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Monday, June 22, 2009

Cover Songs That Work

When you slip under the covers, it’s a warm feeling. That’s because you’re safe, secure, cozy. It’s much the same in music. When you get into the covers, there is a special kind of comfort. You’ve been there before. You can trust that you’ll feel good again.

In popular music, a cover version, or simply cover, is a new rendition of a previously recorded, commercially released song. A many be regarded as the definitive version of the song, usually in the sense of an "authentic" rendition, while all others are merely lesser competitors, alternatives or tributes (no matter how popular). In truth, few artists are able to transform the elements of a successful popular song to perform a powerful rendition remotely close or better than its original version.

Many, many artists have made cover songs. Many times you just wonder why they even bothered. Most people prefer a well-mastered CD of the song by the original artist. But, what separates a great cover from a good cover is when the artist doing the remake breaths new life into the song and truly makes it his/her own. Taking a song that was superior in its original recording and making it better is the great aim of covering.

Here is a list in no particular order of my favorite cover songs. The selections could all be considered popular music. Granted some standards and blues are included; however, all selections fit popular style.

Jimi Hendrix "All Along The Watchtower" original by Bob Dylan

Jeff Buckley "Hallelujah" original by Leonard Cohen

Aretha Franklin "Respect" original by Otis Redding

Grand Funk Railroad "Some Kind of Wonderful" original by the Drifters

Bobby Darin "If I Were a Carpenter" original by Tim Hardin

Elvis Presley "American Trilogy" original by Mickey Newbury

Johnny Rivers "Memphis, Tennessee" original by Chuck Berry

The Beatles "Twist and Shout" original by Isley Brothers

Joe Cocker "With a Little Help From My Friends" original by The Beatles

Talking Heads "Take Me to the River" original by Al Green Janis Joplin "Me and Bobby McGee" original by Kris Kristofferson Harry Nilsson "Everybody's Talking" Harry Nilsson original by Fred Neil The Band "I Shall Be Released" original by Bob Dylan Manfred Mann's Earth Band "Blinded by the Light" original by Bruce Springsteen Johnny Cash "Hurt" original by Nine Inch Nails The Byrds "Turn, Turn, Turn" original by Pete Seeger The Animals "House of the Rising Sun" original by Bob Dylan/Joan Baez The Rolling Stones "Time Is On My Side" original by Kai Winding Gladys Knight & the Pips "Midnight Train to Georgia" original by Cissy Houston Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sixteen Tons" original by Merle Travis Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young "Woodstock" original by Joni Mitchell Santana "Black Magic Woman" original by Fleetwood Mac Etta James "At Last" original by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra The Righteous Brothers "Unchained Melody" original by Al Hibbler Dooley Wilson "As Time Goes By" original by Rudy Vallee Janis Joplin "Piece of My Heart" original by Erma Franklin The Doors "Backdoor Man" original by Howlin' Wolf Eric Clapton "After Midnight" original by JJ Cale Soft Cell "Tainted Love" original by Gloria Jones The Marcels "Blue Moon" original by Mel Torme Glenn Miller and his Orchestra "In the Mood" original by Wingy Manone Bobbie Darin "Mack the Knife" original by Louis Armstrong Fats Domino "Blueberry Hill" original by Gene Autry Billie Holliday "Strange Fruit" original by Abel Meeropol and Laura Duncan Ray Charles "Georgia On My Mind" original by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra Ray Charles "I Can't Stop Loving You" original by Don Gibson Beatles "Till There Was You" original by Anita Bryant The Kingsmen "Louie, Louie" original by Richard Berry and the Pharoahs The Who "Young Man Blues" original by Mose Allison Mavis Staples "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" original by Mahalia Jackson Ray Price "For the Good Times" original by Kris Kristofferson Willie Nelson "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain" original by Roy Acuff Chubby Checker "The Twist" original by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters The Byrds "Mr. Tambourine Man" original by Bob Dylan Led Zeppelin "Whole Lotta Love" original by Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters Now, with tributes, tribute albums, and entire cover song albums, the music industry milks old hit songs until they wither and finally die. A classic song suffers a blow to its prestige with each weak cover. The astute listener usually finds a journey into the history of a hit song time well spent. Listening to the writer's version of a great song is also a very rewarding experience for those who maintain musical roots must be understood.
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