Jake Owen has been a fixture on the Nashville scene since 2006. His music is deeply rooted in ‘70s rock, but finely polished for mainstream country music radio. One of his hits, “Eight Second Ride,” tells the story of a boy who falls for a girl who is enamored by the size of his pickup truck tires and not turned off by his compulsive chewing tobacco habit. Owen recently made headlines by releasing a bluegrass cover of Cher’s “Believe” on Instagram in honor of Pride Month. “I Googled ‘gayest’ songs of all time and the boys and I decided to put our country spin on Cher’s ‘Believe,’” he wrote.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Having watched the glorious images of New Orleans saying goodbye to their very own Dr. John, Mac Rebennack, it was daunting for me to try to do justice to his legacy with a piece on “I Walk on Gilded Splinters,” arguably the best known of his songs. Scarcely the most representative, it was the highlight, I guess, of his 1968 debut Gris Gris, owing more to the voodoo priest persona that gave him his break than to his latter-day body of work. It’s the song that casual fans, upon hearing the news of his death, might have known best through cover versions (by Humble Pie or by Paul Weller, depending on their age) as they asked who he was. (“The guy from Treme“ might actually be a commoner answer………)
But is it any good? Well, yes, of course it’s good, nothing quite like it having made the charts previously, and it was a hit – just not for its writer.
Beyoncé – Before I Let Go (Maze cover)
Last week, Beyoncé surprised-dropped her live album Homecoming. It accompanied the Netflix film of the same name, which immortalized her lionized 2018 Coachella performance. The biggest surprise of all was the bonus track: a cover of Maze’s 1981 “Before I Let Go.” The original song wasn’t a huge hit when it first came out, but has grown to be referred to sometimes as the “black national anthem.” Beyoncé brings it right up to the present with a big production including marching band, new rap verse, and a sample of New Orleans bounce artist DJ Jubilee.
That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.
The term “groupie” was just starting to get a toehold in the American vernacular in the late ’60s. Groupies were written about in lengthy articles in Rolling Stone and Time magazines. They were the subject of a 1969 book (Groupie) and a 1970 documentary (Groupies). They were, in the words of Hall of Fame groupie Pamela Des Barres, the Mary Magdalenes to any and all Jesuses in the rock bands that came through town. And Rita Coolidge thought they would make an ideal subject for a song.
Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.
Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Start the countdown on the next page…
Having been working for a mind-boggling six decades, Cher is set to release an album of ABBA covers called Dancing Queen in September. The ear-worm classics “Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo,” and “Fernando” are all present and accounted for, along with some deeper cuts like “One of Us” and “Chiquitita.” It’s a quick and canny follow-up to her appearance in the sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. In the movie, Cher appears as the mother of Donna, the matriarch played by Meryl Streep where she sings “Fernando” to Andy Garcia and pops up again with the entire ensemble on “Super Trouper.”