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!

The American Dream is to be self-made. To carve out an identity wholly one’s own and to succeed beyond one’s wildest imagination.

The life and times of Shawn Carter are a blueprint of the American Dream and bear striking resemblance to one of modern American fiction’s greatest protagonists, Jay Gatsby.

Both F. Scott Fitzgerald’s eponymous parvenu and the Brooklyn-born MC sprung from conceptions of themselves – impoverished Midwestern teenager James Gatz morphed into the infamous Jay Gatsby while Shawn Carter took on the nom de rappeur Jay-Z.

Both knew the excesses and trappings of extraordinary wealth as young men and both fell in love with golden girl goddesses with voices full of money.

One noteworthy difference between Gatsby and Jay-Z?

Gatsby was a man, a mere mortal, damned and doomed from the onset, whereas Jay-Z is also Jay-Hova, and gods are not as easily felled.
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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!

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate this thing called life.

Electric word, life. It means a mighty long time but in this case, we’re talking about 56 years and one man – Prince Rogers Nelson. You probably know him as Prince, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, an unpronounceable symbol, The Purple One, Joey Coco or (in certain circles) That Skinny Motherfucker with the High Voice.
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In 2001, then 20-year old Alicia Keys became a household name when her sultry “Fallin’” became a number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Keys’ stunning voice and piano work had America falling in love with her as soon as she hit the scene. Recently, New Orleans alt-rockers Mutemath took to Triple J to do an interesting cover of the decade-old hit. Continue reading »

Like ranch dressing, Alicia Keys goes good with anything. Her capabilities are as wide and diverse as her influences, and even if she chooses to show off only a certain set of skills on her original recordings, her cover songs reveal her epic range of styles. Continue reading »

Near the end of Bob Marley‘s life when cancer had begun to take it’s course he wrote “Redemption Song.”  In a song that gives a glimpse into his dealing with mortality, he delivered one of the more widely covered acoustic spiritual ballads today. Some of the versions that ring true to the soul of the song include a haunting rendition by Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer and a live tribute by Lauryn Hill with Ziggy Marley. Continue reading »

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

A few weeks ago, the music world and 20,000 lucky fans in Madison Square Garden said a bittersweet goodbye to LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy is probably better known for who has taken on his music than for covers he’s done, with everyone from Franz Ferdinand to the Muppets reimagining LCD songs. However, he’s recorded some excellent covers as well (including this week’s take on Franz’s “Live Alone” for Record Store Day). At first, it’s hard to imagine how covers could live up to LCD’s best original moments: the songs that capture the complexities of lost youth, fading love, or hipster culture with a few deft electronic tweaks. But Murphy successfully brings his signature sound to a surprising number of genres, draping sharp, lush electronics over a diverse assortment of other musicians’ work. Here’s a look at five of his best studio covers, along with a bonus live track. Continue reading »

Download This scours the web’s dark corners for cool cover freebies. View past installments.

Some of you might have some familiarity with Wakey!Wakey! by now. If the band’s debut studio full-length Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You, released last February on Family Records, failed to catch your ear, perhaps frontman Mike Grubbs’ recurring spot as the piano-playing bartender on TV’s One Tree Hill did. And if neither of these ring a bell, maybe you’ve stumbled upon the band on their relentless touring efforts (Currently, they’re doing shows in England both as headliners and in support of James Blunt).

But whenever you have – or will – come across the building wave that is Wakey!Wakey!, you shouldn’t miss the collection of covers that a solo Grubbs released back in 2008 as part of Wakey!Wakey! Wednesdays. Featuring songs by The Decemberists, Weezer, Alicia Keys, and more, the ten tracks were released one at a time on consecutive Wednesdays (the original G.O.O.D. Fridays?), and are all available for free download or stream over at The Family Records’ site. Continue reading »

Recently we’ve seen quite a few Roots posts (1, 2, 3). We’ve also seen some Jimmy Fallon. We haven’t yet posted the two together though (funny, given that they hang out five nights a week). Well now we can. They’ve even brought along Justin Timberlake, the best third wheel ever.

The trio (Timberlake, Fallon, Roots) takes us through a four-minute medley of rap hits from yesterday and today on last night’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It starts with the Sugarhill Gang and ends with Jay-Z (“Empire State of Mind”). In between they tackle Eminem, Tupac, Kanye, Soulja Boy – well, pretty much everyone. Even the Roots’ own “The Seed 2.0” gets the Timb-Fall treatment. Continue reading »

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