Reimagining a Classic: Ewan McVicar's Rework of Chaka Khan's 'Tell Me Something Good'
Feb 13, 2023
3 min read
While many came into contact with classic 80’s soul and funk records via the record player in the living room, Ewan McVicar’s introduction to “Tell Me Something Good”—the rework that brought him international acclaim—came in a more post-modern way. It’s a story of how the producer revived an already legendary song for the dancefloor. Something that’s not always asked for, but in this case, resulted in a brilliant reinterpretation that elevates its source material, bringing the spirit of a late 80’s disco tech to the rave.
First released by legend Chaka Khan, Yvette Marie Stevens, and her funk band Rufus in 1987 - the song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and featured on the iconic TV show Soul Train. Despite its rampant success, the song’s original version almost ended up on the cutting room floor. Stevie Wonder, the writer, only released it to Stevens after she refused his first track and then learned her star sign. Her Aries status apparently made it perfectly suited to her.
It cropped up again in the form of more of a romantic ballad via Robbie Nevill in the early 90s. However, it wouldn’t go on to completely captivate a whole new generation of fans until it appeared in the most unlikely of places: as the opening music to animated comedy-musical Happy Feet.
This is where Scottish DJ and producer Ewan McVicar heard it for the first time. “I was just watching the film and suddenly heard it. I was like ‘what is that?’ So just like everybody else went on YouTube and Googled the acapella version,” Ewan told Mistajam during an interview for Capital Dance.
He then sat on the sample for a while, using it in a few tracks that were, in his words, “terrible.” Ewan came back to it after the release of his EP Street Rave. “I was so energized, the whole thing came together in only 45 minutes,” he says. “It’s so powerful anyway I couldn’t put too much in too soon.”
Assuming that, due to copyright, he would never get the song cleared, Ewan filed it away to only use during his live sets. However, once mentor Patrick Topping put it out on social media, it became clear this track needed a release.
The bass kicks and groove synths that Ewan has added make for an incredible number - with the proof being in the track’s popularity. “When it hit a million plays it had done everything that I wanted it to do - but it just kept going,” says Ewan. Its trajectory has even carried it out of the UK, with fans sending videos of the song on radio plays from locations as far-flung as Mexico, Australia, and Chicago. “I keep having to take a step back and ask myself ‘What is going on?’” laughs the DJ.
The song, released on Trick Records and Licensed to the Ministry of Sound, reached #15 on the UK singles chart in late 2021. “When I play it people go daft,” says Ewan, recalling a recent gig in Edinburgh where his sound was cut off to signal the end of his set. “The crowd just started singing ‘Tell Me Something Good’ on their own. I looked at my mate who’s been there since day one, and I’m just like: ‘that’s my tune, they’re singing!’”
It’s clear from public reaction that Wonder and Chaka Khan’s original still has magic to give.