Sep 032020
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best leonard cohen covers

Last week, Donald Trump gave his headlining speech at the Republican National Convention. Right after, fireworks exploded over the Washington Monument, soundtracked by a cover of “Hallelujah.” A few minutes later, a second singer covered “Hallelujah” while the entire Trump family watched. Both covers were unauthorized, and Leonard Cohen’s estate quickly said they are exploring legal action. (It must also be said that the covers weren’t very good – you won’t find either one on this list.)

Though hardly a shining moment in the history of Cohen covers, this event speaks to the cultural ubiquity of his work, and of “Hallelujah” in particular. For an artist who never sold that many records, Cohen has become about as iconic as icons get. Humble to the end, he would no doubt object – politely, of course – to that statement. But it’s true. His songs transcend his albums, they transcend his performances, they even transcend Leonard Cohen himself.

There’s never a bad time to talk about Leonard Cohen covers, but they’ve really been on my mind the past couple years. Why? Because I’ve been writing an entire book on the subject, which is out today. It’s in the 33 1/3 series of small books on specific albums. The album I selected? The 1991 tribute album I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen. Without it, you probably wouldn’t even know “Hallelujah”… but we’ll get to that later.

In the book, I explore not just that one tribute album, but the entire history of Leonard Cohen covers generally. It’s a long and fascinating story, but suffice to say here that Cohen wouldn’t have had anywhere near the reach he did without others covering his songs. Covers gave him his start – Judy Collins’s, in particular – and resurrected his career more than once.

There are far too many great Cohen covers to fit in a list like this (and our Patreon supporters will soon get a bonus list of 100 more of them). But we all dug deep to pull the highlights, both the best of the totemic covers as well as brilliant but lesser-known interpretations. The covers span his entire catalog too. Plenty of “Hallelujah”s, of course, and versions of the ’60s songs that made him famous, but also covers of deeper cuts from albums throughout his recording career, up to and including his very last. We hope you’ll discover some new favorites, and maybe be able to listen to the classics you already know in a fresh light.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Buy I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen here:
Bloomsbury | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Bookshop

The list begins on Page 2.

Mar 172020
 

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.

jackson browne

Aloha!

1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High is, without a doubt, one of the greatest teen movies ever to exist. Both insanely funny and powerfully poignant, it bestowed the world of pop culture with gifts beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Jeff Spicoli “learnin’ about Cuba and havin’ some food.” Damone’s 5-Point Plan of guaranteed seduction (Point # 3: “Act like wherever you are, that’s the place to be”). Terrifying taskmaster Mr. Hand. The well-deserved tribute to the intoxicating scent of dittos (ask your parents). It’s a movie that has transcended time in unimaginable ways.

It also drove home that when you are a teenager who can’t express your true feelings, rock ‘n’ roll can help you out. The Fast Times soundtrack is as crucial a part of the movie as the unforgettable characters within it. Case in point: Friday night at the shopping mall is packed with as much excited anticipation as New Year’s Eve in Times Square, thanks to the Go-Go’s’ “We Got the Beat” scoring the scene.

Yet as great as that moment is, no song captures the spirit of the film better than its de facto theme tune, Jackson Browne’s sublime “Somebody’s Baby.” Sweet, anxious, and consumed with infatuation, it was the biggest hit of Browne‘s career, hitting the pop Top 10 in the summer of 1982.
Continue reading »

Apr 302019
 
best cover songs of april
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. Continue reading »

May 022018
 

In Pick Five, great artists tell us about five cover songs that matter to them.

geographer cover songs

We first came across Geographer in 2011 with his great cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent.” Seven years later, he’s blossomed into a killer electropop producer, singer, and songwriter. His new EP Alone Time finds him pushing his pop instincts to their limit, on five insanely catchy dance jams that would work equally well in a club or on headphones. Here’s a sample, new single “Read My Mind”:

Geographer main man Mike Deni told PopMatters “Musically, [the EP] represents an obsession with pop music that went to its furthest reaches and boomeranged back again into making not just lyrics, but sounds, that matter.” On the five covers he picked out for us, though, he dug beyond that pop music obsession into his songwriter roots, picking classic performances by the likes of Jeff Buckley and Harry Nilsson (though fans of his poppier side needn’t worry; by the end he gets to a “karaoke classic”). Continue reading »

Pick Five: VÉRITÉ

 Posted by at 10:00 am  No Responses »
Apr 022018
 

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

verite cover songs

I first discovered VÉRITÉ via her insanely catchy pop 2014 song “Weekend.” It was only her second single, and yet I was already late to the party. The first single – “Strange Enough” – reached number one on Hype Machine and landed her as Twitter’s “#1 Most Viral Twitter Artist” of that week. And this was all before anyone knew her real name! Continue reading »

Jan 082018
 
gregg allman song for adam

When Gregg Allman went into the studio to record his final album Southern Blood it was clear to all those around him that he was saying goodbye. The record, released posthumously last September, contains a number of tracks that tell the story of a man looking back on his life. In 2017, we wrote about his version of the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River” and how it provided a feeling of joyful release. By contrast, the album’s closing tune, a cover of Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam,” relates a much bleaker story. Continue reading »