It’s happened since the dawn of music. Well since the dawn of recorded music at least. Artist covering other artist songs. Until Buddy Holly and The Beatles very few artist even wrote their own material.
Sometime with great results (especially in the early days, see Elvis Presley) and sometime with nightmarish consequences.
I think it’s safe to say not many artist out did the original Beatle versions of their own songs. Ray Charles covering “Let it Be” and “The Long and Winding Road” are the exceptions, but Ray Charles could burp and it would be genius.
It doesn’t mean he Beatles didn’t write some of the greatest songs of the 20th century, they did. It’s just that they were also great artists themselves, and George Martin commented on how they always seem to know how the song should be arranged and recorded.
Bob Dylan has also written some of the greatest songs of the 20th century. But without making jokes, artist DID take his songs and make them better. “All Along the Watchtower” by Hendrix comes to mind as well as The Byrds “Mr. Tamnourine Man”. Hell, Garth Brooks killed “Make you feel my Love”. Dylan was a writer begging to be interpreted.
In the last years it’s kind of been going over the top. It’s like movies re-doing movies or classic comic books, they know people are ALREADY familiar with the material, so there is a head start. It’s safe.
When Allison Krauss did the foundations hit “Baby, Now That I’ve Found you” I loved it. It wasn’t “better” than the original, but it was slowed down and beautiful. It made sense and was a different take.
Johnny Cash doing Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” was mind-blowing. Again, a completely different take, and with Cash’s older, pained voice you believed it.
But let’s jump to Mariah Carey doing “Without You”.
The writer’s (Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger) had both already committed suicide, and if I’m not mistaken, the guy that had the REAL cover hit with it, Harry Nilsson, died right when the song came out. Who could blame him? Bombastic. Sacrilege.
But there have been worse.
Anything Michael Bolton has covered has almost always led to disastrous results. “Sitting on the dock of the bay” and “Yesterday” being two examples. The guy has pipes, but does “Yesterday” really need to be heard like it was performed by Yosemite Sam?
Let’s just jump to some decent ones not already mentioned:
-“Higher Ground” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Originally Stevie Wonder
-“Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley. Written by Leonard Cohen. Nobody has ever done it better or will.
-“Twist and Shout” by The Beatles, originally by The Isley Brothers
-“Crazy” by Ray LaMontagne. Original by Gnarls Barkley. Again, the patented “slow it down” approach, but it’s just cool.
-“Suspicious Minds” by Dwight Yoakam. Originally done by the King.
-“Feel a whole lot Better” by Tom Petty. From The Byrds.
And there are countless others.
Some of the travesties:
-“Satisfaction” & “I love Rock and Roll” by Britney Spears. I mean, how freaking dare she?
-“Live and Let Die” & ‘Knocking on Heaven’s door” by Guns and Roses. Come on. Stick with what you do. Both of these songs showed Axle at his most pompous.
-“You Shook me All night Long” by Celine Dion. It’s why I don’t carry a gun.
-“Behind Blue Eyes” by Limp Bizkit. No need to comment here.
-“American Pie” by Madonna. Why? Just…why?
-And of course the entire William Shatner catalog. We could go on for days.
Although if you’ve never seen Telly Savalas cover of “If” by Bread, You Tube it now…It’s creepily entertaining. Emphasis on creepy.
There are and will be countless more.
Have any that you think worked? Have any that keep you up at night with their awfulness?