Feb 072020
 

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

You Light Up My Life

It’s very likely that you never knew Debby Boone’s smash hit “You Light Up My Life” was a cover song. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not a very happy reason. This is a story about two women and the man who did so wrong by them, even as he saw them to stardom.
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Jan 272020
 

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

Norah Jones's Come Away With Me Album

Norah Jones’s musical rise was swift after the release of her debut album, Come Away With Me. The album won two Grammys, one for Album of the Year and one for Best Pop Vocal Album. Jones was nominated for eight Grammys in 2003 and won five, tying Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill for the most awards received by a female artist in one year. Since its release and its Diamond certification, Come Away With Me has sold over 20 million copies, surpassing Carole King’s Tapestry, Britney Spears’ … Baby One More Time, and Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, among others.

As Valentine’s Day swiftly approaches, you might want to revisit this album. Its songs have permeated rom-coms, most notably Love, Actually, where Jones’s sultry voice provides the subtle soundtrack to (no spoilers) a turning point for Laura Linney’s character. The acoustic pop album has heavy jazz and blues influences, making it the perfect backdrop for a rainy afternoon or a laid-back dinner party.

Beyond hits like “Come Away With Me,” the album also features covers of Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” (covered by other greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong) and Hank Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart.” But did you know that the album’s first single, “Don’t Know Why,” is a cover as well? Jones’s guitarist, Jesse Harris, wrote “Don’t Know Why” and recorded it three years earlier on his album Jesse Harris & The Ferdinandos.

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Jan 152020
 

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

In 1982, talented multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield was looking for a change. It had been nearly nine years since Virgin Records had released his debut Tubular Bells, with a title track that had gone on to be featured as the theme to The Exorcist. His follow-up releases had followed much the same format (minus the somewhat creepy distinction): long form, avant-garde, eclectic orchestral pieces, with names like Hergest Ridge and Incantations. While his records were critically praised, commercial success was proving to be elusive.

In 1979, Oldfield started writing songs that were shorter and more commercially viable, in addition to some longer pieces. 1982’s Five Miles Out featured five songs: the nearly 25-minute “Taurus II” and four shorter songs, including the breakout hit “Family Man.” Oldfield wrote all the music to that song; five other writers are credited with the lyrics. This synth- and echo-heavy tune featured Scottish vocalist Maggie Reilly (one of the credited lyric writers; she would remain a regular collaborator) on vocals, ostensibly telling the story of a prostitute attempting to pick up a man in a bar. The man continually turns down her propositions, protesting that he’s a “family man.” The intensity increases with each verse, reflecting the female’s growing frustration with his repeated rejection. Neither the single nor the album charted in the US, although the single did reach #29 in Canada.

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Nov 082019
 

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

at last cover

Released in 1960, “At Last” was Etta James’s second hit single from and the title track of her debut album. It crossed over from the R&B charts to the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

From commercials to the first dance at President Barack Obama’s first inaugural balll. (covered by none other than Beyoncé), the song permeates our culture. According to IMDb, James’s “At Last” appeared in 64 television show episodes or movies. From classics like Rain Man to unexpected venues like Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never documentary, the song has celebrated victory in love (finally!). However, James was almost twenty years too late to claim this song as her own.

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Oct 092019
 

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

waylon willie

It was forty years ago that Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings won a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for their “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.” The year before, Nelson and Jennings had released the song on their debut collaboration Waylon and Willie. The song topped the country charts for four weeks in the spring of 1978, and its crossover appeal garnered it a #42 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. This was at the height of the outlaw country movement. That insurgent blend of country, rock, and pop redefined the genre and made it more palatable for those outside of Nashville who had a curiosity about honky tonks.

Of course, there is a much longer arc that connects country and rock and roll. That arc extends through Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, Gram Parsons’ influence on The Rolling Stones, and the songcraft of Townes Van Zandt. But near the beginning of that arc was Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. It was there that a blend of country and rock music known as “rockabilly” came into being, with Sam Phillips as its enthusiastic producer and promoter. The rockabilly of the 1950s is where the story of “Mammas” starts.
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Aug 232019
 

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

Sinatra Strangers

At the peak moment of the 1967 Summer of Love, Jimi Hendrix’s performance at the Monterey Pop Festival electrified the audience and punctuated his triumphant return to the United States. At the conclusion of his show, he wowed audiences with a cover of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” drenched in feedback and baptized in fire. During the guitar solo, Hendrix played the melody to “Strangers in the Night.” (Learn more about that magic night here.)

The song was in the popular consciousness. It had been a #1 Billboard hit for Frank Sinatra for seven weeks in the summer of 1966. And it remained on the charts for 20 weeks. It also was remarkable for being Sinatra’s first and only #1 hit in the era of rock music, his first in a decade. On top of which, it knocked down The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” The song earned Sinatra two Grammys in 1967, for Best Male Pop Vocal and Record of the Year, as well as winning Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist or Instrumentalists.

However, Sinatra was not the originator. His crooning gave a platform for the English lyrics written by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder. But the melody belonged to German composer and orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert.
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