Seal was one of the most successful singer-songwriters of the ’90s and continues to produce new work and has a tour planned for 2024. For his latest single, working with old friend and producer Trevor Horn, he has reworked an iconic track from the ’80s: Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out.”
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
Ella Fitzgerald, “the First Lady of Song,” the “Queen of Jazz,” or simply “Lady Ella,” got her first big break at an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater, a place where many stars first got their start (Diana Ross & the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, and Lauryn Hill, to name but a few). She went on to have an almost 30-year-long career, recording over 200 albums and collecting many awards, including 14 Grammys (making her the woman with the fifth most overall), the National Medal of Arts (given by President Ronald Reagan), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (given by President George H. W. Bush), and internationally, admission into France’s Order of Arts and Letters. She even got her own stamp and was featured in the Google Doodle.
Fitzgerald was a trailblazer. She was the first African American woman to win a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance and Best Jazz Performance and the first woman to be nominated for Album of the Year during the first-ever Grammy awards in 1959. Eight years later, she became the first woman to win the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
She collaborated with many others musicians throughout the course of her career (as we’ll see below), often making old songs her own. Despite her popularity and her status as a major jazz influencer, Fitzgerald still faced discrimination (she once was arrested backstage at her own show). Fitzgerald had powerful advocates though, including Marilyn Monroe, a big fan who used her popularity to advocate for Fitzgerald to perform at a popular club, Mocambo.
Today, on the anniversary of her death and in her memory, we listen to covers of some of her originals (for the cover sticklers) and covers of her own covers (although arguably she popularized these tunes). Before reading on, I encourage you to listen to Fitzgerald’s response to Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, a song called “It’s Up to Me and You.” Her message, “let’s not hate and let’s not wait,” rings true today.
Kirsten Agresta Copely is a harpist with a storied background. She has played harp since she was five and had her first solo tour at fourteen. Over the course of her career she has performed all over the world and shared the stage and recording studio with a variety of stars such as Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, and Evanescence. She has even played alongside Beyoncé at a state dinner for Barack Obama.
At the end of last month, Copely released her first cover album. You may think an album of harp covers is a bit niche for everyday listening, but if you are looking for a cover album with class for your next dinner party, look no further. There is something for everyone on Copely’s new album with selections that span decades, from Fleetwood Mac to Rhianna.
The 1990s were some very good years for the British soul singer Seal. He rattled off a string of hits, and one-upped Val Kilmer by including his “Kiss from a Rose” on the Batman Forever soundtrack, largely outshining the Caped Crusader.
Now that Seal is nearing the autumn of his career, he did what most pop singers whose hit-making days are in the rearview generally do: release an album of standards. Aptly and un-ironically, titled Standards, the collection includes a version of “It Was a Very Good Year,” a classic song that he managed to turn into one of his own.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
I felt I had to let some time pass and perspective broaden before posting this. The temptation had been to rush it out whilst reactions were still raw, the media awash with memories of an icon, but I stalled, maybe waiting for his death to all have been a big mistake, a stunt even. But it wasn’t, nor were the steady stream of deaths that have followed in his wake, 2016 seeming an end of the line for so many of my musical heroes.
I was a mere decade behind Bowie in age; he had been a constant in my life from ’69 and he still is, not necessarily at the forefront but always capable of wrenching away the limelight from whichsoever johnny-come-latelys were making my day. Not an uber fan; indeed, swathes of his prodigious output meant nothing to me at the time, only catching up well late in the game – I didn’t “get” the Berlin Trilogy until five years after the fact, and Diamond Dogs/Young Americans took four times longer. (Never did get Tin Machine, but hey, who did?) But even as recently as last summer, a driving holiday in Cornwall was nourished by Bowie, a playlist culled from the 102 tracks of his on my iPod. Paltry by some standards, yes, but several hours of enjoyment by me. With much in-car singing.
I remember the time when suddenly everybody first got Bowie, the days of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, early ’70s, but my dalliance had begun earlier. I recall hearing “Changes,” or should I say, “Ch-ch-ch-changes,” on the radio at home, sounding all awkwardness and angst, immediately marking my card. Inevitably when Ziggy came along, all those of my age and place on the autism spectrum disorder “preferred” Hunky Dory. And I did too, swiftly selling my copy of Ziggy as it was “too commercial.” Hey, give me a break – I was 15, and today, aeons later, I regret that. But I still prefer Hunky Dory, even the dodgy tracks everyone skips.
Though Bob Dylan moved away from his role as a ‘protest singer’ long ago — we saw Another Side by his fourth album — his name will forever be associated with social activism. The international human rights organization Amnesty International rose out of the same turbulent era as Dylan, forming in 1961, the year Dylan recorded his first album. Fitting, then, that in celebration of their 50th birthday, Amnesty would call on artists to contribute their Dylan covers to the massive four disc set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.