Can’t get much worse

Two years ago, “Hack’s Back Pages” addressed the volatile subject of “cringeworthy songs” — records that make you lunge to change the channel, or run screaming from the store, when they come on the radio.

maxresdefault-2It’s a provocative topic, because people can disagree completely on whether a song is trash or treasure.  For instance, I happen to like the music of the ’70s soft-rock band Bread.  It’s what some call a “guilty pleasure.”  Even the gooey ones like “If” and “Diary.”  Others want to throw up at the mere mention of Bread.  Personal preference is a peculiar thing…

Everyone can name at least a half-dozen songs that are like fingernails on a blackboard to them…even though others might enjoy these very same songs because they bring back fond memories of innocent times, or old romances.

In that November 2015 blog entry, entitled “I can’t stand it no more,” I singled out ten songs — all of which somehow reached #1 on the US charts — that I regard as truly cringeworthy:

2d3c3a20185d3fae6f10c3eb1d48f37a-1Billy Don’t Be a Hero,” Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, 1974;  “My Ding-a-Ling,” Chuck Berry, 1972; “Something Stupid,” Frank & Nancy Sinatra, 1966;  “Afternoon Delight,” Starland Vocal Band, 1976;  “The Candy Man,” Sammy Davis Jr., 1972;  “The Night Chicago Died,” Paper Lace, 1974;  “Seasons in the Sun,” Terry Jacks, 1974;  “Winchester Cathedral,” 1966; The New Vaudeville Band;  “Convoy,” C.W. McCall, 1976;  “Honey,” Bobby Goldsboro, 1968.

This week — because, let’s face it, there are so many wretched songs in Billboard’s Top 40 history — I am revisiting this topic.  I have broadened my search to the 1960-1990 period that I typically write about, and didn’t limit myself to songs that reached #1.  I solicited opinions from friends and acquaintances, but ultimately, these 15 selections are my own, so if you have a beef (and you very well might), take it up with me.

A Spotify list appears at the end, but I strongly recommend you listen to no more than ten seconds of any song if you want to retain your sanity…


ohio-express-yummy-yummy-yummy-1968“Yummy Yummy Yummy,” Ohio Express, 1968

Ranked high on the list of just about every “bad songs” lists ever assembled is this incredibly annoying piece of confetti, written by a guy named Joey Levine, who wrote far more commercial jingles than bonafide songs in his career.  Ohio Express, in fact, isn’t really a working band at all but a studio concoction, and a brand name Levine used to market the works of several different groups.  In other words, it’s all a hoax, pretty much.  Still, the US buying public sent this shlock to #4 in June 1968, making it the highest charting entry in the embarrassing (but thankfully short-lived) “bubblegum rock” genre.

rockyou“We Will Rock You,” Queen, 1978

Not so much a song as a shrill shout-fest, this quasi-rap abomination (before rap was a thing) evolved quickly into a sports arena anthem that drunken fans would scream at the top of their lungs whenever their team scored points.  You could easily make the case that the ridiculously simple “stomp-stomp-clap” beat with a cappella vocals and no instrumentation does not constitute an actual musical composition.  But Queen was smart enough to link “We Will Rock You” to the solid rock tune “We Are the Champions,” which shared the notion of sports fever for a winning team, and that made it a #4 hit in the US in the autumn of 1977 (and, apparently, ever since).  As for me, I refuse to listen to it when the radio plays it today.

dawn-featuring-tony-orlando-tie-a-yellow-ribbon-round-the-old-oak-tree-bell“Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” Tony Orlando and Dawn, 1973

According to legend, soldiers in Civil War times (and in more recent military conflicts) would send letters to their girlfriends, asking them to tie yellow ribbons around trees in their yards if their soldier boys would be welcomed home upon their return.  Tony Orlando and Dawn, in an impossibly fruity arrangement, took a song with that lyrical theme and somehow turned it into one of the biggest selling singles of the 1970s.  How did this happen??  Lord, have mercy…

Physical_album“Physical,” Olivia Newton-John, 1981

Every exercise, jazzercise, “dancersize” and aerobics class of the early 1980s was apparently required to play this relentless “pump you up” track, which made Newton-John the Jane Fonda of the celebrity workout scene before Jane herself took over the following year.  In that setting, “Physical” probably served its purpose, but on the radio, it was insufferable and inescapable, perched as it was in the #1 spot for an interminable 10 weeks in 1981.  The video, with its sexual overtones and blatant body language, represented a real departure from Newton-John’s nice-clean-girl image up to that point…but musically, I’d just as soon never hear it again.

