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Original Covers

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - 01:54 PM

I can’t imagine what came over the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, who recently said he had a problem with the so-called “compulsory license” law that allows any musician to cover any other musician’s song.  Did he forget singing Radiohead’s “Creep” in front of hordes of concertgoers at the 2008 Coachella Festival?  Or recording “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells? 

Well, while Prince recovers from his rush of blood to the head, let’s consider some great covers that probably never would have happened if His Purple Majesty had his way.

Cream covering Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” for example, was hugely influential in the resurgence of interest in a formerly obscure, long-dead bluesman.  (Bad example, I guess – Johnson wasn’t around to deny permission.  Still, great cover.) 

I was too young to have known Pink Floyd in the original Syd Barrett years, but David Bowie’s cover of “See Emily Play” introduced me to the sounds of English psychedelia in its formative phase. 

Manfred Mann made a career out of his cover of the Bruce Springsteen song “Blinded By The Light,” a tune that was considered a “deep track” for Springsteen fans. 

This list could go on forever – and you can feel free to add to it.  But for any Prince followers who are not yet convinced, consider the following:

 “Hallelujah,” recorded by Jeff Buckley.  Cover of a Leonard Cohen song that inspired the even more famous Rufus Wainwright version that appears in the film Shrek.  (And inspired in its turn not by the Cohen original, but by a similarly obscure John Cale remake.) Until Buckley’s recording, only Cohen’s circle of fans knew the song.  Now it is one of the most covered songs of recent years. 

 “All Along The Watchtower,” recorded by Jimi Hendrix.  Even Dylan conceded that Hendrix all but owned this song.  How big a feat is that, when you consign Bob Dylan to the sidelines?  Perhaps the greatest cover in rock history. 

What cover song introduced you to a song or songwriter you wouldn’t have otherwise known?  Leave a comment. 


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