Aug 222018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

david olney cover songs

In 1991, Townes Van Zandt wrote the following: “Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and Dave Olney. Dave Olney is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard — and that’s true. I mean that from my heart.”

Twenty-seven years later, Townes is gone, but Olney keeps on keepin’ on. He may not have become a household name in that time, but his reputation among his peers has only grown. Emmylou Harris has sung three of his songs. Linda Ronstadt tackled a pair herself. When Steve Earle covered Olney’s “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” he noted it took him four or five years of playing the song before he realized it was “so perfectly constructed that it doesn’t have a rhyme in it.” He added that Olney was “one of the best songwriters in the world.” Continue reading »

Aug 212018
 
posthumous aretha franklin covers

Last night’s VMAs surprised many by omitting any sort of musical tribute to Aretha Franklin. You’d think if anyone could pull that together with a few days notice, MTV could – but honestly, I get it. There have been fewer memorial covers of Aretha Franklin than we saw for Tom Petty, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and many others. Even Chris Cornell earned more in-concert tributes, and Aretha’s career of hits goes back decades further than his.

Why is that? Certainly Aretha is no less beloved than these others; eloquent and moving tributes in other forms continue to pour in hourly. My guess: Aretha is first and foremost known as a singer, maybe the greatest ever (Rolling Stone said she was). Though certainly no songwriting slouch (pretty much every part you’d sing along to in “Respect,” she added herself), Aretha may simply be too daunting vocally for many musicians to attempt.

Luckily, not all musicians. Here are the best posthumous Aretha Franklin covers we’ve seen so far. Hopefully more are coming! Continue reading »

Aug 202018
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Aretha Franklin cover

In 1998, the British music magazine Mojo polled 175 singers to determine the greatest singer of all time. Aretha Franklin was the winner, which in and of itself was not wholly unexpected. What was unexpected, the Mojo people told its readers, was the degree to which she ran away with it. According to Aretha’s peers, Frank Sinatra was a very distant second. Everybody knows of her famous demand for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and in the hours that followed her passing, everyone would learn that she got it, and that she truly deserved it.
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Aug 162018
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

do right woman covers

Aretha Franklin’s name does not appear on the writing credits to “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” but as with so many songs she sang: It’s hers. No knock on the great songwriters (who also penned “Dark End of the Street”), but no singer goes in to “Do Right Woman” to cover Chips Moman and Dan Penn. They aim to pay homage to the Queen of Soul, dead today at 76.

As I often say with iconic singers, the best way to pay homage to Aretha’s music is not to try to sing like Aretha. You’re not going to out-belt her, and you won’t deliver any song with more soul, feeling, or passion. That’s not to say there aren’t talented soul singers who ably delivered this track; everyone from Etta James to Phoebe Snow has belted “Do Right Woman.” But if I want to hear the best singing in the world, I’m pulling out Aretha’s version every time.

None of my favorite “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” covers sound like Franklin. Few even fall in the genre of soul music. These artists below tried for something different. Continue reading »

Jul 202018
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

There was nothing that preceded it. I didn’t have those words. I didn’t have that melody. And I was playing chords and all of a sudden, I sang that. And I couldn’t believe it. I was dumbstruck…. I have no idea where that came from. It was far about the level I was writing at the time…. I was sort of conscious that it was a gift. And I was very emotionally moved by it.

Paul Simon knew he had something special when he wrote the first two verses of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Since Simon wrote the song in a higher key than he was used to singing, he also knew the song was meant for one man and one man only to sing. Art Garfunkel demurred at first (“You have a nice falsetto, Paul, why don’t you sing it?”), out of a giving spirit more than anything else; it didn’t take long for Simon to talk him into it. The song needed a third verse in order to properly build up (Simon whipped one up in the studio), and it took seventy-two takes to record, but “Bridge” came together beautifully. Simon may have felt that Garfunkel’s gospel touch was “more Methodist than Baptist,” but Clive Davis, head of Columbia, knew what they had immediately. Even at a longish (for a single) five minutes, he announced that it would be the first single, first track, and title song of their next record.

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Mar 212018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

erika wennerstrom covers

For the third entry in our new “Pick Five” series – following Frank Turner and Emel Mathlouthi – we checked in with singer and songwriter Erika Wennerstrom. She is preparing to release her solo debut this Friday as her band Heartless Bastards takes an extended hiatus. Titled Sweet Unknown (where Wennerstrom is venturing after 15 years fronting the band), the album spotlights, as Consequence of Sound puts it, “the warm and bluesy instrument fans of Heartless Bastards have grown to love.” That instrument is, as anyone who has heard a single Heartless Bastards will know, her powerhouse vocals.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that the five covers she selected for us all feature powerful vocal performances. Powerful, though, in very different ways, ranging from Aretha Franklin’s gospel belt to Johnny Cash’s fragile whisper. Let’s turn it over to her: Continue reading »