In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
When you think of Stevie Nicks, you think of her as an artist whose songs are frequently covered, not one who does the covering. After all, why would someone who can write Fleetwood Mac classics like “Dreams” or “Rhiannon” and solo classics like “Stand Back” and “Edge of Seventeen” feel the need to play other people’s songs?
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They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, was born Steven Georgiou 65 years ago today. His popularity exploded in the early-mid 1970s, and then, for all intents and purposes, he vanished from the music world for decades. Some of his disappearance can be attributed to changing musical tastes, but the main reason for the long disruption in his musical career was his conversion to Islam. Unlike his contemporary Richard Thompson, who converted to Islam a few years earlier, Stevens’ conversion not only led him to stop performing, but also embroiled him in controversy; his comments about the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989 caused a typical media overreaction, with calls for (and actual) destruction of Cat Stevens albums and the removal of a very good cover of “Peace Train” from later pressings of a 10,000 Maniacs album.
In the 1990s, Islam began a slow return to performing, initially focusing on Islamic music and issues; more recently, he has returned to secular music, often with charitable purposes. His appearances included performing at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s satirical pre-election “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” where he sang “Peace Train,” while Ozzy Osbourne sang “Crazy Train.”
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Adele dominated the cover song landscape in 2011, but Two-Aught-Twelve saw no similar galvanizing figure. Yes Lana Del Rey got covered a lot, but Leonard Cohen and Arcade Fire also seemed to garner an unexpected landslide of great covers (and speaking of landslides, so did Fleetwood Mac). “Call Me Maybe” was a huge hit that didn’t lead to much in the way of classic covers, and few seem to have even bothered attempting the Korean raps on “Gangnam Style.”
Which means that cover songs in 2012 were more diverse, ambitious, and left-field than ever before. A given YouTube search or Hype Machine browse would be as likely to turn up forgotten hits or underappreciated songwriters as it would the latest Top 40 smash. Find a sampling of all the diversity in Cover Me’s official Best Cover Songs of 2012 countdown. Start with #40-31 on the next page, and check back daily as we’ll be adding more til we hit #1.
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
The Bobs are an a cappella group that pride themselves on their originality – and when you’re writing songs with titles like “Mopping, Mopping, Mopping,” “Andy Always Dreamed of Wrestling,” and “Please Let Me Be Your Third World Country,” there’s clearly a lot of originality to be proud of. There’s just as much originality in their renditions of songs they didn’t write, and they’ve been entertaining audiences across the US and Europe with them for almost a third of a century with nothing but voices and self-percussion. Continue reading »
Earlier this year, folk singer-songwriter Sam Beam, better known by the stage name Iron and Wine, joined a bill of prominent country artists including Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, and Sheryl Crow for a tribute show in honor of Johnny Cash’s 80th birthday. The concert was released on CD/DVD last week as We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash. Beam’s contribution to the album was a take on the much-covered track “Long Black Veil,” which Cash recorded for his 1965 album Orange Blossom Special. Continue reading »
Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine has established herself as something of a covers aficionado, taking on a diverse roster of artists from Drake to Buddy Holly. She debuted her latest cover while taping her upcoming episode of MTV’s Unplugged, which will air on April 8. Following in the footsteps of her excellent collaboration with Billy Bragg on “Fairytale of New York,” Florence teamed up with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme for a cover of Johnny Cash and June Carter’s classic duet, “Jackson.” Continue reading »
Electronica artist Adam Young, who performs under the moniker Owl City, released a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Home of the Blues” on his blog. Young stated that the song is one of his favorites by Cash. Continue reading »
Last October, Chris Isaak released his excellent Sun Studios cover album (read our review) and he’s still promoting it in the new year. Last night he hit Conan for a performance, joined by O’Brien himself on guitar. The band performed a jumping take on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” with Conan in a vintage nudie suit. Continue reading »