Skip to main content

Aretha Franklin and others 'Own' your cover (Part One)



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 1965, Adeva, - 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

Johnny Cash 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'.

Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” written by Gabor Szabo, Originally recorded by Szabo as an instrumental released in 1966.

Gabor Szabo
Peter Green, then of Fleetwood Mac would put lyrics to the base tune.
Black Magic Woman” recorded March, 1968, Fleetwood Mac.

Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” by Santana, September 1970.

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”.

With a Little Help from My Friends” written by John Lennon, (Paul McCartney). Released on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album June 1, 1967.

Joe Cocker
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).
Joe Cocker 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

If you like my blog, please consider clicking the ‘Subscribe’ button at the top right hand of the home page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well! And many thanks as always for reading my blog! 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

One Hit Wonders (not!)

One Hit Wonders (not!)

Yesterday (Sept. 26) was the 50th Anniversary of Abbey Road, the Beatles last recording session together and the second last album before Let it Be was issued May 8, 1970. And also Happy belated One Hit Wonder Day! (Sept. 25th) so I thought it would make a good blog topic.


The simplest definition I found is from music journalist Wayne Jancik "an act that has won a position on a national, pop, Top 40 record chart just once." This from the 'The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders' (1998). So we aren't talking one #1 hit. It's not a term I like as it implies (and some truth to that) these artists have had just a brief moment in the spotlight, perhaps undeservedly so and then fallen off the music map. I know other and deeper definitions are a bit more broad and go beyond the absolute single hit idea. They also consider many artists that have still maintained a quality career and just not reproduced another 'top 40 hit' song and or ma…

Old Country New Country

Old Country/New Country


What exactly I am about to attempt to demonstrate I confess I'm not 100% certain, but what I do know is that there has been a bit of a downward sliding scale regarding the enduring quality of mainstream Country Music songs. Apologies in advance for rambling and ranting at various points. This is not a history of Country Music but my opinion on the current state of things in general with the genre.

It's murky waters that I'm swimming in here as there is an evolution involved in any music genre so direct comparisons are perhaps inappropriate. I am somewhat aware of the influence the so called Country Music "establishment" has had on this evolution. One need only look at examples like Taylor Swift, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks and others who were criticized and in some cases "shunned" for their unconventional approaches who are now celebrated as part of that same 'establishment'. So there is some hypocrisy at play in my op…

Sweet Soul Music

Sweet Soul Music

Arthur Conley co-wrote this song with Otis Redding and it's a tribute to some of the early greats of Soul Music. The song's melody (and words for that matter) borrowed heavily from the Sam Cooke song "Yeah Man" and a subsequent lawsuit brought by A.W. Alexander who managed Cooke's songs after his untimely death added his name to the song credits. The resulting song however was a huge hit for Conley and it reached #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B Chart in 1967 and #7 in the UK where Soul Music was gaining popularity particularly amongst a subset of British youth. The lyrics reference the co-writer Otis Redding, James Brown and songs by The Miracles, Lou Rawls, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett, some of the key figures in early Soul Music. "Sweet Soul Music" covered 30 times, The Jam (1977).

Soul music is a fusion of R&B, Gospel and Jazz. Know generally for it's more upbeat tempo it's fun to listen to and great for d…

Rock artists sing the Blues

Rock artists sing the Blues

I have talked about this frequently throughout my posts but more particularly in the series on the Delta Blues and the History of R&R parts 1-4. Truth be told, most of the greatests 'Rock' artists owe much of their inspiration to the Blues. Rock bands and solo artists have cut many sides early and throughout their careers of blues songs. Thanks to artists like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley who were obviously very well known and successful, their covers of some of the great blues songs served as a conduit and exposed them to artists and listeners alike. Here are some 'Blues' that inspired Rock artists, a few of these songs are more well known than others.


Confessin' the Blues by The Rolling Stones was recorded  June 11, 1964 and released on a 7" record of five songs on August 14. Written by Walter Brown (vocals) and Jay McShann (piano and bandleader) originally released in June of 1941. Covered about 35 times including Chuck Berr…

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #76-100

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #76-100

Ok here is the last of my list, I could go on and as a matter of fact I will, just not with another set of 25 plus "to infinity and beyond!" I have to say it was easy to come up with more songs as this final list started at 43. But it was very difficult to decide which ones would make the final cut, so these last 25 songs became a list with a number of great ones left for another day.