StyxBabe“Babe,” Styx, 1979, and “Lady,” Styx, 1973

Somehow, Styx gained an image as a progressive rock group, but to put them even remotely in the same category as Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd is laughable.  Styx clearly preferred a more commercialized sound, carried (and permanently marred) by styx-lady-rca-victor-6Dennis DeYoung’s truly excruciating vocals.  You needn’t look past two of Styx’s biggest hits, 1973’s “Lady” and 1979’s “Babe,” which demonstrate, without question, that this Chicago-based group is light years away from anything “progressive.”  I couldn’t decide which of these grated on more nerves more, so you get them both.

R-9123497-1475176507-8674.jpeg“Lovin’ You,” Minnie Riperton, 1975

Please, just turn it off.  Right now.  I don’t care if the ridiculously high vocal notes set new records for a hit single.  In fact, those notes — and the infuriating chirping songbirds heard throughout — are why I find this song unlistenable.  Riperton has said she wrote “Lovin’ You” with her husband, Robert Rudolph, as a way to distract their baby daughter when they wanted to be alone for a while.  Yeah, that sounds about right.  The fact that the baby girl in question grew up to be Maya Rudolph must be a source of endless embarrassment to her.

114864684“Sing,” The Carpenters, 1973

Joe Raposo was a songwriter who found his niche writing songs for children’s programs, including “Shining Time Station,” “Electric Company” and, most notably, the theme song to “Sesame Street” and Kermit the Frog’s “Not Easy Bein’ Green.”  And he wrote “Sing” in 1971, which was well received among the “Sesame Street” audience.  Okay, fine.  But that did NOT give Karen and Richard Carpenter the right to turn this piece of vapid fluff into a mainstream pop song.  The LA-based duo was already well known for puerile, smarmy-sweet songs like “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and although Karen had one of the most pitch-perfect voices in the history of pop music, their recording of “Sing” removed any hint of hip from their reputation.  Still, the American buying public sent the song to #4 in the spring of 1973.  Gag me.

One_Bad_Apple-The_Osmonds_cover“One Bad Apple,” Osmonds, 1970

In 1970, five brothers from Gary, Indiana thrilled audiences and listeners with their effervescent brand of pop soul, reaching #1 with four consecutive hits.  I’m talking about The Jackson 5, of course.  Out in Utah, someone thought they could duplicate the Jacksons’ accomplishments with a white-bread version of the five-brothers act.  If you consider the Saturday morning cartoon TV show “The Osmonds” as a sign of success, it worked.  But if you consider the quality of the songs they released, holy smokes, the difference is stark indeed.  Their debut hit, the irksome “One Bad Apple,” offers all the proof you need that The Osmonds were a very pale imitation at best.

3e339b808251630553f2256895844e2b“Muskrat Love,” The Captain & Tennille, 1976

Written as a lark (and originally titled “Muskrat Candlelight”) by Texas songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey for his 1972 debut album, it was inexplicably re-recorded by the acoustic rock trio America the following year and, against their record company’s wishes, released as a single.  It not only stiffed at #67, it irreparably harmed their reputation as a quasi-hip CSN copycat group.  Cementing the song’s place on many “worst songs” lists is the godawful remake in 1976 by the cheesy duo The Captain and Tennille, which somehow reached #4 on the charts. The track actually uses synthesizers to approximate the sound of muskrats mating.  Yikes, does it get any worse than this??

1200x630bb-2“MacArthur Park,” Richard Harris, 1968

Jimmy Webb is widely regarded as one of the great underrated songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s.  For the most part, his work is commercial (“Up, Up and Away,” “Wichita Lineman,” ) catchy and lyrically satisfying.  But even the best songwriters drive off into the ditch on occasion, and for Webb, that came early with the maudlin, operatic, sickly sentimental “MacArthur Park,” which became a huge hit for (wait for it) the “Camelot” actor Richard Harris!  Astonishingly, it went all the way to #2 in 1968, despite being bathed in syrupy strings and falsetto vocals, with insipid lyrics about leaving a cake out in the rain (“I don’t think that I can take it, ’cause it took so long to bake it”…).  Equally astounding is its second life as a lengthy disco hit in Donna Summer’s 1979 rendition.  Either way (but mostly the original), this is one of the worst songs ever, by far.

