May 272017
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Bruce Cockburn, a curious and spiritual man who finds the wonder where you can’t and who sees the danger when you don’t. The Canadian singer-songwriter has released two dozen albums over the last 45 years, but isn’t too well known outside of the Great White North. Generally speaking, Bruce’s ’70s albums were acoustic, frequently religious, and grounded in nature; perfect Sunday brunch backgrounds. The ’80s recordings were more electric, angrier, yet always hopeful. Cockburn is perceptive, able to explain a complex tragedy by focusing on the victims it created. And regardless of the decade, Cockburn’s love songs were always in the mix. Bruce has won 13 Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy) and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Bruce turns 72 today and we celebrate by offering a selection of other artists covering his work.
Continue reading »

May 262017
 
chris cornell covers

We’re more than a week on since the tragic loss of Chris Cornell, and not more can be said that hasn’t already been written. A lot of musicians were crushed and many expressed their sadness on social media and in song (though it must be said, it didn’t always feel genuine as a few tried to capitalize on his popularity by name-checking him). While the media focuses on the how and why of Cornell’s passing, the fans mourn in the mosh pit and the mezzanines.

When I pitched writing this roundup, I also knew that regardless of how heartfelt these tributes would be, it would be incredibly difficult for many singers to hit Cornell’s singing range. This is not to pick on anyone in particular, nor to throw shade on their own expressions of grief and the want to express it. But even as someone who often has to defend cover songs versus the originals, I really think Chris Cornell was truly irreplaceable.

Here are my favorites of the many Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog covers that have been recorded since Cornell’s passing. Continue reading »

May 252017
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Our story begins with R&B singer Limmie Snell, who in March 1965, under the name Lemme B. Good, released “Good Lovin’.” Only a month later, another version was released. This one kept the basic melody, the title, and the “yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah” hook, but all the other lyrics were changed – author Rudy Clark wasn’t happy with what he heard, and got Artie Resnick (who also co-wrote “Under the Boardwalk” and “Yummy Yummy Yummy”) to give him a hand with fixing the words. What emerged was a whole new song – no longer about a man who gets good lovin’ from his new girl (even though she’s ugly and can’t sing), now it’s about a man who needs good lovin’, a diagnosis obtained after consulting a physician. Continue reading »

May 232017
 
james bond theme covers

Two years ago, I ranked the 24 best covers of James Bond theme songs for the 24 movies to date. The original plan was to include one cover of every song, but that quickly became untenable. There were a million good covers of “You Only Live Twice,” and zero of Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” (and I haven’t seen anyone pick up the mantle since his death either).

If only I’d waited.

A new Bond tribute album came out earlier this month, and it includes a cover of every single Bond theme. Yes, including the ones from Sheryl Crow, Madonna, and of course Cornell. It’s called Songs. Bond Songs: The Music Of 007 and, in honor of Roger Moore’s passing today, we thought we’d post all the new covers of the themes from Moore’s seven movies. Continue reading »

May 232017
 
susanna hoffs prince

Susanna Hoffs covers a lot of songs. With her musical partner Matthew Sweet, she has recorded three albums so far in the fantastic Under the Covers series, and throughout her career she has periodically cropped up with great covers (we named one of them in our Best Covers of 1996 retrospective). So Susanna Hoffs recording a cover song is hardly news. Susanna Hoffs covering Prince, however, certainly is.

Hoffs has had a successful enough solo career that some may forget she first came to fame as a member of the Bangles. And one of their biggest hits was the Prince-penned “Manic Monday” (which we recently premiered another cover of). So Hoffs has more credibility covering Prince than most, and thirty years after he gave her one of her biggest hits, she does it again. Continue reading »

May 192017
 
Cover Me

As we’ve noted already, 2017 marks Cover Me’s tenth birthday. We’ll have some more celebratory posts leading up to the actual date this fall, but I’m thrilled to announce one thing that’s on deck for October: the release of my first book, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time!

Ever since I started this site, friends and readers have suggested that I should write a book about cover songs (surprisingly, a comprehensive book doesn’t really exist). For years, I resisted. “That’s like saying ‘I’m going to write a book about original songs’,” I’d snarkily reply – i.e., that’s a stupid idea. Cover songs seemed too broad a category. There’s no grand unifying theory of cover songs to fit tidily between two book covers; it’s too big and messy and wonderful a tent for that.

Aretha FranklinAfter years of saying no, I finally came up with the solution. I wouldn’t write a book about cover songs – instead, I would write a book about twenty specific cover songs, and through those twenty covers, a broader narrative would emerge.

The story of covers as traced in Cover Me involves artistic triumphs and music-industry shenanigans. It touches on trends in record-making, music videos, and the internet’s impact on music (did you know the first viral song was a cover?). There are beautiful moments of unlikely artists coming together, and some uglier instances of exploitation and racism. Every major change in the music industry since the advent of rock and roll finds some expression in the world of cover songs. Continue reading »