For as long as people have been making and recording music, people have been covering and reinterpreting music. While many covers are forgettable and easily dismissed, there are those that are so successful that they eclipse the source material. The below list is comprised of some of those exceptional covers that by various means and ways outshine their predecessors.
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Long before “Twist and Shout” appeared in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, before it was made famous by The Beatles in 1963, it was recorded by a band called The Top Notes. The Beatles took “Twist and Shout” and made it work. The Top Notes may have had good intentions, but their version comes off rather lifeless, while the fab four offered up a vivacious dance tune, that has yet to lose its’ luster.
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Many people associate this ballad with Sinead O’ Connor, and only Sinead O’ Connor. "Nothing Compares 2 U," O’ Connor’s 1990 breakout hit, was actually penned in 1985 by Prince, and recorded by a band called “The Family” on their one and only self-titled album. That version of the song was never released as a single, and did not make any waves to speak of. Fortunately, O’ Connor came along, and through her success introduced the world at large to this great piece. Prince has since taken to performing the tune himself—he did so live on Ellen in 2004—but his post Sinead take on the tune ends up coming off like a bad, jazz lounge version. Put quite simply, Sinead O’Connor made this one her own.
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Israel may not necessarily possess Judy Garland’s vocal prowess, nor the starring role in the film the song was written for, but his version of “Over The Rainbow” has the advantage of being festive and uplifting, whereas Garland’s beautiful original has some hints of melancholy that simply are not to be found in Israel’s version. The other great asset of the 1993 tune is the fact that is boasts the presence of another beautiful track, “What A Wonderful World.” The ukulele medley has become extremely popular in recent years, making several appearances on the Billboard charts, and being featured in numerous commercials, television shows and films including 50 First Dates and ER. This double cover, like the double rainbow, is worth getting excited about.
If ever there was a single song demonstrative of the phenomenon of covers that no one knows are covers, it just might be this one. When Bruce Springsteen recorded and released “Blinded By The Light” on his 1973 debut album, it did not really go anywhere. When Manfred Mann’s Earth Band recorded the song in 1977 it became a sensation; they even played it on “Burt Sugarmann’s Midnight Special.” The Manfred Mann take on the song still receives fairly healthy radio play on certain stations, and was a #1 hit in its’ own right.
Manfred Mann (Cover)
Bruce Springsteen (Original)
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