At the end of every year, we work for weeks curating our annual Best of the Year list (here’s last year’s). We’re monitoring what comes out all year though, so this month I thought: why wait? Here’s a more impulsive and spontaneous list, some songs we’ve written about already and others we didn’t get to. Just some great covers that stood out as the month comes to a close.
Follow all our Best of 2017 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
Year-end lists are a time to look back. That’s something we’ve been doing a lot of this year.
See, we turned ten years old in 2017 – practically ancient in internet-blog terms – so we’ve indulged in what we feel is well-earned nostalgia. At the beginning of the year, each of our writers picked the ten most important covers in their life (see them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We even listed the ten most important covers in Cover Me‘s life, from the song that inspired the site to our very first Best of the Year winner.
Then, to cap things off, in October we commissioned a 25-track tribute to the cover song itself – which you can still download for free. We love the covers everyone contributed so much, incidentally, that we didn’t consider them for this list. It’d be like picking favorite children – if you had 25 of ’em.
Oh, and have I mentioned I wrote a book? … What’s that you say? I mentioned that constantly? Well, I’m quite proud of it. It’s called Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time and it makes a great Christmas gift and – ok, ok, I’ll stop. You can find plenty more about it elsewhere.
Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of looking back this year. And we hope you’ll indulge us this one last glance rearward before we leap into 2018. Because if it’s been a hell of a year for us, it’s certainly also been a hell of a year for the cover song in general. Some of this year’s list ranks among the best covers we’ve ever heard, period. So dig in, and thanks for your support this past decade.
– Ray Padgett
We named Mitski’s One Direction cover one of the best covers of 2015. For her newest cover, she veers about as far as one can in the opposite direction: a Frank Sinatra song. She tackles “I’m a Fool to Want You,” a standard Sinatra actually co-wrote with Jack Wolf and Joel Herron, for a new Planned Parenthood benefit series. The song is also, according to us, the fifth-best Sinatra cover Bob Dylan has done out of all 52 he’s recently released. So the bar is high.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
It’s been a few weeks since we lost Tom Petty. A few weeks since one of the major music artists of my teenage years left this world. I can vividly recall so many memories of driving with my boyfriend in his old brown Toyota…listening to “Wildflowers,” “It’s Good to Be King,” “Free Fallin,” “I Won’t Back Down.” The simple chord progressions and repetitive chorus lines perfectly capturing the spirit of a wild (and internet-free) childhood. In that simplicity, Petty was able to create hit after hit that would span generations.
On Friday, we rounded up the best Tom Petty covers to come since his passing. And today, we begin to dig deeper into the archives for a series of Petty tributes featuring older covers.
Petty tended to write songs more crisp and economical than many of his peers – no Dylanesque word salad or proggy flights of weird instrumentation – which lent themselves to abundant covers. You could play any number of Petty songs within a few months of picking up a guitar (being able to solo like Mike Campbell – well, that might take a little longer).
There are many amazing Petty deep cuts to mine. Why, just in the past year we’ve heard two fantastic covers of songs from his obscure 2006 solo album Highway Companion (by Jane Kramer and The National). But we figured we’d start with a classic, a song so obvious I was frankly surprised to dig through the archives and discover we hadn’t given it the Five Good Covers treatment years ago. Well, better late than never. Rest in peace, Tom.
Last Monday, America woke up and didn’t want to get out of bed. There was yet another senseless massacre, this time in Las Vegas. Even more traumatic for us music fans, it took place in our church, at a concert venue. Later in the afternoon, the news broke that Tom Petty had died, and, a few hours on, that Tom Petty had died a second time. It was like we were getting sucker punched over and over again.
His words made us feel better: that losing is part of life, but we should never give up hope. That the world may drag us down, but people will be there for us. And that we should be free to chase our dreams, whether it be deep within ourselves or making them part of the world. We shouldn’t back down because Tom wouldn’t. To bullies, to being ostracized, and to being anything but ourselves.
Petty was a classic rock and roll survivor, ruling radio in the 1970s, winning MTV video music awards in the ’80s, and writing the song that came back from the dead to be the only happy moment in Silence of the Lambs in the ’90s. He recorded some of America’s most anthemic and heartfelt music, and although his later output declined some, he never slowed down, collaborating in the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys and becoming Johnny Cash’s sideman with the Heartbreakers, reforming his old band Mudcrutch, and endlessly touring.
Upon the news of his death, artists starting playing tribute covers immediately, both in the studio and onstage. I’ve listened to a few dozen over the past few days. Here are my favorites.