Tears for Fears’ 1985 hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is one of those songs that feels quintessentially ‘80s. The high-pitched intro, the synth groove, even the images of the band singing it on MTV with their well-sculpted mullets — everything about the song captures the spirit of the decade, whether you were around to remember it or not.
“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em” might be one of the most recognizable choruses of the last 50 years. Even people who don’t know the song “The Gambler,” know those lines.
On March 20, the world learned of the death of the singer most associated with those words, Kenny Rogers, who passed away at the age of 81. As with a star of his caliber, his death was greeted with a major outpouring of condolences across the celebrity world and lengthy obituaries in most major news outlets. Very few publications mentioned the one tidbit we here at Cover Me are most interested in: the fact that Rogers’ version of “The Gambler” was a cover.
The era in German history known as the Weimar Republic lasted just a few years from 1918 to 1933, but it’s impact on world history and culture is still felt today. The unstable political situation, combined with rapid inflation, contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Amidst the political chaos, the arts flourished. The period saw the establishment of the Bauhaus and Dada artistic movements. Novelist Christopher Isherwood captured the underground nightlife scene in his famed The Berlin Stories, which would serve as the basis for the Cabaret musical and film. On the theater front, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill penned The Threepenny Opera. The musical introduced the standard “Mack the Knife” as well as “Pirate Jenny,” a song Bob Dylan cited in his memoir as an inspiration for his songwriting.
In recent years, jazz singer José James has recorded tribute albums that paid homage to both Billie Holiday and Bill Withers. He continued this theme on his new album No Beginning No End 2 by including a cover of another song by a guy named Billy. This time it’s Billy Joel’s much-maligned wedding staple “Just the Way You Are.”
Usually when we write about Linda Ronstadt on this site, we are describing one of the great covers she recorded during the course of her career. Many of her biggest hits and best-known songs are covers. When I saw that country singer Alice Wallace had recorded a cover of “Long, Long Time,” I was surprised to learn that it was actually first recorded by Ronstadt. However, one could surely make the argument that it’s a cover too. In her memoir, Ronstadt said that she decided to record the track after hearing its writer Gary White play it in New York City.
The heart of rock n’ roll is still beating in 2020, at least if Huey Lewis and the News have anything to do with it. The famed ‘80s stars, who once ruled MTV with their blend of retro rock, new wave and soul, recently released their first new album in a decade – Weather. Among the original recordings, the group included a cover of one seemingly forgotten hit, Eugene Church’s “Pretty Girls Everywhere.”
To determine just how obscure the track is, I consulted a leading authority on ‘50s pop: my Dad. He remembered the song itself, could even sing the chorus, but had no idea who sang it.