In 1961 the Freedom Riders set out to protest segregation in interstate travel, leaving from Washington, D.C. into the Deep South. Their buses were ambushed and set on fire, their bodies beaten by mobs, the Klan and Southern police. Many of them ended up in Mississippi’s Parchman Penitentiary. Expressing their determination, the prisoners would often unite in one voice singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.” The song is based on a spiritual called “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You ‘Round.” With recordings and performances by Joan Baez and other artists, it became known as a freedom-song for civil rights.
As you are surely aware, all week we are meticulously counting down the Best Cover Songs of 2011. While we do that list, though, other publications have been putting out their own best songs list. There is no firm consensus for #1, but we are seeing many of the same tracks pop up over and over again. So we tossed together a set of the best free covers of the best songs of the year.
Near the end of Bob Marley‘s life when cancer had begun to take it’s course he wrote “Redemption Song.” In a song that gives a glimpse into his dealing with mortality, he delivered one of the more widely covered acoustic spiritual ballads today. Some of the versions that ring true to the soul of the song include a haunting rendition by Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer and a live tribute by Lauryn Hill with Ziggy Marley.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Every band likes to end gigs with their biggest song. Arcade Fire must have a hard time drafting a set list, since every one of their songs is massive, but for a long time they’ve been sending off fans with the truly epic “Wake Up.” It’s a grand, soaring song that really requires the dedication of all eight Arcade Fire members. However, it’s also such a gem that other artists can’t help but try to take it on, though most of them tone it down to a more manageable acoustic number. The results are mixed – covering Arcade Fire can be a daunting task – but the five artists below prove up to the challenge.
Quickies rounds up new can’t-miss covers. Download ‘em below.
• Tegan and Sara covering any holiday song would likely be adorable, but hearing them do “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” is the auditory equivalent of a thousand kittens.
For anyone interested in the stats game, Cover Me has seen a lot of big, round numbers recently. Yesterday afternoon we put up our 500th post (Eric Lauritsen’s epic roundup of dozens of live covers by Wilco). Then this morning we gained our 1000th Twitter follower (hi @u2acro!). As I’ve been promising on @covermesongs for a while now, that’s an occasion for a Twit-sclusive giveaway. No, scratch that. Five Twit-sclusive giveaways.
Here’s the deal: Tweet out a link to a page on Cover Me. Could be the homepage, could be a favorite post, could be our archives on a favorite artist (find ‘em here). Whatever. Include the hash tag “#CoverMe1000” in your post. Do this as often as you like over the next week—as long as you’re tweeting a different page/post each time. Next Friday I’ll pick five tweets randomly. Those five tweet-ers win one of the following:
Last week we saw three videos from John Legend and the Roots’ Spike Lee-filmed concert. Since, JohnLegendVEVO has upped many, many more. You can watch them all here. One, however, deserves its own post.
The Legend/Roots album Wake Up! was originally inspired by them covering the Arcade Fire song of the same name. Ironically, that song was cut in favor of a protest-soul theme. We wondered what the heck their cover of “Wake Up” would sound like. Now we know. Epic.
Do the Right Thing. Driving Miss Daisy. John Legend and the Roots at Terminal 5. What do these things have in common? Well, if you read the headline, you already know: Spike Lee filmed them. As part of American Express’ Unstaged series pairing famous musicians with famous directors, Lee brought his Brooklyn touch to last night’s Manhattan concert. He went all out, recreating the Wake Up! album cover onstage and letting the guys do their thing.
So far only two songs have been archived, but if the recent Arcade Fire/Terry Gilliam Unstaged is any indication, the full thing will be rebroadcast in a week or two. Until then, check out Legend and the Roots performing Eugene McDaniels’ “Compared to What” and album highlight “I Can’t Write Left Handed.” As we saw before, this latter features the Roots’ “Captain” Kirk Douglas playing brain-exploding guitar. Screw “best guitarist in hip-hop”; this guy might be one of the best guitarists around period.
EDIT: Added third song, “Wake Up Everybody,” at bottom.