Sep 032020
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best leonard cohen covers

Last week, Donald Trump gave his headlining speech at the Republican National Convention. Right after, fireworks exploded over the Washington Monument, soundtracked by a cover of “Hallelujah.” A few minutes later, a second singer covered “Hallelujah” while the entire Trump family watched. Both covers were unauthorized, and Leonard Cohen’s estate quickly said they are exploring legal action. (It must also be said that the covers weren’t very good – you won’t find either one on this list.)

Though hardly a shining moment in the history of Cohen covers, this event speaks to the cultural ubiquity of his work, and of “Hallelujah” in particular. For an artist who never sold that many records, Cohen has become about as iconic as icons get. Humble to the end, he would no doubt object – politely, of course – to that statement. But it’s true. His songs transcend his albums, they transcend his performances, they even transcend Leonard Cohen himself.

There’s never a bad time to talk about Leonard Cohen covers, but they’ve really been on my mind the past couple years. Why? Because I’ve been writing an entire book on the subject, which is out today. It’s in the 33 1/3 series of small books on specific albums. The album I selected? The 1991 tribute album I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen. Without it, you probably wouldn’t even know “Hallelujah”… but we’ll get to that later.

In the book, I explore not just that one tribute album, but the entire history of Leonard Cohen covers generally. It’s a long and fascinating story, but suffice to say here that Cohen wouldn’t have had anywhere near the reach he did without others covering his songs. Covers gave him his start – Judy Collins’s, in particular – and resurrected his career more than once.

There are far too many great Cohen covers to fit in a list like this (and our Patreon supporters will soon get a bonus list of 100 more of them). But we all dug deep to pull the highlights, both the best of the totemic covers as well as brilliant but lesser-known interpretations. The covers span his entire catalog too. Plenty of “Hallelujah”s, of course, and versions of the ’60s songs that made him famous, but also covers of deeper cuts from albums throughout his recording career, up to and including his very last. We hope you’ll discover some new favorites, and maybe be able to listen to the classics you already know in a fresh light.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Buy I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen here:
Bloomsbury | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Bookshop

The list begins on Page 2.

Apr 142020
 
live-from-home covers

It’s a strange circumstance: What has been awful for humanity at large has been pretty good for the world of cover songs. Even we would say that’s a terrible trade-off!

Nevertheless, we’ve been grateful that so many musicians have taken to Facebook, Instagram, etc to share their music and, in many cases, cover favorite songs that are helping get them through. So, for the fourth time and certainly not the last, we’re rounding up some of the best we’ve seen recently and encouraging you to add your own below.

One note: There are some obvious names you won’t see here. John Prine. Bill Withers. Adam Schlesinger. Kenny Rogers. So many wonderful covers are emerging to pay tribute to artists no longer with them that we’ll be rounding them up separately. We did the first set for Prine here. Continue reading »

Apr 102020
 
new john prine covers

For our third edition of Quarantine Covers, we pay tribute to the man every musician is paying tribute to: John Prine. Artists, including many he worked with and mentored, have covered his songs since his tragic passing. And not just the hits, but songs from throughout his deep catalog. Here are some we caught – let us know of others in the comments.

Rest in Peace, John. Here’s hoping you finally got that nine-mile-long cigarette. Continue reading »

Apr 012020
 
quarantine covers

As we all remain stuck inside, those of us with musical talent have been performing tons of live streams online. Some streams vanish into the ether as soon as they finish, but many remain archived online. And many include covers.

Last week we rounded up a batch of the best, and today we round up another. There are far too many happening to make any claims to a definitive list. These are just some that caught my ear. What other live-from-home covers have you enjoyed? Share some more recommendations for us all in the comments! Continue reading »

Mar 232020
 
quarantine covers

Many musicians, unable to go on the road, have taken to performing concerts in their home in the past week. Personally, I have spent a huge amount of time watching various these live streams. The performances have been moving and powerful, an unusually intimate way to see some of your favorite musicians.

Many such shows have included covers, songs that feel right to sing right now, like John Lennon’s “Isolation” or Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” So I decided to round up some of my favorites below.

Unfortunately, many live stream platforms don’t archive the content, so if you miss it live, it’s gone (another reason to watch these streams!). But plenty of great covers have remained online. Check ’em out below, and let us know in the comments what others we shouldn’t miss. Continue reading »

Mar 182020
 
jason isbell lee ann womack

Music Moments, a new compilation to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, features an assortment of artists doing handpicked covers as well as originals. While it’s full of interesting cuts from the likes of Sting and Sharon Van Etten amongst others, two tracks particularly stand out.  

The first comes from Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, who offer up an absolutely sublime version of John Prine’s dusty and delicate “Hello In There.” The song originally appeared on Prine’s 1971 self-titled debut and couldn’t feel more powerfully poignant than it does at this moment in time. Prine is one of Isbell’s favorite songwriters and not only does he feel that “Hello…” is “pretty perfect as songs go” but that it actually serves a higher purpose. “It motivates the listener to just be a better human, that’s ultimately the best thing we can ask of each other,” he says. It’s lovely, reverent performance and may result in a few tears wandering out of your eyes involuntarily. Continue reading »