“It was all, ‘You’ve got to look this way,’ ‘write this kind of song this way,’ I got really disillusioned with the Christian Music industry,” –Derrick Harris
Created as a gift for Brian Wilson on his 60th birthday, Making God Smile is not just a collection of covers. In fact, it may be completely unique as the only album of covers devoted to a secular band, from a group of artists known mostly for explicitly Christian music. This type of tribute is tried often in a much more subtle way by too many contemporary Christian artists, with head-shaking results. “Are you a big fan of Green Day? Well try Resurrection Day! Or if you can’t get enough of Rascal Flatts, give a listen to the debut album from He’ll Be Back!” Many of these “tribute” bands last only an album or two before the winds of fashion usher them out for the Jesus version of Lady Gaga.
Derrick Harris shows up on Track 13 with “Don’t Worry Baby”. The safe route to take with a cover is to stay true to the original, but in my opinion, what is the point? It’s almost always better in that case to listen to the original. The type of cover that is most remembered is the one that turns in a completely different direction (think Ike and Tina’s “Proud Mary). Harris goes the latter route in his cover of “Don’t Worry”, stripping away the big sound and bigger harmonies in favor of just his guitar and some piano, and succeeds brilliantly.
The opening guitar states Derrick’s intentions right from the first strum, this won’t be what you’re used to hearing in this classic song. While the harmonies in the original are some of the most amazing in pop music history, the song more than survives the strip-down that Harris gives it, showing that it’s good enough to shine in a completely different presentation. Once it reaches the instrumental break, where Wilson himself showed restraint in comparison to the rest of the song, Harris introduces a prominent piano, played with a far-away feel that suits his style perfectly.
This cover keeps all the lyrics intact, so it’s completely 1964 vintage. Penned by Roger Christian, the lyrics are a more matured version of his previous “car songs”, recorded by the Beach Boys and other ’60s bands. Here, the car serves only as a driver of conflict for the singer to express his trepidation about life. He brags recklessly about racing, but then has to back it up. His only comfort from fear of failure being his Love, who “makes me want to drive, when she says don’t worry baby”. Many other reviewers have pointed out the metaphor that the race serves for teenage fears of growing up and taking responsibility for life. This is preserved intact with Harris’ version, and it’s notable that he doesn’t add or subtract words for his own purposes.
In my experience with friends to whom I’ve given this album as an introduction to the lesser-known tracks of Beach Boys music, I’ve been convinced that it could stand on its own without the “tribute” tag featured on the cover. These are wholly rethought works that remain true to the original vision and shed light on tracks overlooked even by Beach Boys fans. As reviewer Bret Wheadon states about the album:”The focus of the producers was to show off Brian’s innate spirituality that he’s often expressed in his favorite songs, and the artists here succeed brilliantly.”
“Don’t Worry Baby”, more than any other track on this disc represents this ability to make something new out of something already great, while highlighting the deeper themes of Wilson’s music.Preview Don't Worry Baby