Connie Smith’s version of “Once a Day” (written by Bill Anderson) is a strangely addicting country classic. The song is incredibly simple. Basically, here’s the premise. There’s a girl who is sad. She is sad because her lover has found someone new. But time has passed, and she is here to report that she only cries once a day. But it’s once a day all day long. And once a night, the whole night through. That’s key. She is clearly still heartsick. She hasn’t recovered and she’ll never forget, even though she swears time will take the pain away. There’s some more detail to the song but that’s basically it. Now Connie Smith’s version still holds up, mainly because it’s the original. But better versions followed, with each musician covering the song in their own distinctive style. There’s Loretta Lynn, who basically owns the song with her Kentucky bluegrass twang, and the effortless power and versatility of her voice, which is clearly more dynamic than Connie’s (though Connie has her moments):
Then there’s Van Morrison’s version, which is filled with soulfulness. Van Morrison sings the song like he’s telling a story, but with lots of pathos. And his voice is so original; broken, off beat, brooding, and bluesy, but somehow still controlled. For some reason he makes me think that the person crying all day long must be an alcoholic, which would make sense:
Then there’s Mike Ness of Social Distortion fame, who gives us a punk rock version of “Once a Day.” Mike doesn’t give a crap about getting the rhythym and cadence right; his voice is scratchy and his mood angsty. He’s clearly pissed that he’s been crying all day and all night. He’s a rocker and he shouldn’t be reduced to tears.
Who wins out? Loretta is one of my favorite humans so I’m partial to her, but Van Morrison–in terms of interpretative style and soul–just crushes it. So personal. So he takes the crown. For this song.