I'm sure Johnny Cash changed it up so as to make it more upbeat or different. Well check this out from Johnny Cash near the end of his career:
Still, 40 years later, it's not that different from his live version all those years later.
Still, I see it in local bands when playing out. I don't want to name names of amateurs, but I've seen too many try to play "Folsom Prison" fast, upbeat, and all happy like. It's just very irritating. Actually, I saw one guy play it with so much gain, I thought he was trying to play something from Social Distortion. In other words, these guys:
It actually reminds me of something someone did to R.E.M.'s "Losing my Religion." The guy, I should call him a genius, never changed a lyric, a beat, or the instruments. He only changed one note from a minor to a major, and completely changed the song. Really, listen to this.
See what going from a minor key to a major key will do? It changes everything! And that's the point I am making with all these "artists" screwing up Johnny Cash's best known song.
The only band I've ever known to sing it upbeat, and get it right is the Gin Blossoms.
I think the reason they got it right is they have the Tempe, Az. sort of rock going on. They also sing songs about being depressed so it kind of fits right in with what they're doing.
In closing I want to say that I understand trying to make a song your own. But just destroying it to force it in your style is just too much. Better yet, if you are going to sing karaoke, just skip "Folsom Prison Blues."