For Record Store Day this year, Erykah Badu and The Roots keyboard player James Poyser quietly dropped a new 7″ cover of Squeeze’s oft-covered “Tempted.” For those who weren’t lucky enough to snag it that day, they’ve just posted it online.
About a decade ago, I was walking down 23rd Street in Manhattan, when suddenly, without warning, a group of teenagers in front of me burst into song. To my surprise, they belted out the doo-wop classic “In the Still of the Night.” I immediately texted my father, a lifelong fan of the tune, saying I thought the scene was emblematic of just how well the track has endured.
“In the Still of the Night” was first recorded by the Five Satins in 1956. The song was not a huge hit upon its release. But with its memorable chorus and perfect doo-wop harmonies, it has grown more popular through time. In the ‘80s, WCBS-FM (New York City’s oldies station) repeatedly listed the song in the number one spot on its annual Top 500 countdown. Around the same time, the song appeared on the 1987 mega-selling Dirty Dancing soundtrack. There have been a number of covers over the years, most notably by Philly soulsters Boyz II Men, who gave it the “Cooley High” treatment in 1992.
Last night’s VMAs surprised many by omitting any sort of musical tribute to Aretha Franklin. You’d think if anyone could pull that together with a few days notice, MTV could – but honestly, I get it. There have been fewer memorial covers of Aretha Franklin than we saw for Tom Petty, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and many others. Even Chris Cornell earned more in-concert tributes, and Aretha’s career of hits goes back decades further than his.
Why is that? Certainly Aretha is no less beloved than these others; eloquent and moving tributes in other forms continue to pour in hourly. My guess: Aretha is first and foremost known as a singer, maybe the greatest ever (Rolling Stone said she was). Though certainly no songwriting slouch (pretty much every part you’d sing along to in “Respect,” she added herself), Aretha may simply be too daunting vocally for many musicians to attempt.
Luckily, not all musicians. Here are the best posthumous Aretha Franklin covers we’ve seen so far. Hopefully more are coming!
Andrew Combs – Reptila (The Strokes cover)
The Strokes’ Is This It songs have been covered to death, so musicians are digging deeper. We heard a killer Angles cover in April from Billie Eilish (more on her in a minute), and now singer-songwriter Andrew Combs takes on this Room on Fire track. His own music leans Nashville Americana, but from the crazy horns here, sounds like he’s been spending time in New Orleans.
This week we’ve posted tributes to three of this year’s six Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees: The Cars, Dire Straits, and Nina Simone. And lord knows we’ve posted plenty of covers of the other three over the years: Bon Jovi, The Moody Blues, and “Early Influence” inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe. But to celebrate them all in one place in advance of this weekend’s induction ceremony, we thought we’d round up a few of the best covers we didn’t include in all those other features.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
One of Walt Whitman’s most famous lines is, “I am large, I contain multitudes” and nowhere is this more evident than in Adam Yauch.
He was MCA – one-third of legendary hip hop troika, Beastie Boys. He was Nathanial Hornblower, Sir Stewart Wallace and Nathan Wind as Cochese. He was an MC, a bassist, a director, a film distributor, a punk, a hip hop head, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a practicing Buddhist and a staunch advocate of civil rights and the Free Tibet movement. He was a son, a husband, a father, and (despite being an only child) a brother. He was cooler than a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.