We already counted down the 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 but, inevitably, many of our staff’s personal favorites get left off. So, before we begin scouting for what might become the best cover of 2019, we share the best of the rest, an unranked hodgepodge of worthy covers that only just missed our year-end countdown.
You may not know Ed Caraeff’s name, but if you’re a fan of rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s, you’ve admired at least a few of the hundreds of album covers and live shots he’s taken in a long and storied photographic career.
He took his most famous shot when he was just 17, in June of 1967. Then still a high school junior at Westchester High School in Los Angeles, he had heard about a “rock and roll festival” up the coast in Monterey and headed there with some friends and a camera borrowed from his family’s optometrist. As he put it later: “I wasn’t a music lover that was there to enjoy the music and take a few snapshots. I was there to photograph it—and I did.”
The shot seen ’round the world was of Jimi Hendrix at the close of his first American appearance. It’s a startling and otherworldly image: Hendrix kneels before a Fender Stratocaster laid on the stage, his mouth open, eyes closed in a timeless posture of both dominance and ecstasy.
Oh, and the guitar is on fire.
Caraeff’s photograph became the only image to make the cover of Rolling Stone twice. The song Hendrix was performing…erm, burning? “Wild Thing.” But we’ll get to that.
Cover Me’s top-ten covers of 2017 featured everyone from Chance the Rapper to Bob Weir. But scroll all the way down the #1 and you’ll see an unexpected combo: Lucinda Williams and jazz sax virtuoso Charles Lloyd, covering “Masters of War.” Now they’ve collaborated on an entire album – and the first single is another cover.
Williams has never been one to be pigeonholed into one genre or another. Whether she is turning her car wheels down the gravel road of blues, rock, or folk, everything she touches seems to turn into eclectic gold. And now, with the upcoming Vanished Gardens, a collaboration with Lloyd and his band The Marvels, Williams expands the jazz section of her genre-spanning resume.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question: What’s your favorite cover of your favorite song?
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
In the year 2000, the musician known as Fantastic Negrito almost died. A car accident put him in a three-week coma before requiring months of brutal physical therapy. When he finally got out of the hospital, permanent damage to his guitar-playing hand forced him to retire from music. He eventually moved to Oakland and became an urban farmer growing vegetables and, as his new bio artfully puts it, “other, more profitable, green matter.”
A lot has happened since then. He eventually returned to music, and quickly achieved the sort of milestones he never did the first time around. He won the first-ever NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2015, earned a longtime champion and mentor in Chris Cornell, and, just last year, won his first Grammy award, for Best Contemporary Blues Album. But the accident’s after-effects linger in his mind on new album Please Don’t Be Dead, which features a real photo from his hospital stay as its cover. Watch the music video for single “The Duffler”:
At the end of every year, we work for weeks curating our annual Best of the Year list (here’s last year’s). We’re monitoring what comes out all year though, so this month I thought: why wait? Here’s a more impulsive and spontaneous list, some songs we’ve written about already and others we didn’t get to. Just some great covers that stood out as the month comes to a close.