Sep 172019
 
cover songs 1969

This marks the fourth year I’ve done a big anniversary countdown (after 1996, 1987, and 1978). It also proved to be the most challenging. There were a lot of covers released in 1969. In fact, according to covers-and-samples database WhoSampled, there were more than in any of the other years we’ve done. Their database lists 3,110 covers, which is surely still a small fraction.

The reason for the cover song’s proliferation seems clear to me after going through them all: Popular bands released a lot more music back then. Aretha Franklin released two albums in 1969. So did The Byrds, Elvis Presley, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash, Johnny Winter, and Nina Simone. Creedence Clearwater Revival and Merle Haggard released three albums apiece. James Brown topped them all with four. To get that kind of output, artists would pad their albums with covers. Every 1969 album by every artist I just mentioned includes at least one cover. Many include several. A few are all covers. It adds up.

Impressively, many of those covers reinterpreted songs that had come out within the previous year. This entire list could easily have been “Hey Jude” covers. “Wichita Lineman” and “Light My Fire” came up constantly too (the latter song slightly older, but it had hit the charts again in 1968). Even songs from 1968’s soundtrack to Hair got covered endlessly in 1969.

Even beyond “Hey Jude,” Beatles covers dominated the year. I’m not going to go back through the entire 3,110 covers and count, but if you told me Beatles covers made up a full half of those, I wouldn’t be shocked. Add Bob Dylan covers to that side of the scale and it’s probably true. Beatles songs got covered in every conceivable genre for every conceivable audience. Jazz and swing and folk and proto-metal Beatles covers everywhere the eye can see. Plenty of people cover the Beatles these days, sure, but trust me: It’s nothing like it was in 1969.

So wheedling all those down to the top 50 proved incredibly difficult. But it means this is maybe the top-to-bottom strongest set thus far, and it killed me to leave some off (that’s why our Patreon supporters will get a set of 69 bonus tracks – so join now).

One note: I left off Woodstock performances. For one, we counted down the 50 best covers performed there last month. But more importantly, most people did not actually hear those covers until the movie and soundtrack came out in 1970. Jimi Hendrix performed his iconic Star-Spangled Banner – pretty much everyone’s top cover of the weekend – to a nearly empty field. Most of the audience had left before he punched in at 9 AM that Monday morning. That said, several of the classic covers performed at Woodstock were released as singles or on albums the same year – including Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” – and those studio versions make this list.

Now, let the sunshine in with the 50 best covers of 1969.

The countdown begins on page 2…

Jan 122018
 

Cover Classics takes a look at great covers albums of the past, their genesis and their legacies.

doc pomus tribute album

“Why now,” you ask. “Why focus on this album in 2018, more than 20 years since it was made and getting on 30 since the recipient of the tribute died? And who he anyway? He didn’t have any hits.”

Well, that’s where you are wrong. Doc Pomus wrote many of the 1950s songs we now see as standards – standards across many genres, encompassing blues through rock (and roll), with a hefty side influence into country and soul. Few people won’t have at least a whistling memory of at least one of these songs, probably more, in versions played by artists as diverse as ZZ Top, Engelbert Humperdinck and the Searchers. Continue reading »

Jul 082015
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, from Cover Me editor-in-chief Ray Padgett: What’s your favorite cover song of 2015 so far?
Continue reading »

Apr 302011
 

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!

Well, old Willie just keeps on truckin’, doesn’t he? A singer, songwriter, actor, political activist and truck stop owner, Willie Nelson turns 78 years old today. He achieved songwriting success in the late ’50s writing songs for Ray Price (“Night Life”), Faron Young (“Hello Walls”) and perhaps the most famous country song of all time, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”. He broke through as a performer in 1975 with the release of his album Red Headed Stranger and cover of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” Continue reading »

Feb 222011
 

More myth than man, Robert Johnson influenced countless musicians with his brand of haunting country blues. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton all cite Johnson as a key influence in their musical development, and four of his songs (“Sweet Home Chicago”, “Cross Road Blues”, “Hellhound on My Trail” and “Love in Vain”) appear on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of songs that shaped rock and roll. Pretty impressive for a guy who recorded under 30 songs over 2 sessions in 1936-37 and died at 27 – yes, he started that trend too.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, Big Head Todd and The Monsters have augmented their lineup with an all-star cast of blues musicians to record 100 years of Robert Johnson. B.B. King, Honeyboy Edwards and Hubert Sumlin (guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf) all turn up, among others. The result is toe-tapping, but ultimately somewhat unsatisfying. Continue reading »

Nov 112010
 

The story of the modern Veterans Day begins in 1953 at a Kansas shoe store. Up until then, every November 11th Americans celebrated Armistice Day, a holiday commemorating the signing of the treaty that ended World War I. By the 1950s though, with a second World War come and gone, folks were less keen on remembering a peace that – oh yeah – didn’t work so well.

Enter Alfred King. The shoe salesman in Emporia, Kansas (2000 Census population: 26,760) had a son fight in World War II and decided that veterans, who didn’t die (after all, they had Memorial Day), deserved celebrating more than a failed treaty. He campaigned tirelessly to change the holiday, starting at home; in 1953, Emporia became the first town in America to celebrate Veterans Day. The idea caught on and, with help from a local congressman, the issue moved to Washington. On October 8, 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower officially changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. All thanks to one small-town shoe salesman. Continue reading »