Saturday, 2 August 2014

Music Talk: Legends covering legends

I usually don’t get very excited when new artists cover older songs (not out of snobbery, it just doesn’t feel as epic to me), but there’s one thing that fascinates me in the music world: when legends cover legends.

I never really gave it much thought, but it absolutely fascinates me that music legends across numerous genres have covered other legends and gave a different twist to already established songs. As my interest in certain artists develop, I also start to notice the absolutely amazing covers they’ve done of other artist's songs, and in this post I want to share my favourite examples of when a cover appeals to me as much as the original song does.

So let’s talk about Bruce Springsteen. Back in 2012, I’ve seen Springsteen play live in Vienna together with my dad, and I still think it was the most amazing show I’ve ever been a part of. I say “been a part of” and not “witnessed”, because it really felt like that at the time. It was a huge stadium show (65,000 people), and it still felt as inclusive as if it had been a concert in a small club. Springsteen has written a lot of amazing music, and lots of different artists have covered his songs- my top choices being  David Bowie’s cover of “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City” and Johnny Cash’s take on “Highway Patrolman”.
You may have noticed by now that I have a soft spot for David Bowie, so it comes as no surprise that I think that his version of “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City” is pretty awesome. I’ve read not too long ago that Bowie and Springsteen have first met in the early 70ies, and that Bowie was absolutely fascinated by Springsteen’s dylan-esque appearance and his style of playing. When comparing both the original and the cover of the song, I just love how you can hear the different accents of the performers in both versions. I adore both, I just think that Bowie’s version sounds a lot more snarky/sassy than Springsteen’s, but that might just be because he’s so freaking fabulous in everything that he does.
Secondly, we have Johnny Cash’s cover of “Highway Patrolman”, and let me tell you, it took me fucking ages to realise that this song was actually a cover. I definitely listened through Springsteen’s Nebraska album (beautiful album, gotta love acoustic stuff) numerous times until I made the connection and noticed that Cash actually covered this of him, which probably says enough about the quality of his interpretation.

Next up, something a little different- Tina Turner. So everybody who knows Tina Turner probably thinks of “Proud Mary” when trying to name some of her most famous songs. There’s actually a lot of people out there who are not quite aware that the song originally was done by Creedence Clearwater Revival, but that it really was Tina’s interpretation that made the song as widely known as it is today. Me included- I definitely knew the Tina Turner version before I knew the original, but as I’ve grown older and more interested in the music my dad likes to listen to, I noticed that it was actually a cover. And a pretty damn good one at that- Tina is freaking amazing. (At this point, I have to refrain about fangirling over her duets with David Bowie- that’s for a post in the future…)

Just kidding, I can’t shut my trap when it’s about David Bowie. One would think the guy didn’t have much time to cover songs the way he churned out album after album in the 70ies and 80ies, but seems like he still had time to cover The Doors and The Rolling Stones in between. So yes, his cover of The Doors’ “Alabama Song” is as entertaining to listen to as his cover of The Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” is, let’s leave it at that. I’m hardly objective about Bowie at the moment, he just fascinates me way too much as a person! (One would think that would make it easier to write my MA thesis, but nope, it actually doesn’t.)

Another cover that’s made it into this list is Joe Cocker's cover of The Beatles “With a Little Help of My Friends”, which, in my eyes (ears?), really is an entirely different song when Joe Cocker does it. Usually the last song at his concerts, it comes across as a long celebration about everything that is good in life- especially friendship. Go listen to it, it’s awesome.

So I think everyone and their mother at one point covered a song by Bob Dylan. Which is not surprising, the guy has built a huge catalogue over the years and is rightfully referred to as the poet amongst all songwriters. His song “It Ain’t Me Babe” surely has been covered more often than just this once, but the cover version I know is the one of Johnny Cash. I think as soon as Johnny Cash interpreted a song, it just was his own- similar to Dylan himself, his voice is just one of those that instantly inhabit a song. It’s both kind of country-ish in my way, just different.

My honourable mention goes to the absolutely amazing cover that Mumford& Sons have done of Simon& Garfunkel's “The Boxer”. I know I know, Mumford& Songs are hardly the same calibre as the other artists that I have previously mentioned but … it’s just such a damn good cover, okay? Just… listen to it? You’ll know what I mean. I promise!

You made it! This is the end of this post! Kudos to you if you read it all- any suggestions of covers I absolutely need to listen to? 


  1. Feeling inspired to go listen to some awesome covers now :) thanks for that!


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