1354325“Torn Between Two Lovers,” Maureen MacGregor, 1977

The free love era spawned some strange practices, including couples swapping partners and open three-way relationships.  Of all people, Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary) co-wrote this smarmy love-triangle ditty that laments “loving you both is breaking all the rules,” and US listeners sent Maureen MacGregor’s recording of it to #1 in 1977.  Ironically, MacGregor has said the huge success of “Torn Between Two Lovers” caused strains in her own marriage because it kept her on the road, away from her family and tempted by other relationships.  It’s not a good song, not even close, despite the royalties Yarrow no doubt appreciates.

R-5984772-1480601550-4800.jpeg“Song Sung Blue,” Neil Diamond, 1972

My apologies to all the Diamond fans out there, for the guy certainly had some decent songs in his catalog (“Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Stones” and “Sweet Caroline” come to mind), but this borrrring ditty is not one of them.  “Song Sung Blue” sounds like he wrote it in about five minutes, lyrics and all.  It would fit very nicely on a setlist of the squarest tunes of the ’70s (some of which are listed here).  Diamond’s early promise as a Brill Building songwriter (“I’m a Believer,” “Solitary Man,” “Kentucky Woman”) eventually gave way to schmaltz like “Forever in Blue Jeans” and “Love on the Rocks.”  Such a pity.

2e8ceb7217f649be2849e45e16cd5121“In the Year 2525,” Zager & Evans, 1969

The abundance of brilliant classic rock music released in 1969 — “The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” The Stones’ “Let It Bleed,” The Who’s “Tommy,” Creedence’s “Green River,” the Crosby Stills & Nash debut — makes it all the more difficult to fathom the songs that spent multiple weeks at #1 on the singles chart that same year.  Most surprising, perhaps, is “In the Year 2525,” a lyrically bleak, musically melodramatic groaner that dominated the airwaves for six weeks, making it the #1 song of the year.  Seriously??  Denny Zager and Rick Evans took the subject of “technology over mankind” very seriously, as did many music listeners at the time, evidently.  But the words are so pathetically sophomoric, it’s mind boggling to think they were considered “deep.”  Spare me, please.

david-soul-dont-give-up-on-us-private-stock-4“Don’t Give Up on Us,” David Soul, 1977

Okay, wait a minute.  David Soul?  Where do I know that name?  Oh yeah, he was one half of the tongue-in-cheek TV cop drama “Starsky and Hutch” in the ’70s.  So you’re telling me he recorded an album?  Yeah yeah, well, so did William Shatner, and even Telly Savalas, but they never made a dent in the charts.  Soul, meanwhile, inexplicably reached #1 in April 1977 with this piece of dreck, then faded as the “one-hit wonder” he deserved to be.  British fans, with questionable judgment, gave him four more Top 20 chart successes after that, but US listeners apparently conceded their mistake and mercifully moved on.

MICHAEL_JACKSON_THE+GIRL+IS+MINE+++PICTURE+SLEEVE-38789“The Girl is Mine,” Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney, 1982

He may have written some of the best music of the 20th Century when paired with John Lennon, but Paul McCartney’s solo career is littered with inconsequential crap — “My Love,” “Silly Love Songs,” “Let ‘Em In,” “Ebony and Ivory,” etc — amongst the handful of really strong songs.  In 1982, he teamed up with Michael Jackson on a couple high-profile pop songs — “Say Say Say,” which appeared on his “Pipes of Peace” LP, and the cloying, irritating “The Girl is Mine,” the sole blemish on Jackson’s otherwise outstanding “Thriller” album.  Hard to believe maestro producer Quincy Jones had anything to do with this terminally cutesy duet.


1620I found I needed to create a special category for Elton John, responsible for some of the most beloved and high-quality songs of his era (“Tiny Dancer,” “Your Song,” “Rocket Man,” “Burn Down the Mission,” “Levon,” “Friends,” “Candle in the Wind”).  However, he evolved into a writer of some of the most obnoxious songs of the mid-’70s, too.  “Crocodile Rock,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Island Girl” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (with Kiki Dee) may have been popular on the charts, but they drove some listeners (like me) to the brink of madness.


