Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (1979)
Originally by: Robert Hazard. Irony became the middle name of this folk singer when his hurriedly-written number (conceived while taking a bath!) became a hit for Cyndi Lauper and went on to define the 1980s.
Overpowered by: Cyndi Lauper. She tweaked the lyrics slightly to make it what critics call a “feminist anthem” that reached number two on the UK and US charts.
Popular takes: Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Jessie J
Best line: Some boys take a beautiful girl/ And hide her away from the rest of the world/ I want to be the one to walk in the sun/ Oh girls they want to have fun
Hound Dog (1952)
Originally by: “Big Mama” Thornton. While writing this song in 1952 songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had in mind the 300-pound singer. In an interview Leiber said the line “you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” was actually a euphemism for “you ain’t nothin’ but a motherf*****”.
Overpowered by: Elvis Presley. He recorded 31 takes of the song and finally selected take number 28, which reached number one on the US charts. Stoller, however, was disappointed because he thought Presley’s version was “too fast, too white”!
Popular takes: Jerry Lee Lewis, Eric Clapton, John Lennon
Best line: You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog/ Cryin’ all the time
I Will Always Love You (1974)
Originally by: Dolly Parton. Her classic album Jolene featured this equally classic song. This wasn’t just another break-up number but one that marked the end of a professional relationship… from Porter Wagoner on whose TV show she had her first break.
Overpowered by: Whitney Houston. She gave it a powerful once over when it was included on the soundtrack of The Bodyguard (1992). The soundtrack marked her transformation from a singer of peppy numbers to a complete performer.
Popular takes: Leona Lewis, Beyonce
Best line: If I should stay, I’ll only be in your way/ So I’ll go, but I know I’ll/ Think of you every step of the way
The Man Who Sold The World (1970)
Originally by: David Bowie. He used the guiro to take the song, which created images of futuristic characters in the listeners’ heads, to a haunting level.
Overpowered by: Kurt Cobain. It remains one of the Nirvana man’s finest performances (at the 1993 MTV Unplugged). Bowie later said: “It... sounded somehow very honest.”
Popular takes: Lulu, Simple Minds
Best line: I gazed a gazeless stare/ We walked a million hills/ I must have died alone/ A long, long time ago
Originally by: Otis Redding. A plane crash cut short the life of the soul singer days after he recorded the classic (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay in 1967. But rarely does one speak about Otis and his other timeless number in the same breath –– Respect, which he released in 1965 and which became the signature tune for the queen of R&B, Aretha Franklin.
Overpowered by: Aretha Franklin. Her cover not only won two Grammys in 1968 but also became an anthem in the 1960s-70s feminist movement.
Popular takes: Ike and Tina Turner,
Best line: A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)
The Tide Is High (1967)
Originally by: The Paragons. This innocent teen number will remain lyricist and band member John Holt’s finest creation, which became a sensation in Jamaica.
Overpowered by: Debbie Harry. She struck a carelessly sexy pose on the single’s vinyl sleeve when her band Blondie released the song in 1980. It was an instant hit, a feat once again achieved by the Atomic Kitten in 2002.
Popular take: Papa Dee
Best line: The tide is high/ But I’m holding on/ I’m gonna be your number one
Georgia On My Mind (1930)
Originally by: Hoagy Carmichael. The mystery behind Georgia remains unsolved. Were Hoagy and lyricist Stuart Gorrell talking about the US state or Georgia, who was Hoagy’s sister.
Overpowered by: Ray Charles, who released his version in 1960. After he performed it in 1979 at the Georgia General Assembly, it was adopted as the state song.
Popular takes: Willie Nelson, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald
Best line: No peace, no peace I find/ Just this old, sweet song/ Keeps Georgia on my mind
Twist And Shout (1961)
Originally by: Top Notes. Soon after Phil Spector joined Atlantic Sound, he was asked to produce this single for Top Notes. But lyricist Bert Russell wasn’t happy. Bert decided to produce the track for The Isley Brothers and the energy-filled production (1962) was simply tops.
Overpowered by: The Beatles bunged the track in on their first UK album, Please Please Me (1963). Since the group recorded the album at one go, John Lennon’s voice was almost broke when it came to the last recording of the day ––Twist and Shout.
Popular takes: Westlife, Bon Jovi
Best line: You know you’re a twisty little girl
Originally by: Charlie Chaplin. The actor composed the brilliant piece for the soundtrack of Modern Times and it was only in 1954 that John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics.
