Songs You Didn't Know Were Covers

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  1. Most covers of classic modern-era songs practically announce themselves — you know, like when Diddy erases Sting's "Every Breath You Take" vocal and grafts his own rap atop the existing track. Some artists, happily, are a bit more subtle about it. Hence our list of songs you didn't know were covers — hope we're not spoiling any secrets here.

    By Larry Dobrow
    [​IMG], April 2007

    "Jersey Girl" (popularized by Bruce Springsteen; originally performed by Tom Waits): They're not saying "boooooooo"; they're saying "Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce's reinterpretation is an appropriate pairing of artist and sentiment, even though Waits's gravelly yowl better captures the narrator's mix of sincerity and melancholic gloooooooom."

    "Always on My Mind" (Brenda Lee; Elvis Presley/Willie Nelson/Pet Shop Boys): We were gonna get all "Yo, it was an Elvis song first, man" on you here, but then somebody across the office got all like, "No, dude, it's totally Brenda Lee, and she totally rocks it out." Lesson learned: Coworkers are occasionally good for something other than small talk and head colds.

    "Bette Davis Eyes" (Kim Carnes; Jackie DeShannon): Come to think of it, it didn't make a lot of sense when Carnes — a longtime Kenny Rogers consort — started warbling in her female–Rod Stewart growl about Hollywood starlets from a bygone era. Knowing that the song was inked in 1974 unravels that particular mystery.

    "Barbara Ann" (The Beach Boys; The Regents): This one's hard to accept. Is it possible that the Beach Boys's shtick wasn't entirely authentic, that perhaps they didn't like surfboards, Chevrolets, or jailbait as much as they let on? That's a question for the ethicists, we suppose. Separately, the Beach Boys's cover was recorded only four years after the original, and yet tsk-tsking sociologists continue to claim that we are the ADD generation. Go figure.

    "I Will Always Love You" (Whitney Houston; Dolly Parton): Indeed. Doesn't learning this make you want to run to the ol' Victrola, pull out your well-worn LP copy of The Bodyguard soundtrack, and croon along with Whitney as tears streak down your cheek? No? Well, then.

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  2. "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" (They Might Be Giants; The Four Lads): This song's lyrics are so profoundly silly ("Every gal in Constantinople lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople/So if you've a date in Constantinople she'll be waiting in Istanbul") that it's hard to believe they were inked by anybody other than the Giants' two Johns. And yet, they were.

    "Respect" (Aretha Franklin; Otis Redding): Self-appointed musicologists — you know, the hipster guy at the party who's mostly listening to whale-call electronica nowadays — might be able to point you to a killer Otis version of this song from an obscure '60s festival. But who's kidding who? Aretha long ago claimed this as her own, to the extent that karaoke jockeys and American Idol wannabes dig their own grave whenever they attempt to mimic her.

    "I Love Rock 'N Roll" (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts; The Arrows): After subtracting "I Love Rock 'N Roll," "Crimson and Clover" (a Tommy James cover), "Do You Wanna Touch Me" (Gary Glitter) and the 50 or so other covers on Jett's records, we've calculated that Jett has written exactly 1.75 songs of her own ("Bad Reputation" and a cowriter credit on the Runaways' "Cherry Bomb"). That's OK, Joanie girl, we still love ya. You kick ass. Don't hurt us. Please.

    "Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen; Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright and k.d. lang and Willie Nelson and the Shrek soundtrack and pretty much every street-urchin musician on this or any other planet): We need federal legislation barring anybody from ever covering this song again. Seriously. Leonard Cohen has written many, many, many other songs, a great percentage of them eminently worthy of cover consideration.

    "Mickey" (Toni Basil; Racey): In its original form, the song was titled "Kitty" and choogled along aimlessly. Enter Toni Basil, who added the oh-Mickey-you're-so-fine-you-blow-my-ah-CHOO! flourish and populated the video with a gaggle of cheerleaders. In conclusion, people dig cheerleaders, even the ones shaped like a house.

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  3. "Tainted Love" (Soft Cell; Gloria Jones): There's not a lot to say about "Tainted Love": It remains as much a 1980s cultural touchstone as Bruce Willis's wine cooler commercials. As for the mysterious Gloria Jones gal who recorded it in the mid-'60s, a little research reveals that she's considerably more interesting than her name. Not that we've believed anything on Wikipedia since it told us that Quadrophenia was penned by an especially precocious dolphin, but the site reports that Jones was the girlfriend of and played with glam rocker Marc Bolan of T. Rex fame. Additionally, she was allegedly behind the wheel during the auto accident that killed him. So there you go.

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  4. "hard to handle" was by otis redding before the black crows. i love both of them.

    i don't know about this one..."baby please don't go" is it muddy waters or van morrison/them?
  5. LOL, just a few months ago I learnt "I Will Always Love You" was originally Dolly's. Another song I didn't know was a cover...can't think of any right now but I'll come re-post if I remember.
  6. I love the gloria Jones version.

    As for Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley's is my absolute favorite version.
  7. ^ Mine too, although the original is almost as good, and K.D. Langs is pretty awesome as well.

    There is just something about Buckleys voice - I'm still sad he is gone.
  8. LOL - half of that list up there has been covered (again) in the last 5 years or so - I had no idea that they were covers of covers of covers!
  9. ohh... how about all those covers that UB40 did? Red Red Wine, Can't Help falling in Love, I Got You Babe, The Way you do the things You Do...KingstonTown, I'll Be your Baby Tonight... When I was a kid, I thought they were musical geniuses.... turns out just very clever covers. LOL

    Oh! And I had NO IDEA that MC Hammer covered Rick James' SuperFreak with Can't Touch This....but then... I wasn't old enough to know about Rick James!
  10. absolutely, i agree with your whole post :heart:

    speaking of KD, one of the songs i ADORE by her is "h'aint it funny", i never knew that was a cover, originally by jane siberry. i didn't know that the entirety of kd's album "drag" was covers.

    i should post an upload to kd's version. it is probably one of my top five favorite songs EVER. :wtf:
  11. Nothing Compares To You.
    popularized by Sinead O'Conner ; originally performed & writen by PRINCE
  12. Does anyone know what the most covered song is?

    It used to be "You Really Got a Hold on Me", but I am sure that has changed since I read that, oh about 15 years ago.
  13. "Hurt" by Johnny Cash is actually written by Trent Resner of Nine Inch Nails.
  14. Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah' is the most beautiful song. It makes me cry every time I hear it.
  15. I know!! I can hear it a million times and never get tired of it!!