This past weekend’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony featured great performances by Bon Jovi, The Cars, and The Moody Blues. Equally worthy were the phenomenal covers highlighting both musical greats taken from us too soon – Tom Petty and Chris Cornell – and tributes to the two artists inducted posthumously, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (inducted as an “Early Influence”).
We rank the three best covers below. That’s judging from the circulation YouTube footage at least; Lauryn Hill’s Nina Simone tribute may come off better when the HBO version airs next month, but the current videos are hard to watch.Continue reading »
“But wait!” you exclaim. “The headline says ‘Led Zeppelin‘. Aren’t we talking about the folk-rock ballad that originally appeared in 1970 on the softer acoustic second side of Led Zeppelin III?”
Indeed we are, and “Tangerine” has been mentioned once or twice before on these pages. But a recent re-release, widely anticipated by fans of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, The Yardbirds, has re-opened the discussion about the songs’ origins. Is “Tangerine” really a Led Zeppelin song?
When it comes to songwriting credits, things aren’t always cut and dried with Jimmy Page. As it were, this particular instance follows suit. Around the time of last year’s “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarism lawsuit – won by Led Zeppelin – Rolling Stone cited 10 other Zep tunes with cloudy origins. The article mentioned “Dazed And Confused” – a song with ties to Page’s stint in The Yardbirds – but made no mention of “Tangerine” a song sharing similar ties. Both songs were the only two non-instrumental Led Zeppelin tracks to carry a songwriting credit attributed solely to Jimmy Page. The writing credit on “Dazed” was later amended in 2012 (singer-songwriter Jake Holmes was added as Page’s inspiration), but a cloud continues to hang over “Tangerine.”
Why the fuss? Cover Me readers might be interested in some of the forensics. Two years prior to the release of Led Zeppelin III, The Yardbirds, with Page as a member, recorded a demo for a song titled “Knowing That I’m Losing You” which was never officially released. Thirty-two years later, “Knowing” was scheduled to be included on The Yardbirds’ 2000 album Cumular Limit with other live and unreleased material, but the track was pulled. Seventeen years after that, Page, as producer, included an authorized re-mastered instrumental version, with the modified title “Knowing That I’m Losing You (Tangerine)” on the new Yardbirds ’68 compilation.Continue reading »
It’s sad that the incredible talent given to many musicians is burdened by demons such as addiction, anxiety, and depression. It’s sad that so much of the music that they give us is inspired by struggles that fuel those demons and can feel so unsurmountable. It’s sad to think of all of the people those musicians have helped with their music, only to succumb to the darkness themselves in the end.
We have lost another great musician with the passing of Chester Bennington. Bennington’s band Linkin Park realized the climax of the so-called nu-metal movement with their album Hybrid Theory, which successfully brought to the mainstream a combination of metal and pop (hence the “Hybrid”). The style that Linkin Park created resulted in accolades for the band and their albums as they continued to explore combining musical styles. Ultimately, though, it was the intensity, emotional depth, and point blank honesty in Bennington’s lyrics and delivery which resonated with so many.
A particularly gorgeous rendition of one of Linkin Park’s songs is Scott D. Davis‘s piano take on “In the End”. The melody is highly effective even without the support of a band.Continue reading »
We’re more than a week on since the tragic loss of Chris Cornell, and not more can be said that hasn’t already been written. A lot of musicians were crushed and many expressed their sadness on social media and in song (though it must be said, it didn’t always feel genuine as a few tried to capitalize on his popularity by name-checking him). While the media focuses on the how and why of Cornell’s passing, the fans mourn in the mosh pit and the mezzanines.
When I pitched writing this roundup, I also knew that regardless of how heartfelt these tributes would be, it would be incredibly difficult for many singers to hit Cornell’s singing range. This is not to pick on anyone in particular, nor to throw shade on their own expressions of grief and the want to express it. But even as someone who often has to defend cover songs versus the originals, I really think Chris Cornell was truly irreplaceable.
Here are my favorites of the many Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog covers that have been recorded since Cornell’s passing.Continue reading »
It’s an uneasy feeling knowing that one of the most powerful voices of your generation is now gone. Listening to Chris Cornell’s music, just a day after his death, and realizing that the living soul behind some of the most heavenly music we will ever hear on earth is gone leaves a major void in all of our souls. There are so few artists who create and perform with the talent, ingenuity, and depth of feeling that Cornell possessed. Losing someone who has had so much impact on generation upon generation, and especially knowing that he could have had many years of creating and performing left to gift to us, is heartbreaking to say the least.
Going back through the immense library of covers Cornell has performed throughout the years is like listening to the soundtrack of a movie starring every major artist and group in music history. Few singers could equally convincingly cover the Beatles, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson – let alone sway us into favoring the cover over the original in some cases. Cornell could. Cornell even graced our top covers of 2015 with his rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You.”Continue reading »
Follow all our Best of 2015 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
I didn’t realize it until I began laying out our post, but this year’s Best Cover Songs list shares quite a few artists with last year’s. And some that showed up here the year before that. Jack White’s on his fourth appearance. And Jason Isbell and Hot Chip not only both reappear from last year, but have moved up in the rankings.
Though we’re always on the lookout for the new (and to be sure, there are plenty of first-timers here too), the number of repeat honorees illustrates how covering a song is a skill just like any other. The relative few artists who have mastered it can probably deliver worthy covers again and again.
How a great cover happens is something I’ve been thinking a lot about this year as I’ve been writing a series of articles diving deep into the creation of iconic cover songs through history (I posted two of them online, and the rest are being turned into a book). In every case the artist had just the right amount of reverence for the original song: honoring its intention without simply aping it. It’s a fine line, and one even otherwise able musicians can’t always walk. Plenty of iconic people don’t make good cover artists (I’d nominate U2 as an example: some revelatory covers of the band, but not a lot by them). Given the skill involved, perhaps it’s no surprise that someone who can do a good cover once can do it again.
So, to longtime readers, you will see some familiar names below. But you’ll also see a lot of new names, and they’re names you should remember. If the past is any guide, you may well see them again next year, and the year after that.
Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.