Honorable mention (and there are SO MANY!):

Having My Baby,” Paul Anka, 1974;  “You Light Up My Life,” Debbie Boone, 1978;  “Cat Scratch Fever,” Ted Nugent, 1977;  “Rock Me Amadeus,” Falco, 1986;  “I Love a Rainy Night,” Eddie Rabbit, 1981;  “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” Culture Club, 1983;  “Sussudio,” Phil Collins, 1985;  “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” A Taste of Honey, 1978;  “YMCA,” The Village People, 1976;  “You Make My Dreams,” Hall & Oates, 1981;  “All Out of Love,” Air Supply, 1980;  “Truly,” Lionel Richie, 1982;  “I’m Not Lisa,” Jessi Colter, 1975;  “Crimson and Clover,” Tommy James & Shondells, 1969;  “Can’t Smile Without You,” Barry Manilow, 1978;  “Love is Thicker Than Water,” Andy Gibb, 1977;  “Mr. Blue Sky,” ELO, 1978.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few of your “worst favorites.”  Please bring them to my attention, and perhaps I’ll include them in “Cringeworthy Songs #3” sometime!



Much more than this, I did it my way

The first time I recall hearing an artist doing a “cover” of another artist’s song was in 1968 when Jose Feliciano did his Flamenco-guitar arrangement of The Doors’ iconic 1967 rock hit “Light My Fire.”  I recoiled in horror.  “Oh my God, what was he thinking?  This is awful!”  I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to attempt such a radical reworking of a brilliant recording.

Back in those days, I used to be disgusted by any cover versions.  To my purist way of thinking, the original recording of a song was always going to be superior to any version that came after it.  More to the point, I reasoned, why would artists want to re-record someone else’s song?  Why not instead offer their own original composition (if they were capable), or the work of another songwriter that hadn’t yet been recorded?  To me, it seemed unnecessary, or lazy, or exploitative, for an artist to ride on someone else’s success by “covering” the established tune.

I don’t feel that way anymore.  Not by a long shot.  I’ve come to love hearing other artists reinterpret well-known songs, assuming they’re not exact replicas of the original recordings.  It’s often very refreshing, even exhilarating, to hear a familiar melody and lyric re-imagined by an artist doing it his or her own way, with a different arrangement, tempo, instrumental bias or vocal approach.

I started softening my rigid view on covers in the early ’90s when I heard two mostly satisfying collections of covers highlighting the work of two major artists.  Both opened my eyes considerably to how effective another artist’s sensitive reworking of my cherished favorites could be (at least some of the time):

“Two Rooms:  Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin” (1991)

two_rooms_celebrating_the_songs_of_elton_john_and_bernie_taupinSixteen of this awesome songwriting duo’s impressive repertoire are covered by major artists of the ’80s and early ’90s, and the result is largely a success.  Bruce Hornsby’s “Madman Across the Water,” Sinead O’Connor’s “Sacrifice,” Phil Collins’ “Burn Down the Mission” and Eric Clapton’s “Border Song” are the best of the bunch, while Tina Turner’s “The Bitch is Back,” The Who’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and Hall & Oates’ “Philadelphia Freedom” are perfectly matched between artist and song selection.

“Common Thread:  The Songs of The Eagles” (1993)

41p9shf50jlThe Eagles began as a foursome with three members having deep country roots (Glenn Frey preferred rock and R&B from his Detroit upbringing), so their early repertoire is dominated by country rock material, and their later LPs included at a couple of country-ish tunes among the more rock-oriented stuff.  It was a great idea, therefore, to ask country music artists to record their own versions of a baker’s dozen Eagles songs, and wow, what a fine job they did.  Check out Suzy Bogguss’s “Take It to the Limit” or Alan Jackson’s “Tequila Sunrise” or Trisha Yearwood’s “New Kid in Town” — I submit they’re stronger than the originals.

Recently, I’ve noticed quite a few more collections of new cover versions of songs by classic rock artists.  The quality, as you might expect, is all over the map.  Some covers are appalling failures; others are so-so experiments; and a few are truly outstanding renditions that redefine the song and make you almost forget the original.

