Feb 272020
 

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

smokey robinson covers

The story goes that Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson “America’s greatest living poet.” Not so, it turns out, but it sure seems like something he would say – it sounds a note of contrariness, but it also has the ring of truth.

Smokey Robinson turned 80 this month, and his legacy as one of the architects of the Motown sound has long been assured. Not only did he have a silken falsetto that conveyed sunshine and rain with equal ease, he also wielded a pen with a similar level of genius. Whether writing for The Miracles, the band that he led throughout the sixties, or the other members of the Motown stable, he came up with songs that became not just a part of music history, but a part of our nation’s history. As Smokey said, the Motown slogan was not “The Sound of Black America,” but “The Sound of Young America,” and that sound has rung down through the corridors of time as surely as the sound of the Liberty Bell.

No further proof is needed than the number of covers of Smokey’s songs – covers of his own recordings or covers of the original recordings by The Temptations or Marvin Gaye or the many other singers who benefited from his pen. His voice has spoken to other artists for decades, and when those artists tell us what he told them, those songs are just as fresh as they were the day he first set them down. We found thirty superlative covers of songs that Smokey wrote and/or sang, but, as we could have found thirty great recordings of “My Girl” alone, we know we’ve missed a few along the way. Whether you’re steamed at what we missed, or excited to discover what we found, we can agree on one thing: Smokey Robinson is one of the all-time greats, and we’re fortunate to have the privilege to listen to the songs he wrote for the rest of our lives.

– Patrick Robbins, Features Editor

The list starts on Page 2.

Jun 062011
 

Duncan Sheik had one of the 1990s’ more enduring songs in “Barely Breathing,” which hung around the Billboard Top 100 charts for a full year. As they say in (what used to be) the radio business, it tested well. Six additional albums have followed, but Sheik has spent much of the past five years composing scores for Broadway productions and winning both Tony and Grammy awards in the process. Long before he was halfway to an EGOT, though, Sheik spent his teenage years in the 1980s. On Covers 80s he reflects the influence that a wide range of synthpop bands and tracks had on his formative years.

This is no John Hughes soundtrack compilation and if you’re looking for a “Walking On Sunshine” feel-good nostalgia trip, you’ll likely be disappointed. While a few big hits are represented, Sheik offers a deeper and somewhat darker journey back into his past. Although he grew up in New Jersey, Sheik does not include any American bands on Covers 80’s. He says that the litmus test for inclusion was “did I really, really care about it when I was 15 or 16?” Apparently what Sheik really, really cared about back then was the electronic, indie and New Romantic pop of the second British Invasion and Covers 80s benefits greatly from Sheik’s choice of source material. Continue reading »