Artists who cover and then ‘own’ the song (Pt. 1)
Sifting through as many cover songs as I do you come to appreciate a great version of a song. There are likely, no definitely, many cover songs that just don’t measure up. I do hesitate to be critical of someone’s efforts since I have no talent myself, so for editorial purposes only I’ll stick to my previous comment. Of course there are covers that improve on the original due to any number of factors not the least of which is the person(s) singing. However they could have benefited from a different arrangement or a creative producer and most certainly the musicians can make or break a cover song. Sometimes it’s a switch in genre or just the right year for the re-release of the song. Sometimes it’s all things combined.
Here are some songs that we recognize immediately and may believe that it’s the original because its become the ‘definitive’ version of the song. It’s likely been in a movie soundtrack or just received more airplay etc. In other words, the singer or group now ‘owns’ that song. Maybe it’s not even the best version, certainly not owned legally speaking (don’t get me started on that one-I will blog on song rights in the future) but more intrinsically and emotionally for sure. I have previously blogged several of these songs but a perfect example of this was “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino, not the first or the last version of the song but the one we usually want to hear and love the most.
Certainly the leader in this category is the song “Respect
” as performed by the incomparable Aretha Franklin (1967) Written by Otis Redding. Covered at least 90 times, Aretha would be the 9th
, and the first woman to record the song. I plan to blog about Aretha in the future, so I will save most of my comments till then.
The original version by Otis
, – 1989
A little bit about the story behind the song; it was Aretha and her sister Carolyn that made changes to the song that would give the iconic spelling out of the word RESPECT, the acronym TCB (taking care of business), the phrase “give me my propers” and the “sock it to me” line as well. It completely turned the song from a male message to a female message to her man, and no mistake about what she expected. Add some expert arrangement, ‘Muscle Shoals’ musicians, studio production, a little King Curtis (saxophone) and presto! Easy right? Geographically it’s Georgia plus Detroit plus Alabama plus Memphis, add in New York City and you have yourself a number one hit record and two Grammy Awards (1968).
The song is the only ‘cover’ other than “Hound Dog”(Elvis) on the Rolling Stone’s top 20 songs list, sitting at number 5. The “Songs of the Century” list by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lists the song at number 4.
“Ring of Fire
” written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore and first released in early 1963 by June’s sister Anita Carter
. Original title is “(Love’s) Ring of Fire
was next to do this song and recorded it April 19, 1963 and changed it up a bit you’ll notice. This was five years before he proposed to June.
Need not say much about this song, covered close to 200 times, make it a thousand more-still owned by Johnny Cash!
“Evil Ways” written by Sonny Henry, recorded by a band called, ‘Willie Bobo’ (hey I don’t make this stuff up!)July 27, 1967.
I guess you already knew who ‘owns’ this song, Carlos Santana was the third to record this song (May 12, 1969). The band, the man, ‘Santana
Peter Green, then of Fleetwood Mac would put lyrics to the base tune.
Interesting Santana’s signature songs are ‘covers’ but clearly no one I’ve ever heard does these songs any better, this song is now referred to as just “Black Magic Woman”.
Another personal indulgence here… I visited my brother in law Jim (the Cohen fan if you’re keeping up) in hospital yesterday and we were chatting about his side passion, that being his band! He (Jim is an executive with an HVAC company) grabbed his phone and showed me this video linked below. Of course he had no idea I was working on this song for the blog. Coincidence or ‘black magic’
? Keep fighting Jim and get well soon so you can get back to some more music! btw that’s Jim on guitar and lead vocals! Here is another cover of “Black Magic Woman
It’s not an easy task to take a Beatles song and have a bigger hit with it but it happened (or “take a sad song and make it better” for that matter).
changed up this song considerably and it became a hit at Woodstock and in fact a bit of an anthem for that era. Here is a version with lyrics so you can sing along!
Die hard Beatles fans may not agree with this one but I’m calling it ‘owned’ by Joe Cocker.
Click here for a link to all the videos