I like Sheryl Crow"s version of "The First Cut Is the Deepest."I remember hearing another version many years ago. Who sang it thefirst time?

"The First Cut Is the Deepest" is a song that has proven to bedurable and timeless. It was written in the mid-"60s by a Britishmusician named Steven Demetri Georgiou, better known as CatStevens. In May 1967, American soul singer P. P. Arnold had a Top20 hit in the U.K. with the song.

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Later in 1967, the song was included on Cat Stevens" secondalbum, "New Masters." Although he had a few U.K. hits in themid-to-late "60s, Stevens would reach his peak in the early "70swhen songs like "Peace Train" and "Morning Has Broken" became hitson both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1976, Rod Stewart recorded another version of "The First CutIs the Deepest" and included it on his million-selling album, "ANight on the Town." While it reached No. 1 in the U.K. in April1977, Stewart"s version was only a moderate hit in the U.S. as itonly reached No. 21. Sheryl Crow"s recording is the highestcharting version to date in the U.S. Included on her 2003compilation album, "The Very Best of Sheryl Crow," it is currentlyapproaching the Top 10.

I was listening to the Beatles" "Let It Be album" recently andheard George Harrison exclaim, "Elmore James has nothing on thisbaby!" during one of the instrumental sections of "For You Blue."Who is Elmore James?

Elmore James is considered by many to be the most influentialslide guitarist of the post-war period and the benchmark for allpractitioners of the art who have followed. It was therefore withtongue firmly planted in cheek that George Harrison made hishumorous comment to John Lennon about Lennon"s slide work duringthe recording of "For You Blue." Born in Richland, Miss., inJanuary 1918, James began playing the Delta Blues at an early age.His guitar was homemade and he used a bottleneck as a slide.

By his early teens, he had made a name for himself locally andby the time he was 20, he had already played with other blueslegends as Robert Johnson, Howlin" Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson.It is rumored that in 1939 he played with one band that featureddrums. If true, then he was among the very first musicians to blendDelta Blues with electrification and percussion.

Following naval service during World War II, James moved toMemphis and performed with Eddie Taylor and his cousin, HomesickJames. During the end of a Sonny Boy Williamson session, producerLillian McMurry quietly recorded James playing his version ofRobert Johnson"s "Dust My Broom," which became an R&B hit in1951 and launched James" recording career. In 1953, James moved toChicago and became one of the first great bluesmen from that cityand a pioneer in electric blues.

In May 1963, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was inductedinto the Blues Foundation"s Hall of Fame in 1980 and into the Rockand Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

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I"ve heard that members of Guns N" Roses tried to block therelease of their "Greatest Hits" album. Why?

Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan filed a lawsuit in early Marchseeking a temporary restraining order against Geffen Recordsbecause they felt that "Greatest Hits" was not representative ofthe group"s best work. They complained that they were not consultedabout the tracks selected for the album and that they did notauthorize Geffen to remaster some of the songs. Geffen isreportedly tired of waiting for Rose, the last original member ofthe group, to deliver a new album. So, after more than 10 years ofwaiting, they decided to issue a greatest hits album to recoup someof the money they"ve already spent on recording the latest andstill not completed Guns N" Roses album. In the end, a judge sidedwith Geffen and refused to issue a restraining order. "GreatestHits" was released on March 23.

Bradford Brady is a freelance music writer based in Raleigh,N.C. His column will appear Wednesdays on the Entertainment page.Send questions and comments to:

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