If you are a fan of Elton John and all of his many reinventions, this is the time of your life. It started in late 2017 when Elton along with Bernie Taupin sponsored a worldwide YouTube contest to reimage videos for three of Elton’s most popular songs, “Bennie and the Jets,” “Rocket Man,” and “Tiny Dancer,. It continued with his announcement that his upcoming three-year tour will be his last. Suffice to say, our eyes and ears will be treated to various projects with the volume turned up to “all Elton, all the time” for the foreseeable future.
Last year I did a roundup of the Best Cover Songs of 1996. It was a fun project to retroactively compile one of our year-end lists for a year before Cover Me was born. I wanted to do it again this year, but continuing the twentieth-anniversary theme with 1997 seemed a little boring. Turns out 1997 also featured a bunch of Afghan Whigs covers.
So to mix it up, I decided to go a decade further back and look at 1987. Needless to say, the landscape looked very different for covers. For one, far more of that year’s biggest hits were covers than we saw for 1996. The year had #1 cover hits in Heart’s “Alone,” the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter,” Los Lobos’ “La Bamba,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” and Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Plus ubiquitous hits that didn’t quite top the charts, but remain staples of the songs-you-didn’t-know-were-covers lists, Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot” and George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You.”
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!
Rosanne Cash, daughter of country legend Johnny Cash, has been putting out solo albums since 1978. Her work was widely lauded in the ’80s, starting with the commercial success of her 1981 album Seven Year Ache. In 1985, she won the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me,” and 1987 saw the release of her landmark album King’s Record Shop. The ’90s were a quieter time for Cash, but she came roaring back in the 2000s, eventually recording The List, a selection of covers taken from a list of great American and country songs given to her by her father. She followed that with 2014’s The River and the Thread, which earned her three more Grammys, including Best Americana Album.
It would have been easy for her to have just followed in her father’s footsteps, copying his musical style, but Rosanne Cash found her own voice. She helped make cowpunk popular early in her career, and her music has evolved organically ever since. Now she stands as one of the leading artists in Americana. She records songs that speak to Southern sensibilities without restricting themselves to the trappings of modern country music. She left Nashville a long time ago to live in New York, and letting that expanded worldview influence her music makes her one of the champions of her chosen field.
Mike Doughty, who first found fame in the mid-90’s with his alt-rock outfit Soul Coughing and has been a solo act since 2000, announced last week that his next album will be comprised of nothing but covers. The Flip is Another Honey, due out November 6th, has a tracklist covering commonplace songs (“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver, “Southern Girls” by Cheap Trick) and lesser-known tracks (“Boy + Angel” by Doveman, “Ta Douleur” by Camille, “Mistress” by Red House Painters).
Rosanne Cash stopped by The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson last night to promote her new memoir Composed. Proving that her story contains much more than just a famous lineage, she performed the folk traditional “Motherless Children.” Her cover first appeared on her 2009 album The List, but seeing it live with a finger-picking guitarist makes it all the more devastating. She describes it as a “wrist-slasher.” Well put.
Ferguson conducts a lengthy interview with Cash before the performance. She provides some pretty colorful anecdotes—talking about snakes, cleavage, and Norwegian covers of her dad’s songs. She also talks about following Ferguson on Twitter (adorably, she pronounces it “tweeter”). “You talk about your pants a lot,” she notes. Zing!