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Etta James and others 'Own' your cover (Part Two)



Artists who cover and then ‘own’ the song (Pt. 2)


I can think of few better songs to continue in this vein with (a favorite of many people, myself included) but “At Last”. Music written by Harry Warren, Lyrics written by Mack Gordon- two of the best in the business.
Etta James owns this song. Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins; January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012). Ranked 22 on Rolling Stones greatest singers of all time, she has won several Grammy awards, numerous Blues Awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Blues and the Grammy Hall of Fames. Her other hits are numerous and certainly cover song blog worthy, so I’ll save them for later!

Recorded by Etta November 15, 1960 at Chess Records in Chicago. She would do other versions of this song, but I find her first crack at it to be the best. Not so crazy about the slide show in the video though…but great audio.

The original is by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, September 4, 1942 here is a clip from a from a movie that same year, vocals start at 2:47 mark.

There are 223 documented versions of this song and likely many more than that and it’s still being covered every year. So to say just one singer ‘Owns’ this song may be a bold statement but I’m not the only one who feels this way, maybe you do too! Etta was the 11th singer to record the song.
BeyoncĂ© played Etta James in the film “Cadillac Records “(2008). A great rendition. Great story too.

Celine Dion also did an impressive job on this song and also done by; Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, Mary Wells, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Geraint Watkins and Marian McPartland with Elvis Costello.

Unchained Melody” written by Alex North and Hy Zaret (a couple of Tin Pan Alley writers) recorded by The Righteous Brothers (1965) and yes the 63rd version of this song which now has close to 400 covers. While billed as the Righteous Brothers it was only Bobby Hatfield.

Resurrected when used in the movie “Ghost” as shown in the above video clip. Originally part of the movie “Unchained”(1955) and sung by Todd Duncan. Now you get the name!

The first recording was an instrumental by Liberace in 1955. The first vocal track was March 16, 1955 by the very talented Roy Hamilton, linked below.  An incredibly outstanding job on this song, its only by circumstance (and of course a fabulous rendition) that we always hear the Bobby Hatfield version, for that reason only I’m calling it 'owned' by the Righteous Brothers. But here is Roy Hamilton.


Do-Wah-Diddy”, written by the dynamic duo of song writers Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry. Originally recorded by the Exciters in (1963) it peaked at number 78 on Billboard in the US. They had a number 4 hit with the song “Tell Him” in 1962.

Manfred Mann would record this July 10, 1964 and have a number one hit in the UK, US, Sweden and Canada. A great version but history shows the original is a victim of the British Invasion, that being said the Exciters song was well off the play charts of radio stations at the time the first remake of this song came out. Back then, unless it was top ten, songs typically didn’t last more than a few weeks, sometimes less. 'Owned' by Manfred Mann.

The Movie ‘Stripes’ helped resurrect this song in 1981.

The performer and composer known as ‘Kramer’ covered this song from an album he called “The Brill Building” which is a tribute to some of the amazing songwriters to come out of that New York City Landmark. Not the best version of the song but the album gives some well-deserved recognition while bringing the music to a younger audience.


“Time is On My Side” was covered by the Rolling Stones in 1964. This song has an interesting story. It began as a song (written by Jerry Ragovoy) recorded by the 'Kai Winding with Vocal Group' in 1963. Kai was also a trombonist with Benny Goodman's Orchestra. The song from a lyric standpoint is based on just two lines; "Time is on my side" and "You'll come runnin' back" which are sung by a famous trio; Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick and her sister Dee Dee Warwick. Then the singer and composer Jimmy Norman gets a hold of it and it becomes this song by Irma Thomas in June 1964.

Irma Thomas
I believe the only version most of us know is actually the second version by the Rolling Stones and the greatest cover. It features a different arrangement with a guitar in the intro (replacing the organ) which was recorded in Chicago on November 8, 1964. It was released in the UK on January 15, 1965, on the album ‘The Rolling Stones No. 2.’ This is the version that receives airplay now and appears on most "best of" compilations, not the original recording which was seven months earlier in June 1964 in London and released September 1964. So if it could get and weirder than it already is, the song that peaked at number 6 on the charts and the first top ten for the Stones in the US is that first recording. You likely (unless you were listening to it on the radio in 1964 or picked up the limited supply single) would never have heard this version.
This folks, is why I love cover songs! Let’s do one more, though I’ve got lots more in this category.

I Love Rock 'n' Roll” by Joan Jett. Original right, nope!
Written by Jake Hooker and Alan Merrill, two members of the rock band the ‘Arrows’(1975)



All due respect to the Arrows but Joan (quite defiantly!) owns this tune. Again recorded twice.
Joan did it solo (actually backed by the Sex Pistols) in 1979.
There was a YouTube video but unfortunately it is no longer available. 
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in 1981 and version we all know and if you are like me, love!

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