May 142020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Sinatra later albums

Frank Sinatra hailed from an era where singers were singers and songwriters were songwriters, and rarely the twain did meet. Great American Songbook standards penned by the likes of Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers, and Cole Porter were tailored to Sinatra’s specifications by master arrangers like Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May, and brought to life by Sinatra’s formidable interpretive skill. “I’m a real stickler for perfection, in my work and most other people’s work too,” Sinatra said of his approach in 1956. “I find myself picking whatever I do apart, which I do believe is quite healthy.” Continue reading »

Apr 222020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Charles Mingus

I remember when interviewers used to ask him, despite the breadth of his legacy, how he fit into traditional categories that included European classical forms, bebop, Dixieland, gospel, Latin rhythms, and the blues—all genres of music he drew upon in his compositions and then transcended. He would look up and sigh: “Can’t you just call it Mingus music?” —Sue Mingus

Today is the day Charles Mingus Jr. would be turning 98 years old. Only two years left to prepare for the centennial! It should be epic: the mark he left on 20th century music was profound and lasting. He leaves behind this monumental legacy even though his life was cut short—he died at age 56 after a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Let’s celebrate Mingus with a look back at his musical legacy through some wildly different covers of his material. We’ll include several from the past couple of years, and one from an artist born well after Mingus had passed, proving that his spirit is still with us to this day.
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Apr 042020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

On the morning of  October 17, 1961, a skinny, scruffy-haired teen was standing on platform 2 of Dartford station, waiting for a train into London. He was holding a guitar case. Slightly further down the platform stood another, less scruffy teen. He clasped two vinyl records under his arms, held at just the right angle that the titles were visible. The scruffy-haired teen tilted his head to get a better look, his eyes widening as he read the large print emblazoned across the record covers. Chuck Berry Rockin’ At the Hops and – could it be? Yes! – The Best of Muddy Waters. Trying to act naturally, the scruffy teen took a step closer to to the young man with the records. Then another step. And another. Before long they were right next to each other. The scruffy teen cleared his throat. “Hello,” he said. “My name’s Keith.”

So there you have it: Muddy Waters was partially responsible for the first meeting of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger since primary school. It would not be his last contribution to their history. A few months later, Brian Jones was on the phone attempting to secure a booking for the newly formed group. The promoter asked for the band’s name. They didn’t have one. Jones’ eyes darted around the room and fell upon that  same fateful album, The Best of Muddy Waters – specifically, side one track 5: “Rollin’ Stone.” The Rolling Stones were now christened. Continue reading »

Mar 282020
 

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em” might be one of the most recognizable choruses of the last 50 years. Even people who don’t know the song “The Gambler,” know those lines.

On March 20, the world learned of the death of the singer most associated with those words, Kenny Rogers, who passed away at the age of 81. As with a star of his caliber, his death was greeted with a major outpouring of condolences across the celebrity world and lengthy obituaries in most major news outlets. Very few publications mentioned the one tidbit we here at Cover Me are most interested in: the fact that Rogers’ version of “The Gambler” was a cover.

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Mar 182020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Chuck Berry is universally acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll. By the 1980s, however, Berry’s status as a legend had almost been cancelled out by his infamous live performances.

This was the drill: having specified beforehand that the promoter would provide amplifiers and a local backing band, Berry would arrive alone and head straight for the promoter’s office to collect his cash. After counting the money, Berry would walk onstage, plug in his guitar and start playing, often without speaking to the band or advising them of the evening’s setlist. He was known to occasionally fire band members mid-song if they couldn’t keep up. Eventually, at the climax of the nights’ final number, Chuck would launch into his famous duck walk and disappear into the wings.  He would be in his car and speeding down the highway before the last guitar note had finished echoing around the room.

“I’ve been so disappointed in Chuck Berry’s live gigs for years and years and years,” said Keith Richards in the documentary Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987). “Because he didn’t give a damn. If he made a mistake he’d blame it on the band, and he’d just wing it and get through, and he’s got such a powerful personality that he’s managed to get away with it!”

It wasn’t always this way. Charles Edward Anderson Berry had established himself in the early 1950s as a member of pianist Johnnie Johnson’s Sir John Trio in St Louis, and shortly arrived at Chicago’s Chess Records via a personal recommendation from Muddy Waters. Here, Berry would cut the vast majority of his classic sides, backed by a rotating cast of first-rate musicians including Fred Below, Willie Dixon, Matt Murphy, Lafayette Leake, Otis Spann, and right-hand man Johnnie Johnson.
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Jan 112020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Neil Peart, the deep-thinking, world-traveling, book-reading, book-writing, virtuosic drummer and primary lyricist for the Canadian power trio Rush, has died at age 67. Peart died of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, that had first affected him just over three years ago. He joined Rush in 1974, replacing original drummer John Rutsey, who had to leave the band due to health-related issues. Peart was a drummer’s drummer, with dozens of industry and press awards and hundreds of accolades from his peers. While his technical prowess is beyond impeccable, he received nearly as much attention for the lyrical direction in which he steered the band. As we mark his passing here at Cover Me, we’ll look at cover versions of Rush tunes that honor both of these equally important contributions.
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