Part of the reason for the quantity of covers lately, I think, is because of an eagerness to appreciate the work of classic rock songwriters who are reaching their twilight years.  Artists like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Jackson Browne and Peter Gabriel have been the subject of “tribute” collections, on which multiple bands offer their takes on the work of these recognized elder statesmen of rock:

“Chimes of Freedom:  The Songs of Bob Dylan” (2012)

chimes-of-freedom-dylan-2012Conceived as a fundraiser for Amnesty International, this monumental 4-CD project compiles more than 80 different Dylan tunes as rendered by 80 different artists of wildly varying levels of fame.  Some of these are definitely not to my liking (Kris Kristofferson’s “Quinn the Eskimo,” My Chemical Romance’s “Desolation Row,” Michael Franti’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”), while others are every bit as good as or better than Dylan’s originals, to my ears (Diana Krall’s “Simple Twist of Fate,” Sting’s “Girl From the North Country,” Seal and Jeff Beck’s “Like a Rolling Stone”).  Overall, I give it two thumbs up; there’s definitely more good stuff than bad here for you to investigate.

“The Art of McCartney” (2014)

the-art-of-mccartneyThis 2-CD collection of 35 McCartney songs from his solo and Beatles years is beautifully produced, with a diverse group of artists involved (Barry Gibb, Def Leppard, Corinne Bailey Rae, Steve Miller, Dr. John, The Cure).  One too many of these covers are merely faithful duplicates of McCartney’s versions — Heart’s “Band on the Run,” Billy Joel’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Brian Wilson’s “Wanderlust” — but there are many startlingly good renditions here as well (Willie Nelson’s “Yesterday,” Paul Rodgers’ “Let Me Roll It,” Smokey Robinson’s “So Bad”).  The package includes a great DVD of the making of these recordings that’s well worth your time.

“Looking Into You:  A Tribute to Jackson Browne” (2014)

jackson-tribute-cover2Browne was (and is) a songwriter held in such high esteem that dozens of fine artists lined up for the chance to take a crack at recording one of the 25 songs in this collection.  Don Henley, Bruce Hornsby, Indigo Girls, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin and Lucinda Williams contribute their remarkable alternate visions of “These Days,” “I’m Alive,” “Fountain of Sorrow,” “Rosie,” “Call It a Loan” and “The Pretender,” respectively…and that’s just a sample.  The only complaint I have here is that they stopped at 25, thereby omitting some other choice Browne tunes.

“Scratch My Back/And I’ll Scratch Yours” (2010/2013)

61ju2qrlvel-_sy355_Always thinking outside the box, Peter Gabriel came up with a creative concept that takes the area of cover versions a step further.  First, he sifted through many dozens of cherished songs to identify the dozen he most wanted to record himself (David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble,” Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today”), and released them on a compilation called “Scratch My Back.”  Then he asked the composers of those tracks to reciprocate by recording one of his songs, which came together as “And I’ll Scratch Yours” three years later.  Simon does “Biko,” Newman handles “Big Time,” and newer bands like Arcade Fire and Bon Iver also take a stab at Gabriel tunes.  You can now get both collections on a double CD re-issue.

Gabriel, in the liner notes to this project, explained his purpose:  “Songwriting is what drew me into music.  The craft and the process of putting together a good song seemed both exciting and magical.  For a long time, though, I have wanted to record some of my favorite songs by others, focusing more on being an interpreter than the creator of the song.  But it’s also a real treat for me to sit back and hear my songs sung by some of my favorite artists.”

bruce_musiccares_cover-500x705Since 1991, organizations like MusiCares have honored major musicians of the era with concert extravaganzas celebrating their artistry.  Major artists like Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, and most recently, Tom Petty have watched as talented contemporaries took the stage to play cover versions of iconic songs from the honoree’s repertoire.  DVDs and CDs of these live performances are available on a limited basis but are well worth seeking out.

Similarly, there are instances when artists have convened to pay tribute to a major rock music figure who has recently passed away.  The best of these is the extraordinary “Concert for George,” a 2002 event in London when concert-for-georgeEric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Ringo Starr, Ravi Shankar, Tom Petty, Billy Preston  and many others met to perform the songs (Beatles tunes and solo stuff) of George Harrison, who had died the previous year.  There are so many strong covers here (“Old Brown Shoe” with Gary Brooker, Petty’s “Taxman,” Ringo’s “Photograph”)  but the versions of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Something” featuring Clapton and McCartney are by themselves well worth the price of admission.

Collections of cover versions are showing up in ever-r-3079056-1316772941-jpegbroadening configurations.  MOJO, a slick British monthly magazine devoted largely to classic rock, includes CDs with each issue, and occasionally they are celebrations of specific albums, as reimagined by a dozen or more different British artists (famous and not).  The Beatles “Let It Be” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” are among the LPs given this treatment.

