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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 09:28 GMT
Cover versions: Gilberto Gil
All this week, BBC World Service's The World Today programme is looking at cover versions - songs re-recorded by another artist - to find what makes a great cover, and why.

Gilberto Gil - now a minister in the Brazilian government - is one of the most influential men in modern South American pop music history. Here, he talks about his cover of Bob Marley's classic record, No Woman No Cry.

The first feeling I had was something like, 'Wow, what a song and what a melody - what an original element'.

Gilberto Gil
Gil is Brazil's culture minister
It was all surprising for me, the original impact of Bob's voice.

Afterwards, knowing and listening more deeply, and knowing the meaning of the words and everything, I decided to do a version in Portuguese.

At the time, we were living under dictatorship in Brazil - a very hard dictatorship.

People had been tortured, imprisoned and exiled. I was exiled myself - I came to London.

So I decided to talk about that, to transport the song to a Brazilian location [the reference to a "government yard in Trenchtown" becomes Rio's Flamengo Park in Gil's version], and also to adapt it to the Brazilian political situation - but keeping the original protest song element that the song has.

We were going through very difficult times - lots of people being tortured and killed and being expelled from Brazil.

"Good friends we've had arrested and taken away" was put in place of the original's "good friends we've had and good friends we've lost".

I had been in prison myself, some years before.

The song is about the suffering - and at the same time the sharing of happiness, despite adversity.

It's a social song, it's a protest song.

Brazilians in general - and blacks in particular - identify a lot with Marley.

So I think that this is the first connection. But behind it all is the music, in a very essential way. It flows. The incredible, original, surprising element that reggae brought to music scene - those elements are upfront.

The politics and everything comes second.

I've never been idealistic, and I've never been one of those who believes that we can really change the world.

We try to change the world, but the world continues to be what it's been.

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Gilberto Gil
"Brazilians in general - and blacks in particular - identify a lot with Marley"

Listeners' poll
Laurence Pollard counts down World Today listeners' top 5 cover versions

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