Jan 162018
cranberries covers

2017 was a particularly tough year with the loss of so many musicians, and 2018 is starting out with more sadness. Dolores O’ Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries and one of the most recognizable female vocalists in history, has passed away at the age of 46. Their influence, and specifically, O’Riordan’s leadership, can be felt in the generations of musicians who have followed them, as described beautifully by Hozier: “My first time hearing Dolores O’Riordan’s voice was unforgettable. It threw into question what a voice could sound like in that context of rock. I’d never heard somebody use their instrument in that way.”

The Cranberries released very few covers in their career: two for tribute albums, and a third, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “In The Ghetto” on their album Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.

The first of two compilation covers, “(They Long to Be) Close to You”, can be found on If I Were a Carpenter, a tribute album to The Carpenters. O’Riordan’s voice is the immediate tip off that we have flashed forward almost 25 years from the original hit. With sparse instrumentals, the Irish lilt is especially pronounced, as is the slightly darker tone of O’Riordan’s voice from Karen’s sweetly sung rendition. It’s a lovely cover, and a standout on the album. Continue reading »

Nov 102017
best covers 1987

Last year I did a roundup of the Best Cover Songs of 1996. It was a fun project to retroactively compile one of our year-end lists for a year before Cover Me was born. I wanted to do it again this year, but continuing the twentieth-anniversary theme with 1997 seemed a little boring. Turns out 1997 also featured a bunch of Afghan Whigs covers.

So to mix it up, I decided to go a decade further back and look at 1987. Needless to say, the landscape looked very different for covers. For one, far more of that year’s biggest hits were covers than we saw for 1996. The year had #1 cover hits in Heart’s “Alone,” the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter,” Los Lobos’ “La Bamba,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” and Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Plus ubiquitous hits that didn’t quite top the charts, but remain staples of the songs-you-didn’t-know-were-covers lists, Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot” and George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You.” Continue reading »

Nov 012017
killers fats domino

There’s a new word buzzing around the Internet to describe those unfortunate souls who were born between 1977 and 1983: Xennials. It’s a term for those who do not quite fit into Generation X or Generation Y. Born in 1981, The Killers lead vocalist Brandon Flowers falls squarely into this category.

During a recent performance at the New Orleans Voodoo Music + Arts Experience festival, Flowers described a musical induction ritual widely shared by members of his generation. As he introduced a tribute to the Crescent City’s recently departed rock ‘n’ roll founding father Fats Domino, Flowers described how he, and perhaps every other Xennial, first heard Domino’s music while driving in the car with his father. “The station was always set to the oldies,” he told the crowd. “And when Fats Domino came on, we always turned it up.” Continue reading »

Oct 032017
cover me playlist

Today is the day! At long last, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time is in stores and online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Powell’s, and many other places (including, hopefully, your local independent bookstore!).

A lot has happened since I first announced the book back in May. The New Yorker published an excerpt about Devo’s meeting with Mick Jagger. I was interviewed on SiriusXM about the Hendrix, Cash, Aretha, Pet Shop Boys, Elvis, and Creedence Clearwater Revival chapters. And most importantly for you reading this, I put together an exclusive bonus mix that blog fans can get when they buy the book (it says “pre-order,” but we’ll say “week-of-release order” counts too).

And I wanted to share one more thing, another blog exclusive: An audio companion to the book. Continue reading »

Aug 282017
cover me book

—November update: The book is now out, but if you review it on Amazon or elsewhere, the mixtape can still be yours! Just send proof of review to the email below.—

Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Songs Of All Time comes out October 3. It dives deep into twenty iconic covers, from Elvis’s “Hound Dog” through Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love.” I interviewed artists like David Byrne and Roger Daltrey to get the untold stories behind their greatest covers. You can read all about it here.

Now we’ve got a special bonus for anyone who preorders: a free digital album of other covers of those same songs.

What’s the greatest “Take Me to the River” that’s not by Al Green or the Talking Heads? My favorite “Hurt” untouched by either of those men in black? An “I Will Always Love You” that sounds like the artist has never heard either Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston’s versions? This mix answers all those questions. Continue reading »

May 192017
Cover Me

As we’ve noted already, 2017 marks Cover Me’s tenth birthday. We’ll have some more celebratory posts leading up to the actual date this fall, but I’m thrilled to announce one thing that’s on deck for October: the release of my first book, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time!

Ever since I started this site, friends and readers have suggested that I should write a book about cover songs (surprisingly, a comprehensive book doesn’t really exist). For years, I resisted. “That’s like saying ‘I’m going to write a book about original songs’,” I’d snarkily reply – i.e., that’s a stupid idea. Cover songs seemed too broad a category. There’s no grand unifying theory of cover songs to fit tidily between two book covers; it’s too big and messy and wonderful a tent for that.

Aretha FranklinAfter years of saying no, I finally came up with the solution. I wouldn’t write a book about cover songs – instead, I would write a book about twenty specific cover songs, and through those twenty covers, a broader narrative would emerge.

The story of covers as traced in Cover Me involves artistic triumphs and music-industry shenanigans. It touches on trends in record-making, music videos, and the internet’s impact on music (did you know the first viral song was a cover?). There are beautiful moments of unlikely artists coming together, and some uglier instances of exploitation and racism. Every major change in the music industry since the advent of rock and roll finds some expression in the world of cover songs. Continue reading »