Are you “covered”?….

24 Jun

Once again, Colette, provides some great stuff…this time on the topic of “Covers”, i.e., songs of one artist sung by another. I’ve added a bit at the end about one of my favorite artists, but the rest is courtesy of Colette:

When a performer “covers” a song made famous by other performers, the results can be an awkward miss-fit and regrettable mish-mash. But covers you didn’t expect, or even imagine could make sense, can also be sublime, bracing and fresh.

A great singer can suffuse a beloved tune they didn’t originate with something different and unique — even if it’s from a genre not usually associated with them. An interpretation that does not slavishly copy the original, but feels equally valid, can reveal to you new facets of the singer and the song.

Here are some current treasures I’ve found:

There are so many great versions of the “Shoop Shoop Song” sung originally by Betty Everett. But none is more ecstatic, more transcendent than the young Aretha’s vivacious cover for the 1960s TV show “Shindig.” Her voice is so flexible, her soulfulness so potent, and her joy off the map. Note that her backup singers are digging it too, particularly the fantastic Darlene Love who gives Aretha a “you-go-girl” wave in mid-song:

One of my favorite should-be-better-known musicians, Laura Love, did this unexpectedly different and compelling version of a tune by her fellow Seattle-ite, Kurt Cobain. Her homage to Cobain features Laura’s unique “Afro-Celtic” (her description) vocals and driving bass guitar, as she remakes the song into a shivery and urgent cry from the heart:

Come as You Are – Laura Love

The “boy group” phenomenon of the 1990s largely passed me by. But lately I’ve been finding some marvelous clips in that genre, with the voices meshing and harmonies shimmering. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Backstreet Boys would cover the Beach Boys (who one might say invented the harmonic palette for later boy groups) . But that they do it with suprising flair in this charity concert:

When I Grow Up to Be a ManBackstreet Boys

Chuck Berry and Al Green are a generation apart, and their signature sounds are miles apart. But when Al sang ” Sweet Little Sixteen” on a Soul Train episode in the 1970s, he laid his own claim to Berry’s wily jail-bait tune. Al’s slow-cooking, seductive treatment with his expert band makes the song so much more sensuous. The yellow bell-bottoms are turn on too, and as for the arm in the sling….well, we all know the Right Rev wouldn’t be laid low by a little problem like that:

Sweet Little Sixteen

This is actually Al’s own remake of “Sweet Little Sixteen,” far more free-hand than most of these covers. He kept the title, the main phrase, the idea, but otherwise completely transformed it into something Green.

Music Maven ETA: Interestingly, The Beatles covered Sweet Little Sixteen, as well…giving it a definite Beatles’ flavor.

SLS, The Beatles….with Johnny B. Goode thrown in for good measure.

My first introduction to the great Alison Krauss and her fine band Union Station was this cover. The original was the first big single of one of the first inter-racial British pop groups, The Foundations. Krauss slows it down, gives it an acoustic arrangement with a bluegrass tinge, and sings it like an angel:

  Now That I’ve Found You – Alison Krauss and Union Station

Dark, caustically funny and right on the money about the direction the world is heading in, this Leonard Cohen anthem is raspily unforgettable when its author sings it. What the ever-fabulous Rufus Wainwright adds in: his more plushy tenor voice, a waltzy tempo and a more operatic sense of absurdity. This is from “I’m Your Man,” the Leonard Cohen documentary that includes a tribute concert:

Everybody KnowsRufus Wainwright

Tracy Chapman started out in coffee houses, wrote sensitive, topical songs sung in her trademark vibrato. I would not have guessed what a great interpreter of Bob Marley‘s rasta-reggae tunes she’d be. My favorite is her rendition of Bob Marley‘s Get Up, Stand Up, which she sings in concert. Couldn’t find a decent clip of that, so here’s another Chapman take on Marley at a Kingston fest in his honor:

Three Little Birds – Tracey Chapman

Thanks, Colette, for a great topic….keep ’em comin’.