Other artists, even those who are accomplished songwriters in their own right, have released entire albums of nothing but covers:

51skwlzgmnl“Listening Booth:  1970,” Marc Cohn (2010)

Cohn, known best for 1991’s “Walking in Memphis,” did a fabulous job of gathering some of the great tracks from a pivotal year in his formative years and recording a dozen very credible covers, most notably The Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown,” Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and the Box Tops/Joe Cocker classic “The Letter.”

“Medusa” (1995) and “Nostlgia” (2014), Annie Lennox

Lennox has released not one but two collections of covers.  “Medusa” is the stronger of the annie_lennox_-_medusa_album_covertwo, with incredibly vibrant renditions of beauties like Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next to You” and The Clash’s “Train in Vain.”  The more recent “Nostalgia” reaches further back for Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind,” Jay Hawkins'”I Put a Spell on You” and Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child,” all of which rival the originals.  (With her voice, she could nail a cover of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and still blow you away.)

coverscropThe great James Taylor confessed that he hit a major writer’s block in the 2000s, and decided to bide his time by releasing two LPs of covers entitled simply “Covers” (2008) and “Other Covers” (2009).  It’s definitely a treat to hear him successfully tackle wonderful songs like “On Broadway” and “Wichita Lineman” and rockers like “Summertime Blues” and “I’m a Road Runner” (and even more of a treat that he rediscovered his muse and wrote excellent songs on his 2015 LP, “Before This World”).

Three different movies over the years have corresponding soundtrack albums full of cover versions of Beatles songs.  “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is a 1978 box office i_am_sam_soundtrack_coverdisaster that nonetheless has a few fairly decent reinterpretations of Fab Four classics (Aerosmith’s “Come Together” and Billy Preston’s “Get Back” come to mind).   The Sean Penn tearjerker “I Am Sam” sensitively uses Beatles songs throughout to help move the plot, and the covers on the soundtrack are, in some cases, superb:  Sarah MacLachlan’s “Blackbird,” Eddie Vetter’s “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” Aimee Mann’s “Two of Us” and Ben Folds’ “Golden Slumbers.”  The 2007 film “Across the Universe” mostly uses British actor/singer Jim Sturgess to sing the Beatles tunes, but don’t miss the cover by Bono and The Edge doing “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” over the final credits.

Of course, there are dozens, probably hundreds of great cover songs tucked quietly onto artists’ albums of otherwise original material.  The most famous examples are probably Jimi Hendrix’s anarchic version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Ike and Tina Turner’s rousing rendition of Creedence’s “Proud Mary” and Joe Cocker’s Woodstock moment, “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

I’ll conclude this column with a random sampling of 15 covers I strongly recommend you check out.  I’ve focused on covers of songs you will likely already know.  Hope you enjoy your listening search!

And by the way, I LOVE Feliciano’s “Light My Fire.”  So smooth…

I hope that “covers” it.  (Groan…)


The Sundays, “Wild Horses” (1992) — original by The Rolling Stones, 1971

41rxzadcq3lSimply Red, “The Air That I Breathe” (1998) — original by The Hollies, 1974

Lissie, “Go Your Own Way” (2013) — original by Fleetwood Mac, 1977

Bonnie Raitt, “Right Down the Line” (2012) — original by Gerry Rafferty, 1978

Kenny Rankin, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (1976) — original by The Beatles, 1968

The Civil Wars, “Billie Jean” (2011) — original by Michael Jackson, 1983

Counting Crows, “Big Yellow Taxi” (2002) — original by Joni Mitchell, 1970

81hossvpfrl-_sl1500_Carlos Santana, “Riders on the Storm” (2010) — original by The Doors, 1971

Haley Reinhart, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (2016) — original by Elvis Presley, 1963

Eric Clapton, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (1992) — original by Bob Dylan, 1963

10,000 Maniacs/Michael Stipe, “To Sir With Love” (1993) — original by Lulu, 1967

Aaron Krause/Liza Anne, “Every Breath You Take” (2013) — original by The Police, 1983

taxi-4f77ceec34fc9James McCartney, “Old Man” (2011) — original by Neil Young, 1972

Bryan Ferry, “I Put a Spell on You” (1993) — original by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, 1958

Keb’ Mo’, “Get Together” (2004) — original by The Youngbloods, 1969

and a bonus track!

Emily Hackett & Megan Davies, “Royals” (2014) — original by Lorde, 2013