Guitarist Randy Bachman recently sat down with Guitar Player and told the story of how Guess Who’s ‘American Woman’ came to be. Randy explained that the song in fact was written in front of the audience after a technical issue occurred, and later it was recorded with Burton Cummings’ lyrics.
Bachman mentioned how ‘American Woman’ stood out among Guess Who’s other hits, and how popular it became since the 70s with other musicians covering their song:
“The Guess Who were on a roll at the time. We’d had hits with ‘These Eyes,’ ‘Undun,’ ‘Laughing’ and ‘No Time.’ We had recorded a cover of [the Buck Owens song] ‘Close Up the Honky Tonks,’ so we played that over the phone for the people at our label, RCA. There was dead silence on the other end.
Then we played them ‘American Woman,’ and there was cheering and whistling over the phone. They were all going, ‘This is a number-one song!’ And sure enough, it was. Other people have covered the song. Kelly Clarkson did an Aretha Franklin-like version, which I thought was terrific.”
The guitarist also told how ‘American Woman’ resurfaced in 1998 by Lenny Kravitz, and how he felt when he heard Kravitz’s version:
“And Lenny Kravitz did it, of course. I didn’t like his version at first, but one day my 14-year-old daughter came home from school and said, ‘Dad, all my friends think you’re really cool.’ I asked her why, and she said, ‘Because Lenny Kravitz did your song!’ That’s what happens. People do the song and it becomes relevant again.”
Below, you can listen to the original ‘American Woman,’ and Lenny Kravitz’s cover.