In 1969, Joe South had a hit with “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” a peppy track he wrote about racial discrimination. Before you abuse, criticize and accuse/ Walk a mile in my shoes, he sings, simple sentiment. When the chorus comes in, South is joined by an ungainly crew who chants as much as sings, unwieldy groupthink more effective than anything pretty and singular. Soon after, the song was covered by powerful singers like Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, and eventually Elvis, in his ungainly period. But neither its original or heavyweight cover versions are nearly as good as Robert Owens and Coldcut’s take, as remixed by Henrik Schwarz. Owens had a measured, if underground, success in the ’80s as a frequent Trax Records vocalist (his “Bring Down the Walls” is a classic). Twenty years later, though, Coldcut worked with the singer again for their version of “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.” The original has a serious shuffle and a fair number of bloops, and there’s a bit of a discordance between its pep and Owens’ melancholy. It’s Henrik Schwarz’ remix, ultimately, of all the versions, that best does justice to the song’s seriousness, told easily through rhyme. Pumping up the song’s strings, adding some tiny percussion and cutting out Owens’ occasional embellishment, Schwarz makes “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” as simultaneously heavy and light as Joe South must have intended. It’s a perfect Independence Day reflective song. It’s turbulent times—they always are—but compassion is always our most worthy fundamental. Happy July 4th!
Stream: Coldcut f. Robert Owens, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes (Henrik Schwarz Remix)”