It’s hard not to feel cynical about the current onslaught of collaborations in the musical universe these days. The trend seems less about popular artists creating something great together and more about leveraging multiple fanbases to jack up stream counts. Enter Miranda Lambert to turn this trend on its ear on her new all-star cover of “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”
Life experience can transform a song. While Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails went deep into the emotional hell pit on “Hurt” in 1994, Johnny Cash’s 2002 cover took it even further, transforming the already heartbreaking into the emotionally devastating.
Like Cash, Tanya Tucker is a country legend. She was only 13 years old when she had her first hit record, 1972’s anthem “Delta Dawn.” And in the tradition of those “blessed” with huge success at a young age, she embarked in earnest on her mission to be country music’s wildest child. A female outlaw in the mold of Waylon and Willie, she became as famous for her partying, drinking, drug-taking, and relationship choices as she was for her music (check out her excellent, revealing autobiography Nickel Dreams for all the painful details).
Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.
Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Start the countdown on the next page…
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!
My love must be as free/As is the eagle’s wing,/Hovering o’er land and sea/And everything. – Henry David Thoreau
The name “Don Henley” conjures up images of the American West – dust swirling in canyons, expansive desert highways, the smell of colitas rising up through the air – but for me, Don Henley is damp, cold London afternoons spent tucked behind the couch in a small, cozy home. When I played Barbies, my dolls were raven-haired beauties, pretty mamas, and blondes dressed up in lace and lies, and it was Don Henley who sang the stories of their lives.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter” wasn’t just a song to Loretta Lynn; it was the story of her life. Lynn grew up in poverty, married at 13, had four children by 19. For most, it would be a recipe for disaster, but not for Lynn. When her husband Moony (named for the moonshine he ran) gave Lynn a guitar for her 24th birthday, she taught herself to play and began her journey towards country stardom. Loretta Lynn has written hundreds of songs, released over 70 albums and was one of the first women in Nashville to write songs from a woman’s point of view. Lynn was unafraid to be a liberated woman, releasing songs about birth control (“The Pill”), teen sex (“Wings Upon Your Horns”), and the Vietnam War (“Dear Uncle Sam”).