Oct 132021

Go back to the beginning

40. Luke Brindley – Father and Daughter

This song was first brought to us by The Wild Thornberrys Movie soundtrack, and just truly thank you Nickelodeon for this gem. The original actually features Simon’s ten-year-old son on vocals, making it a whole family affair. It’s a heartwarming tale of a father-daughter relationship, a mix of advice and affirmations. Brindley stays faithful to the original, keeping the same light, folk-plucking ambiance, but the original’s distinctive guitar interlude changes and ends up being much more subtle. In any form, “as long as one and one is two” I’m going to love this Paul Simon song. – Sara Stoudt

39. Randy Crawford – Something So Right

Despite its quiet, laid back vibe and theme of sweet, almost shy, disbelief, “Something So Right” has inspired covers by some genuinely gigantic voices. But while Barbra Streisand, Annie Lennox and Trisha Yearwood have all taken fine swings at it over the years, none have come close to matching Randy Crawford’s 1976 take. Against a backdrop of swirling strings, Randy serves up a positively exquisite vocal and transforms the low-key ballad into a timeless, gorgeous soul-disco slow dance. Take note, divas of the future, ‘cuz this is how it’s done. – Hope Silverman

38. Tom Jones – Love and Blessings

This tune off 2011’s So Beautiful or So What is a little more groovy than some of Simon’s earlier work. It still is upbeat, now it just takes some hi-hat and jazzy guitar and bass to get us there. Tom Jones’ version actually seems to call back to old-school Simon at first, with some bang-on-a-can percussion thrown in to get our toes tapping. In the middle of the song, the grooviness comes back, but just when you think Jones has reverted to Simon’s original vision, a new sound appears signaled with a tempo increase. – Sara Stoudt

37. Aoife O’Donovan – Hearts and Bones

“Hearts and Bones” is one of many Simon songs about people traveling together; in this case we’re hearing about Simon and then-wife Carrie Fisher’s actual and metaphorical travels. Like many of these songs, it’s more about the journey than the destination. It’s a contemplative and personal song, and served as the title track of what was, to that point, Simon’s least successful album, but one that has grown in critical respect over time (and it commercial failure pushed Simon to experiment, which resulted in the career-reviving Graceland). The cover, by Aoife O’Donovan, probably best known for her work with Crooked Still and I’m With Her, features just O’Donovan’s beautiful voice and piano. It’s gorgeous, and emphasizes the intimacy of the lyrics. – Jordan Becker

36. COIN – Cecelia

A deep kick drum still drives this song, telling us when to bop our head as we listen, and COIN maintains the original song’s jauntiness, adding more of a free-spirited island breeziness. Where once were claps, now we have (perhaps?) a dampened cow bell, and where a light flute once was, there is now some kind of synth xylophone. A bass makes an appearance in the interludes replacing the twangy guitar of the original. Despite keeping the same ease-in opening of the song, starting with drum and vocals only before bringing in the other instruments, COIN does not follow the same fade out. It’s a short song in general, but here it seems to end more abruptly. – Sara Stoudt

35. Everything But the Girl – The Only Living Boy in New York

Gorgeous two-part harmonies on each and every line of the song make this cover from 1992 a definite keeper. Aside from the harmonies, Everything But the Girl stays faithful to the 1970 original. Their own touches are modest ones: they pick up the tempo slightly – or at least the energy level – and they add a tambourine for extra vitality and drive. Because it was this cover version that lodged the song in my brain (somehow I missed the original), it always feels strange to hear Simon singing the verses alone. And yet being alone was kind of the point of the song, Simon feeling somewhat abandoned by Garfunkel who was off pursuing a newfound side gig as a film actor. – Tom McDonald

34. Randy California – Mother and Child Reunion

When his album Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds was released in 1972, Randy California was only 21 years old. A protégé of Jimi Hendrix (it was Hendrix who gave 15-year-old Randy Wolfe his new surname), California took “Mother and Child Reunion,” Paul Simon’s early excursion into world music, and turned it into otherworld music, far more Jupiter than Jamaica. That’s Ed Cassidy, California’s bandmate in Spirit, playing drums. – Patrick Robbins

33. The Persuasions – Slip Slidin’ Away

On the street corners of Newark in the 1950s, young Paul Simon became captivated with doo-wop and gospel singers. These stylings of the street infused his musical DNA. Simon couldn’t sing gospel, so he altered the form to meet the limits of his voice and the character of his style. “Slip Slidin’ Away” may be his best work in that vein; the song is surely the brightest spot from Simon’s late-’70s slump. The Persuasions, who started out singing on Brooklyn street corners in the early ’60s, were on a great roll by the late ’70s; the critic Greil Marcus put their 1977 album Chirpin’ among the top 10 albums of the decade. The group looked back to street corner classics like “Chain Gang,” but in a way that pointed ahead; early hip-hop outfits like Boys II Men took inspiration from The Persuasions. The group stayed relevant for decades, with their (mostly) a cappella covers of everyone from Dylan to U2 to the Grateful Dead. Their 1984 take on Simon’s wistful masterpiece brings the song back to its source. – Tom McDonald

32. Robert Ellis – Rene and George Magritte with Their Dog After the War

“René” was famously inspired by a photograph of the artist that Simon spied in a book whilst over at Joan Baez’s house. And it was actually the picture’s caption that set his creative wheels turning, as he succinctly offered in a 1984 interview: “I thought, that is a very interesting title for a song” (understatement!). And from that tiny seed came an eternally gorgeous, romantic surrealist hymn to the sacred sounds of ’50s R&B and a true latter day Simon gem. Country-flavored troubadour Robert Ellis’s cover is the height of simplicity, With its spare acoustic arrangement and yearning vocal, it emits some seriously swoonsome ’70s singer-songwriter vibes. It is as heart-on-the-sleeve handsome as it gets. – Hope Silverman

31. Madison Cunningham – So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright

In the (alleged) words of Frank Zappa, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” So what does recording a cover of a song written ostensibly about an architect resemble? Doodling about philosophy? Singer-songwriter Madison Cunningham achieves something close to this with her graceful, freehand cover of “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright,” Paul Simon’s puzzling and beautiful bossa nova ode. The song is a satisfying creative fit for Cunningham, whose work includes two full-length records and three EPs (including 2019’s For the Sake of the Rhyme, from which this track is drawn). As a guitarist and vocalist, Cunningham’s style is a blend of the cerebral and heartfelt. Her original songs move in small kinetic turns — often coming together in full and revelatory colors, like the panels of a Rubik’s Cube. Her take on “So Long” is admirably well-constructed: an intricate acoustic guitar arrangement, a serene and confident vocal take (with more ballast than Garfunkel’s airy tenor). Cunningham mirrors Simon’s creative concision and quiet humor in her cover. But, more than that, she’s also able to dance around some of the ineffable aspects of Wright and his work — his holistic outlook, the organic beauty of his designs. It’s a cover that’s equal parts balletic and sturdy, lithe and mighty. – Ben Easton

The list continues on Page 4.

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  17 Responses to “The 50 Best Paul Simon Covers Ever”

Comments (17)
  1. I think you meant “50 Ways to Be Your Cover.”

  2. No Disturbed?!? Paul Simeon thaught their cover was good enough to post on his webpage. He didn’t do that for any other cover. Just destroyed the integrity of your whole list.

    • Agreed! I went right to page 6, assuming it would be top 3, at least. But not to be on the list at all is disturbing.

  3. One additional fact about the great Bowie version: he was pretty ill that night, with a high fever. Makes this rendition even more stunning

  4. The disrespect for Harpers Bizarre is unforgivable

  5. I enjoyed listening to this list. Thank you!

  6. Surprised by the lack of Willie Nelson and the Bangles, but it’s a good list.

  7. I saw Kurt Elling do American Tune at a concert in Vancouver BC that brought a tear or 2 to my eyes. It’s on an album he made.

  8. Yes- America!!!

  9. Can’t wait to read and listen to this – !! Saving it for this weekend when I can dig in.

  10. Great list. I can think of songs I’d add – Rumer’s “Long Long Day” would be top of my list of omissions, but like others have said I’d definitely put Yes’s “America” and Willie’s “Graceland” in (I like his version better than Paul’s), but I was introduced to a bunch of great covers here I didn’t know. Thanks so much!

  11. Barnstar – Boy in the Bubble (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=q0_1721YBjs)

    Ben Sollee – The Obvious Child

    Barrett Smith and Shannon Whitworth – Duncan

    Marc Cohn – The Only Living Boy in NY

    Allira Wilson, Harry Mitchell, Ben Vanderwal & Karl Florisson – Kathy’s Song

  12. Jonatha Brooke, “Bleecker Street”; Allison Brown, “Homeward Bound”

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