Music Maven ETA2 — While not Tracey Chapman, here’s a pretty “hawt” Get Up, Stand Up cover by Ben Harper:


The burning question that I have concerning “covers” is this — Can an artist survive and thrive today by limiting their catalog to covers? While many artists of the past were never questioned concerning original material, it seems to be a defining characteristic of “real” music, today. Is original material required today, to be considered successful?


Marc Broussard’s S.O.S. (Save Our Soul) CD comes out this week. Ten covers and one original.



  1. You Met Your Match (Stevie Wonder)
  2. If I Could Build My Whole World Around You (Marvin Gaye & Tami Terrell)
  3. Harry Hippie (Bobby Womack)
  4. Let The Music Get Down In Your Soul (Rance Allen)
  5. I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know (Blood, Sweat & Tears)
  6. Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) (Marvin Gaye)
  7. Love and Happiness (Al Green)
  8. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Otis Redding)
  9. Respect Yourself (The Staples Singers)
  10. Yes We Can, Can (Allen Toussaint)
  11. Come In From The Cold (Marc Broussard)

Here is a preview of this much anticipated CD…Marc and Toby Lightman “covering” If I Could Build My Whole World Around You:

Notice in the YouTube credits that Marc sells CDs of his performances…”What a novel concept?”, she says sarcastically. Leave it to the Cajuns to think of innovative ways to make money and spread the proverbial “word”. GEAUX Marc!


Posted by on June 24, 2007 in Artists


8 responses to “Are you “covered”?….

  1. Laurita

    June 25, 2007 at 6:13 am

    I had pre-ordered the “S.O.S.-Save Our Soul” CD from Marc, and it arrived yesterday – autographed- along with a 2nd CD called “From the Bootleg Vaults”… love them both already… I’m a big fan of ‘covers’ and ‘tags’ (i.e. Taylor Hicks riffing off of all kinds of songs)…

    Speaking of this great topic (thanks Colette and dd), this is now my favorite YouTube video of a cover (have posted it a couple of other places tonite!):

    Ray LaMontagne & Damien Rice performing “To Love Somebody” on French television a few months ago – imho, amazing:

    Btw, speaking of Marc B., I also posted a great video of him performing at Laser’s Edge last week:

  2. Laurita

    June 25, 2007 at 6:14 am

    Sorry for the Ray/Damien link.. didn’t realize I couldn’t do YouTube embeds here…

    here it is again, just url!:

  3. shrewspeaks

    June 25, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Okay…this lady is always brilliant, but this cover blows my mind. Etta does the Eagles

  4. jenfera

    June 25, 2007 at 8:23 am

    methinks my first comment is stuck in moderation.

  5. colette

    June 25, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Hi — sorry that the Al Green/”Sweet Little Sixteen” link isn’t working with youtube —

    great, great performance — and you can find it at www. (take out the spaces):

    http: // relevance/search/Al%2BGreen /video /xd9zm_al-green-sweet-sixteen-soul-train

  6. Colette

    June 25, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Also, the Allison Kraus/Union Station cover of “Baby, Now That I Found You” is on youtube:

    http:// watch?v=PivFd7ucmVw

  7. brc

    June 25, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Thanks for an interesting topic Colette.

    Aretha’s version of the Shoop Shoop song is great. It blows away Cher’s fairly recent take on the song.

    The Backstreet Boys’ harmony gave me goosebumps. As you suggested, sometimes a cover can make you listen to a song with new ears. This one did that for me. I like the original but have heard it so many times that it’s almost hard for me to listen to it.

    I couldn’t seem to get any of the other links to work.

    In answer to your question (or was it MM’s question?) about covers, I think that an artist today has to do original music. I think they can throw in a cover or two or maybe do an album of covers once (Willie Nelson’s Stardust is one of my all-time faves), but I think a musician would lose credibility if he/she only did covers. IMHO the covers would get tiresome if that’s all they did.

    Let’s use Taylor as an example (for a change). I absolutely LERVE many of the covers that he does. However I really appreciate him when I hear him do original music. I think it reveals more about him as an artist, a musician and a person.

  8. jenfera

    June 27, 2007 at 7:35 am

    Hmm, my first comment never did show up. I’ll drop the linkage then and just point out that Sting’s cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing is sufficiently different to be fabulous in its own way. Also, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s version is killer.


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