Jun 272023

One Great Cover looks at the greatest cover songs ever, and how they got to be that way.

Nina Simone Just Like A Woman

Today’s One Great Cover post is a guest post written by Graley Herren, and is excerpted from his post “Just Like Nina Simone’s Blues” on his Substack Shadow Chasing with his permission. We’re grateful for the opportunity to present it here.

When Bob Dylan was named the 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year, he delivered a thoughtful acceptance speech in which he reflected upon his musical inspirations, including “The High Priestess of Soul”:

Nina Simone. I used to cross paths with her in New York City in the Village Gate nightclub. She was an artist I definitely looked up to. She recorded some of my songs that she learned directly from me, sitting in a dressing room. She was an overwhelming artist, piano player, and singer. Very strong woman, very outspoken, and dynamite to see perform. That she was recording my songs validated everything that I was about. Nina was the kind of artist I loved and admired.

The admiration was mutual, though it was tempered by Simone’s acute awareness of Dylan’s comparatively privileged access to the star-making machinery of American pop culture. In a 1966 interview, Simone lamented,

I have no faith that the greatest talent in this country will get any recognition while they’re alive. Perhaps Bob Dylan, but me, and Billie [Holiday] before me, and [John] Coltrane—in the jazz circles, yes, but not the general public. I don’t believe that the talent that would be considered artistic in this country is going to get any recognition, and that includes me.

Simone numbered Dylan among “the greatest talent in this country,” but her main point was to decry the biased inequity with which respect for such talent was granted or denied.

That said, Simone paid Dylan the highest compliment one musician can give another by performing several of his songs, and doing so with profound sensitivity. Late in life, her esteem for Dylan was unequivocal. In Princess Noire, biographer Nadine Cohodas points out that Simone kept a picture of Dylan on the wall of her French home in Bouc-Bel-Air, hanging next to a photo of Little Richard. Her friend Precious Williams visited there in 1999, and as she was leaving Simone told her, “Please tell my public that there aren’t many of us geniuses still living. Hardly any of us left at all. It’s down to Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Sinatra, except Frank’s already dead.”

Simone and Dylan’s musical paths intersected most directly when she covered five of his songs during a five-year span: “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” on Let It All Out (1966); “I Shall Be Released,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” on To Love Somebody (1969); and “Just Like a Woman” on Here Comes the Sun (1971). All of these performances are noteworthy, but for this post I want to focus on “Just Like a Woman” as a comparative case study in the artistry of Simone and Dylan.
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Jun 112021
german cover songs

We’re not generally in the practice of publishing reader mail at Cover Me (doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate getting it!). There’s no Letters to the Editor page like you’d see in an old magazine. The comments section and social media serve that function well enough. But today, we’re making an exception.

Last summer, a German reader named Karsten Schroeder wrote in offering to share some cool covers he liked by German bands. We said sure – we’re always looking to discover new stuff, after all. We didn’t hear much after that and, to be honest, forgot about it. Then, a full ten months later, he emailed an exhaustive look at the covers scene in Germany. Across 123 songs, Karsten explored covers spanning punk – his favorite genre – to hip-hop, folk to pop to a few genres that are Germany-specific (“Fun-Punk,” “Deutschrock”). It was so rich and detailed, full of amazing covers that we – and, I expect, you – had never heard before that we asked him if we could publish it. Continue reading »

Aug 202010

If you’ve ever attended a music festival, you need to know Consequence of Sound. If you ever plan on attending a music festival, you need to know Consequence of Sound. If you have no interest in music festivals whatsoever, you need to wise up…and then you need to know Consequence of Sound. In addition to the site’s regular music news and features, their Festival Outlook has established itself as the premiere source for festival info. From lineup info (which they always seem to know before anyone else) to reviews, their coverage spans ‘em all, from the big boys (Bonnaroo, Coachella) to the underdogs (Ghoulsfest?).

Suffice to say: These guys know their festivals. So as fest season winds down, we checked in with some CoS writers (of whom – full disclosure – I am one) to hear the best festival covers they’ve ever witnessed. Here’s what they offered. Each has a review and a video so you can vicariously experience the insanity.

After you finish here, hop over to CoS’ Friday Mixtape! The covers were chosen by yours truly. Continue reading »