I first heard it as the title song of a Long John Baldry record.
“Cool song!” I thought.
Then, there it was again on a Three Dog Night record.
“I like that!” I said.
I next heard it on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, the last song on side 1.
Bowie’s version knocked my socks off!
The song, of course is It Ain’t Easy, written by a fellow named Ron Davies:
Who the hell is Ron Davies? Years ago, when I first tried to determine the blood lines of this song, I saw the attribution to “Davies” on the Bowie record and immediately thought Kinks, and I remained misinformed until the advent of the intertubes. Google set me straight.
Ronny Wayne Davies was an American songwriter and musician, son of country singer Tex Dickerson and brother to the singer/songwriter and producer Gail Davies.
According to http://rondavies.info/, “Ron Davies was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He started playing guitar and writing songs at the age of eleven. By the time he was seventeen, Ron had written an album’s worth of excellent material for a Seattle based band called The Wailers. One of the first singles released from this album, “It’s You Alone,” became a regional hit for the band and put Ron on the map as a songwriter.” Cool!
I knew Ron had released two solo albums, and at my last thrift store outing, I found the one that includes It Ain’t Easy… 1973’s U.F.O.:
Mine is a white label promo and has “PROMOTION NOT FOR SALE” stamped/cut into the front of the jacket. It was either owned by a radio station or a super anal person, because there is a cataloging sticker on the jacket and on the record label.
This is a really good record! I’d never heard the original version of It Ain’t Easy before, and, though better than the Three Dog Knight version and as good or better as the Long John Baldry version, I still prefer the Ziggy Stardust version.
Davies voice is a little Arlo Guthrie-ish, but his songwriting is bluesy, and a bit funky… helped along by some Billy Preston organ.
Davies did an earlier solo record called Silent Song Through The Land. If I keep digging long enough, maybe I’ll find it too!
Here’s a video of The Raconteurs doing It Ain’t Easy: