Oct 302023
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Back in 2021, Cover Me compiled a list of the top 30 Willie Nelson covers of all time. A comprehensive list, it included covers of many of Nelson’s trademark songs such as “Crazy” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Even then we noted we were leaving out a key component of the story: the number of covers Nelson has recorded himself.

As of this writing, Secondhandsongs.com lists a whopping 991 covers. Granted it counts instances where he re-recorded new versions of his old cover songs with other people. For example: it lists every single duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Nelson’s catalog of covers is both extensive and exceptional. One could easily place many of his covers, such as “Always On My Mind,” “Stardust,” or “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” among the best of all time.

In 2023, Nelson has hit two major milestones – he turned 90 in April. and in November he’ll be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – so we decided to revisit his covers collection.

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Nov 102022
 
olivia rodrigo you're so vain

In honour of Carly Simon’s induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame over the weekend, Olivia Rodrigo was tasked with performing one of Simon’s biggest hits “You’re So Vain” for the induction ceremony. The cover itself is very straightforward, as you’d expect for a ceremony of this type – Rodrigo’s voice is on fully display here, and seemed to be a good choice for the track, given her track “good 4 u” being of similar sentiment. Continue reading »

Nov 042022
 

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

dolly parton covers

Dolly Parton is a singer and a songwriter. I mention that obvious truth because these days it tends to get overshadowed by her other titles: Icon. Inspiration. National Treasure. The Only Human Being Alive Everyone Agrees On (Radiolab produced an entire nine-part radio series based on that premise). And she is all those things, but first and foremost she’s a working 9-to-5 musician who has been perfecting her craft for seven decades.

Parton says she wrote her first song as a five year-old in 1952. She hasn’t stopped writing songs since. She once estimated she’s amassed 10,000. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the verifiable numbers speak for themselves: 52 studio albums, 25 Number One songs, 100 million records sold worldwide. Just as important a tribute to her gifts, though, are how often her songs get covered. Not just the obvious ones, the “Jolene”s and “I Will Always Love You”s (though plenty of those, lord knows), but the album cuts, the singles that didn’t top the charts, and the songs she didn’t write herself but made into Dolly Parton songs anyway.

Some of the below covers sound a little bit like Dolly’s own music. Most do not. She considers herself straight country, not, as she made clear when first nominated for the Rock Hall earlier this year, rock and roll. But, in this list, she is rock and roll. And folk and pop and hip-hop and soul and a whole host of other genres. Dolly Parton may indeed be the only human being everyone agrees on. What a way to make a living.

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Nov 032022
 
Here Comes the Rain Again covers

The Mayflower Hotel was located at Central Park West between 61st and 62nd street in New York City. It was constructed in 1926 and stood for over seven decades before being demolished in 2004. It was not a fancy place (the New York Times called it “drab and brown”) and its sad, singular claim to fame was that Pat Sullivan, producer of the Felix the Cat cartoon lived there in the ’30s.

Even though it stood for nearly 80 years, the only acknowledgment of the hotel’s existence is a tiny plaque on a nearby bench on Broadway featuring this clinical and decidedly unromantic inscription:

The funding for these benches was provided in 1996 by The Mayflower Hotel

Whatever New York City office was responsible for the text on that plaque blew it. They opted for cold acknowledgment when they could have imbued that bench with magical, magnetic pop power forever. Here is what the plaque should have said:

In 1983, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox, the musicians collectively known as “Eurythmics” composed “Here Comes The Rain Again” during a stay at The Mayflower Hotel.” Continue reading »

Nov 022022
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.

all night long covers

“All Night Long (All Night)” is the fifth of seven chart-topping singles in Lionel Richie’s career, two with the Commodores (“Three Times a Lady,” “Still”) followed by five under its own name. The extremely goofy parenthetical in the title clearly did not impact the song’s journey towards the top. Nor its legacy either; some of these chart-toppers we look at in Covering the Hits did not, in fact, get covered much. “All Night Long (All Night)” – that’s the last time I’m writing that parenthetical – still gets covered constantly. I mean, have you ever been to a wedding?

But below we’ll dig a little deeper into the most notable and most interesting covers, from the ‘80s through just last month. Continue reading »

Nov 012022
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song. In this post we present one cover for each of Eminem’s five diamond singles.

eminem covers

In Adam Bradley’s Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop he provides some background on why covers by and of rappers are so hard to come by:

“The likely explanation for the dearth of covers in rap is that rap’s audience and rappers themselves wish to propagate the belief– and sometimes the illusion– that a rapper is delivering his or her own words, that we are hearing directly from the mind behind the voice. This is a fundamental tenet of rap authenticity, partly the product of acculturated belief and partly the product of the fact that rapping, as a means of vocalization that’s close to speech, carries with it the same presumption as speech: that speakers speak for themselves.”

Despite this, we have talked about Eminem on this blog before, from banjo to mashup cover, from an old-school T-Swift interpretation to a take on the controversial “Kim”, and many more. Perhaps this is because he inspires others to speak period, if not for themselves per se. In this same book that interprets rap lyrics as literature, Bradley gives some context about what makes Eminem’s approach to rap so novel:

“It’s easy to spot rap’s true lyrical innovators because not only will they likely be rapping about different things from everyone else, they’ll be using different words to do it. Eminem, for instance, had to conceive a bunch of new rhyming words to describe the experiences of a working-class white kid from a trailer park in Detroit who rises to superstardom. Who else would think to rhyme “public housing systems” with “victim of Munchausen syndrome”?

Rappers have slowly made their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (if rappers are poets, why not also be rockers). Jay-Z’s turn came last year, and The Notorious B.I.G.’s turn came the year before. This year Eminem takes his place among legends. This time around we try to find covers that haven’t previously been showcased on this blog, and in honor of Eminem’s induction, we find covers of each of his five diamond-level singles.

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