Truly Covering a Song to Maximum Potential Takes both Risk and “Cajones”

Posted: April 15, 2012 in Editorials
Tags: , , ,

Listen to the above song and then think about the following:

Sometimes, when we hear a band say, “Okay, now we’re gonna’ do a cover,” we hope that they’ll play the song exactly as it was originally performed. As humans, we feel more comfortable with something familiar. “I often prefer songs I know to new ones,” says Miriam Akabas, a New Yorker who frequented many Grateful Dead concerts during the band’s prime. The Dead were known to constantly cover other artists’ work, but their covers sounded so incredibly Grateful Deadish that it was usually near-impossible to differentiate between an original Dead composition and a cover.
Nonetheless, isn’t it somewhat creatively lacking if an artist covers a song exactly like the original recording? Sure, it’s seriously bold to try to perform a song just like the original artist who actually wrote that song, especially if that artist is an established and renowned musician, but it’s even ballsier to take that song and make it your own.

Jimi Hendrix, considered the greatest guitarist of all time, ironically covered folk legend Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” but the original and cover versions sound totally different. Dylan’s version sounds like most of his work: soft acoustic guitar topped with his distinct harmonica noodling whereas Hendrix’s “Watchtower” starts with one of rock’s most famous and raunchy guitar solos.

Joe Cocker, an underrated singer from the 1960’s and 70’s who actually played at the 1969 Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York, covered The Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends” off the Fab Four’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles’ version is a poppy song traditional of British Invasion style music whereas Cocker’s cover is a heavy jam filled with power chords, organ solos and texture upon texture of solid rock and roll.

Ben L’Oncle Soul takes the White Stripes classic hit, “Seven Nation Army,” a raw, riff-driven blues song and transforms it into a happy reggae-soul track. The funny thing is…it works…really well. Sure, some might attack L’Oncle Soul saying that he destroys the Jack White’s (singer, guitarist and main songwriter for the White Stripes) initial intention for the song’s emotional impact. The White Stripe’s “Seven Nation” is slow and dark, but that’s not the vibe L’Oncle Soul is going for. The way he approaches his vocals and the way he delivers the lyrics, line after line after line, jives with the positive mood of his cover. If he sang as ominously as White, then perhaps the song would not work. However, since this is not the case, this is a track that proves that covers can be extremely relevant

Comments
  1. eak1994 says:

    Shoutout to Meg Akabas for sending me this cover of “Seven Nation,” equally good and explorative: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNpidAAMQSo, a little blusier than Ben L’Oncle Soul’s cover but definitely worth the listen.

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