Bangles were good at making covers their own. I think they might have one of the best 2 or 3 cover songs of all time: Hazy Shade of Winter! So good.

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In addition to Whitney’s version of I Will Always Love You, a few cover versions that (to me) always felt like the definitive versions of the song:

Santana’s Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac)

Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower (Dylan)

Paul Young’s Every Time You Go Away (Hall & Oates)

Soft Cell’s Tainted Love (Gloria Jones)

Cat Power (Chan Marshall) has had some amazing cover songs, whole albums of them in fact. She quite often completely reimagines the songs she’s covering

One of my favorites is “I Found A Reason” which is very different from the Velvet Underground original:


And I absolutely adored her cover of Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” from last year’s Covers album (my 13th ranked AOTY). Again, a total reimagining of the original. Here she is performing it live on James Corden:


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Thanks for the shout, Brad! - holy smokes, that's a lot of covers!!

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Instant worldwide hit: Nothing Compares 2 U - 1990 Sinéad O’Connor (written by Prince 1984, released on The Family album 1985, never a single for Prince).

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The stories behind cover songs are often very interesting. Sure, sometimes its just a straightforward rerecording of a song a band or artist liked, but most of the time there's a lot more to it, provided the covering artist does it right. And by "right" I don't necessarily even mean good, because that's a subjective question. A lot of people look down their noses at cover songs, but being a longtime fan of the Delta blues (and blues in general), there's a great tradition of cover songs. A good cover song doesn't denote a lack of originality. Yes, the original kernel of the song might come from someone else, but if the cover artist is talented, they can branch out in entirely new directions and make what is virtually a brand new song their own. You see this a lot in the blues, where multiple artists might have started from the same song and all ended up with trademark tunes that showcase their unique talents, and by the time they're through with them, they may only share a riff or a line of two of lyrics. Or look at a popular example like Johnny Cash's remake of NIN's "Hurt." All in all, it's a pretty faithful cover, but because of Cash's delivery and the many other talents he brought to the table, it becomes his own song. I'm not a very talented musician myself- my writing talents lean towards words instead of notes- but I've always enjoyed playing around with other artists' songs and adding little tweaks here and there. Again, I'm limited on the guitar, but even so, it's fun to do and I've occasionally come up with some decent stuff, which goes to show you what a talented musician can do with a cover they feel passionate about. And then there's also the challenge of identifying a song you don't even particularly care for, but you see a sliver of something promising in it, so you build off of it to make something better than the original, sort of like when a director remakes a B movie and turns it into something special.

Of course, you already know all this, so hopefully I haven't wasted the time it takes you to read through this. Your article got me thinking, which is some of the highest praise I think any writer can get, and I'm just sort of thinking out loud in your comments section. Hope you don't mind. Great work as always, my friend.

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This is very interesting. Reminds me a bit of what happened with Dolly Parton’s (and then Whitney’s) I Will Always Love You. While there are some differences (Dolly’s original song was not a completely obscure track, it had had some success in the country charts), it’s the first example that comes to mind of a song that got re-arranged and went on to become a smashing worldwide success.

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