May 022014

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Little Willie John made a splash with “Fever.” It’s an ominous song that slinks along in a minor key. A hit in 1956, it certainly stood out amongst the rest of the R&B hits of the day, burning briefly but brightly. Two years later, Peggy Lee caught “Fever,” slowed it to a simmer, and added some heated lyrics. Once again, it became a hit – a process that would be repeated a couple years later, thanks to Elvis Presley. And there’s been no lack of covers since (an epidemic?). Seems few are immune, with two of the (single-named) queens of pop music, Madonna and Beyonce, having given it a go. But “Fever” has spread to many genres, and the best of the best bring something unique to the hot (and catchy) tune.

Chuck Brown & Eva Cassidy – Fever (Little Willie John cover)

DC’s godfather of go-go goes toe-to-toe with soulful singer Eva Cassidy in this sultry duet. It ditches a lot of the ominous nature of the original “Fever,” adding some gospel backing and a bit of violin to brighten things up a bit. It suddenly sounds like a bit of a celebration.

The Cramps – Fever (Little Willie John cover)

Taking things in the opposite direction, the Cramps make “Fever” more ominous and primal. They decided to include the historical allusions of Peggy Lee’s version, sounding particularly down about the inevitability of it all, delivered in with a bit of rockabilly twang in the vocals. And it really takes it out of the band, with instruments falling away at the end, just leaving the listener with snapping and feedback.

Brian Eno – Fever (Little Willie John cover)

All the emotion in this take on “Fever” comes thanks to the instrument. Brian Eno’s unique vocal take doesn’t have any of the smolder that smokes its way through most versions of this song. Instead, the lead guitar growls, barks, and replies to the words with a burning passion. The rhythm section keeps everything moving along, holding steady between the detached vocals and the emotive guitar.

Junior Byles – Fever (Little Willie John cover)

Unsurprisingly, reggae is the chance for the rhythm section to really stand out, and it’s the bass that makes this version burn up. Coupled with Junior’s plaintive and emotional voice, this “Fever” actually sounds like it could potentially burn something up.

The Neville Brothers – Fever (Little Willie John cover)

It starts off smooth and after about a minute it begins to sizzle. A fantastic, funky New Orleans take on the standard, with a nice bit of horn work and some very creative drumming. Of course a bayou take on “Fever” would sound like a party.

Of course you recognize the song, but a refresher course on the original and the Peggy Lee version are readily available.

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  2 Responses to “Five Good Covers: Fever (Little Willie John)”

Comments (2)
  1. Some great versions here loved the Chuck Brown and Eve Cassidy version the Cramps were an interesting take as well.



  2. first version i ever heard was kingsmen-then mccoys-then years later-little willie john. mccoys win!

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