Well, I definitely stretched on the summer break a little too much. But with the arrival of November, I resume the activity of the blog. And I do it with a short list of songs, so you may be entertained during these cold days.
I’m sure there are songs you love, and you don’t know they’re actually covers of another artists’ songs. Or the other way round: very well-known themes which have some better cover you don’t know. So, in this and future posts I will introduce you to covers which, in my opinion, are better than the original songs. The rule (which should be obvious) is that the cover must be essentially different from the original. That is, the interpretation is not enough to make the difference.
I’m starting with a list of five well-known songs, so no-one gets their brain fried. Any disagreement (or agreement) will be welcome in the comments, below this article or on Facebook or Twitter. I encourage you, as well, to leave suggestions for the next one.
1 – With a little help from my friends
Original: The Beatles
Cover: Joe Cocker
From a rather correct song (although it reached #1 on the British charts), Joe Cocker got a huge smash. From a light and polite song, Joe Cocker extracted all its strength and transformed it into an immortal blues-rock anthem. Who remembers The Beatles’s version? Moreover, who remembers that this song actually is not Cocker’s?
The most telly-addicts may remember Cocker’s cover as the opening theme of the TV series The Wonder Years. But maybe you will have more fun with this video of his famous performance in Woodstock ’69.
2 – I will always love you
Original: Dolly Parton
Cover: Whitney Houston
Joe Cocker made a great effort to adapt With a Little Help From My Friends, since he changed it radically only one year (1968) after the Liverpool Four published theirs (1967). Whitney Houston played with much more advantage in relation to Dolly Parton.
Almost 20 years separate both versions, so it’s not surprising that the magicians in Hollywood used all the tricks and paraphernalia within their scope give it that 90’s touch and, of course, to adapt it to the needs of the big screen and include it in the original soundtrack of The bodyguard.
Even so, merits can’t be disminished from Houston’s interpretation. An enviable voice (what a voice stream!). She on her own assumes all the weight of raisingthe song to the status of immortal, as the instrumentation is not a big deal. It’s modest, even. But the result is effective. You know: less is more.
3 – Whiskey in the jar
Original: Popular / Thin Lizzy
Cover: Thin Lizzy / Metallica
For this trick, I have hidden some cards under my sleeve. You may wonder why I have include Thin Lizzy both as the author of the original song and the cover. A little strange, isn’t it? It’s not that they covered themselves. No, it’s not that.
If you’re asked about Whiskey In The Jar, most of you will think of Metallica. Some purist will demonize the Americans for taking over Thin Lizzy’s song. And if we restricted ourselves to this pairing, we should admit that Metallica finalised the original and provided it with a lot of strength. It may even deserve to pass the “be essentially different from the original” filter. But in this case, we wouldn’t be totally fair.
Actually, Thin Lizzy did the dirty work for Metallica, because the Irish didn’t play a song written by them. They adapted a famous popular song from their land.
There’s a huge gulf between the original folk song and the version of the rock band. Phil Lynott’s band didn’t resign themselves to play it acoustic, what would be the easiest solution. They made a great work and transformed it into the electric song that we know. After that, Metallica made use of those chords, arrangements, the famous picking… and the lyrics that Thin Lizzy had unified and adapted to their version.
Therefore, who deserves the laurel wreath for the adaptation?
4 – No woman no cry
Original: Bob Marley & The Wailers
Cover: Andrés Calamaro
With this one I know I’m rolling the dice. An immortal reggae anthem, recited by teenagers of every generation since it was published… I must admit that the Jamaican showed his talent with this big hit.
However, aren’t you a little bit tired of it? Partly, it is due to the fact that it’s not lacking in the setlist of every band who wants to cover the king of reggae.
That’s why I was so surprised by Andres Calamaro’s cover. Maybe because I was expecting a dud in like the ones he had made when he covered other pop and rock songs (he seems to be better with tangos and boleros). The fact is that the Argentinian gifted us an unexpected electronic cover of the famous Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry.
5 – Knockin’ on heaven’s door
Original: Bob Dylan
Cover: Guns ’n Roses
After rolling the dice with the previous one, I end the list betting on a sure thing. Guns ’n Roses’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door is the paradigm for a rock cover of a folk song. A song that has been played by tons of artists, both the cover of the Californians and Bob Dylan’s original version.
As you may have listened to the studio version of the cover hundreds of times, I leave this video of Guns ’n Roses playing it live.
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