76. "Flip Flop and Fly" is a song by the same collection that brought us the classic "Shake Rattle and Roll" written by Jesse Stone (credited to his pseudonym Charles E. Calhoun) and Lou Willie Turner, sung by Big Joe Turner (1955). The first time I heard this was at a club in my hometown I'll say around 1979 or so, performed by the talented Canadian Blues band Downchild Blues Band, later known as just 'Downchild'. Still the best cover for me although I've heard many fine ones out of some over 70 versions, this is a standa…

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #51-75

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #51-75

There has been a very positive response to the first two 'Greatest' posts. So the list continues and the songs become no less in their timeless quality compared to numbers one through fifty. I will post a #76-100 edition in the near future and that will be out of my system. But what if I do lists by genre, just thinking out loud, sorry but I will keep blogging on various topics as long as people continue to click.

51. "I Put a Spell on You" written and originally recorded by Screamin' Jay Hawkins in 1956. There have been many really good covers of this song but Nina Simone (1965) was just the second person to cover this song. I just can't get over how overlooked this artist was in her time, a high class version that turns the song on it's ear to give it an entirely different sound.


52. "Strange Fruit" was a courageous recording by the legendary Billie Holliday from 1939. A song written as a poem by another …

Radiohead

Radiohead



When talking about the band I have to confess I'm out of my depth so I will tread lightly. We should however get right to their beginnings and major influence, that being the 'Talking Heads' and their namesake song "Radio Head". The band had been called 'On a Friday' but their record label requested they change it before signing a contract (with EMI records) in 1991.
Radiohead are one of the most successful and influential Rock bands since their debut album "Pablo Honey' (Jerky Boys) in February of 1993. All their songs are credited to the entire band Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Phil Selway and Thom Yorke. And there's the 'sixth member' producer Nigel Godrich who's done all their albums since 1994. Their song "Creep" charted top 40 across the world and it's depressing tone eventually wore the band down to the point they stopped playing it live for a long period of time. The songs melo…

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #1-25

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs

Nothing quite grabs the attention more than a list of the greatest this or that, so at 85 posts about cover songs I thought it about time to get to it. As I advised with my other 'Greatest' posts we all have our favorites so anytime there is a list, something or someone 'great' gets left off. And the debate ensues, why is this and that at #11 not #4 and vise versa. My list therefore, shall be no different for it is not scientific but subjective and it is biased by my own tastes and exposure to music. Having said that it's hard for me to have missed many of the truly great cover songs of all time, indeed I think I've talked about quite a few:


"Respect" from the writer and original recording Otis Redding and a cover she made her own, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. More about the song and Aretha in these posts. Before I get to some cover's I've not mentioned, here are more songs from my previous issues that are …

Music Myths and other Silly Things

Music Myths and other Silly Things

Who doesn't like a good story? There are many great ones and some not so much about music. I try and put a little story into my blogs and during the course of my research I have run across some that are quite curious. Some of these myths about songs and artists have innocent enough beginnings and been perpetuated or at least not denied by the artists themselves, others come from malcontents and the misinformed.



Here is one that falls in the category of a silly thing; Bob Dylan and the 'Stealers Wheel' song "Stuck in the Middle with You", released in April, 1973.

1. Bob Dylan did not write this nor did he sing this song, nor is this song about Bob Dylan.

2. If you do a search for 'Dylan and Stuck in the Middle" you will get results like the following:
Home » Artists » Bob Dylan » Stuck In The Middle With YouBob Dylan - "Stuck In The Middle With You" lyricsBob Dylan: CD's Sheet Music Tablature, Stuck in the …

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #26-50

The next 25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #26-50

In part one I listed 25 of the greatest cover songs and to date it's been my most viewed blog post. There are so many more I wanted to add to the list so depending on the response, I'm prepared to follow with 51-75 and 76-100 in the future.

This list in part comes from many of the songs that I have already posted in the past 15 months or so since I started blogging. As for how songs make it on my list there are a few criteria, while I don't dismiss music from more recent years a song has to have stood the test of time for me, hence much of the list are songs of some vintage and just plain old, like the writer. Next, the original song itself must have some character and some degree of popularity. And preferably the artist and or songwriters are of interest as well. I have read other lists of great cover songs from books, articles and google searches and you'll find much similarity, but some of them contain songs I just don…