Ed Sheeran burst onto the scene in the U.S. this year with his folky song “The A-Team.” Now he’s showing fans and even more stripped down, if you can believe it, look at his talent in a cover of Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband.”
Simone recorded the song for her 1965 album Pastel Blues, which also includes her version of “Strange Fruit” and one of her definitive hits, “Sinnerman.” The original arrangement of “Be My Husband” finds Simone accompanied by handclaps and a hi-hat. Sheeran covers it in similar fashion, introducing the song by saying, “Been awhile since I’ve done this,” and proceeding to use a looping effect pedal to capture his vocals and the sound effects he creates on his guitar. The technology enables him to sound as if he’s backed up by a crew of singers and percussionists when, in reality, he’s performing alone.
The lyrics offer an interesting look at the dynamics of male/female relationships in the mid-60s. A man, writing from the point of view of a woman, suggests she wants fidelity (“Stick to the promise, man, that you made me/That you stay away from Rosalie, yeah”), that she will barter womanly skills for his love (“If you want me to cook and sew, yeah/Outside of you there is no place to go”) and that she loves him in spite of his bad temper (“Please don’t treat me so now doggone mean, yeah/You’re the meanest man I ever see”).
“Be My Husband” was written by her then husband and manager Andrew Stroud. Stroud was a police officer who married Simone in 1961. He left the force to manager her career. He wrote and produced some songs for her during her 1960′s era career, when she was largely involved in vocalizing her support for the Civil Rights movement.
“Be My Husband” has a been covered by male troubadours before, including Jeff Buckley, who changed the title to “Be Your Husband,” and Damian Rice with Lisa Hannigan. Sheeran recorded this cover during a Live Room concert in Chicago’s Hinge Studio. He has been performing a similar version of the song in his winter and spring of 2012 tours.