Adam Yauch, known to his fans as MCA of the Beastie Boys, passed away on May 4th after a near three year battle with cancer. When Yauch was first diagnosed in 2009, Coldplay played an unexpected but well-received cover of the Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right (To Party).” On the day of Yauch’s passing, Coldplay brought back the cover while playing in Los Angeles in tribute to the great musician, filmmaker, and philanthropist.
Original Pop Diva. Powerhouse. Train-wreck. Amongst these and other controversial titles eulogizing Whitney Houston upon her passing last week, let us add one more: Queen of Covers.
It’s true that Houston’s legacy shines bright with accolades that are all-Whitney. The diva received more than 400 industry awards in her lifetime, including six Grammys and 20 Billboard Awards; she scored an impressive string of seven number-one singles with “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional,” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go;” her debut album, “Whitney Houston” was the best-selling female vocal record, ever, upon its release. And never mind the music career, the lady was also a critically acclaimed actor, model and producer. Oh yes, and a mom.
There are few love songs as universally known as Whitney Houston‘s version of “I Will Always Love You.” The song usually attracts those with a heavy heart due to lost love, and with the recent loss of a legend, it hangs even heavier this year. Girls frontman Christopher Owens paid tribute to the late great by performing a solo version of the iconic song.
The King is dead, long live the Queen. This Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury, Queen frontman and rock mega-idol. It would be ridiculous to even try to quantify Mercury’s impact on pop culture. The whimsical force behind Queen’s unique style and aesthetic, many point to him as one of the best performers in the history of popular music. And don’t forget, his sometimes enigmatic voice brought alternative sexuality into the public conversation.
As you’ve surely heard by now, R.E.M. broke up yesterday via an understated note on their website. Just as it began, the entire enterprise ended not with a bang, but with a murmur. The quartet-turned-trio performed together for 31 years, 15 albums, and countless “R.E.M. changed my life” exclamations in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Over the course of their career, the band performed countless covers. From the very beginning, they seemingly relished every opportunity to pay tribute to their influences, tacking covers onto singles, compilations, and their annual Christmas fan club records. In the whole lot, there are few duds. Through a combination of smart selections (no novelty rap covers here) and a rare ability to extract the essence of a lyric or melody, they made just about every song they tackled sound like an R.E.M. original. To remember the beloved band, we look back chronologically at some of their most important and best-known covers.
Jerry Leiber, the famed songwriter, passed away yesterday at 78. He was the lyricist in the songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller while Mike Stoller handled the composing. Together they penned such classic pop songs as “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,” “Stand by Me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Yakety Yak,” among many other hits which were originally performed by artists like Elvis Presley, The Drifters, and Ben E.King. In 1995 Leiber and Stoller’s catalog of hits was turned into the Broadway musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards. The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.