Overpowered by: Michael Jackson recorded this favourite of his for the 1995 album HIStory: Past, Present and Future. Brother Jermaine Jackson’s heartfelt rendition came at MJ’s funeral.
Popular takes: Nat King Cole, Barbara Streisand
Best line: Smile, what’s the use of crying/ You’ll find that life is still worthwhile/ If you just smile
Sea Of Love (1959)
Originally by: Phil Phillips. He will be remembered for this one song for which he received $6,800.
Overpowered by: Cat Power. Though the 1989 Al Pacino starrer (also called Sea of Love) featured the song, it was Cat Power’s version that we remember from the film Juno (2007).
Popular take: Iggy Pop
Best line: Do you remember when we met/ That’s the day I knew you were my pet/ I want to tell you/ How much I love you
Nothing Compares 2 U (1985)
Originally by: The Family. The band, which was one of Prince’s side projects, recorded only one album and this classic number went unnoticed.
Overpowered by: Sinead O’ Connor who totally rocked her version. The video was riveting too with those close-up shots, ending with her breaking into tears.
Popular take: Kelly Clarkson
Best line: ’Cause nothing compares/ Nothing compares 2 u
Without You (1970)
Originally by: Badfinger. The group that many thought would succeed The Beatles but, of course, it didn’t! Nevertheless, Paul McCartney has described the song as a “killer”.
Overpowered by: Yes, Harry Nilsson did a brilliant cover in 1971 which topped charts in 1972. But here’s a tough call: Mariah Carey’s 1993 album Music Box is one of her finest and it also spawned two other hits –– Hero and Dream Lover. Her version of Without You still receives excellent play on our radio stations.
Popular takes: Andy Williams, Cilla Black
Best line: I can’t live/ If living is without you
Go West (1979)
Originally by: Village People. Politician Horace Greeley advised in the editorial of The New York Tribune (1865): “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” But in 1979 the group Village People were (though they never admitted) asking gay men to go to San Francisco, which became one of the centres for the gay rights movement in the 1970s.
Overpowered by: Pet Shop Boys. Asked to perform at an AIDS charity event in Manchester (1992), they came up with Go West.
Popular take: J.B.O.
Best line: (Go West) Life is peaceful there/ (Go West) In the open air/ (Go West) Baby you and me/ (Go West) This is our destiny
Me and Bobby McGee (1969)
Originally by: Roger Miller. He was a country biggie with hits like King of the Road and England Swings to his credit. His rendition of the Kris Kristofferson composition (which he wrote while remembering a scene from Fellini’s La Strada) was straightforward.
Overpowered by: Well, Kris broke down when he heard the Janis Joplin version the first time. This was soon after her death in 1970. Released posthumously on the album Pearl (1971), the song reached the number one spot.
Popular takes: Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson
Best line: Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose
Originally by: Nine Inch Nails. The song was included on the group’s album The Downward Spiral.
Overpowered by: Johnny Cash. One of his crowning glories. Be it the way he says “crown of thorns” or the poetic quality of the video which, by the way, won a Grammy in 2004.
Popular take: Leona Lewis
Best line: I hurt myself today/ To see if I still feel/ I focus on the pain/ The only thing that’s real
Black Magic Woman (1968)
Originally by: Fleetwood Mac. When they released the composition of band member Peter Green in 1968 it did modest business on the charts.
Overpowered by: Carlos Santana. His version, now universally popular, came in 1970 and was actually a medley of the Peter Green number and Gabor Szabor’s Gypsy Queen. Most, if not all, Santana concerts now feature this song. It is said that after Green left the band in 1970 (though he rejoined later for a brief period), he fell on hard times and was dependant on the royalties earned from this song.
Popular take: Snowy White
Best line: Yes, you got your spell on me, baby/ Turnin’ my heart into stone/ I need you so bad
Unchained Melody (1955)
Originally by: Todd Duncan. Decades before Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore made Unchained Melody popular once again with Ghost (1990), the song had appeared in the forgotten film Unchained in which Todd did the honours.
Overpowered by: The Righteous Brothers delivered a chestnut of a hit in 1965 even though the song was the B-side to Hung On You. Phil Spector takes credit for producing the song but Bill Medley, one half of the duo, in 2007 said it was he who had actually produced the track.
Popular takes: Andy Williams, The Fleetwoods, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley
Best line: Oh, my love, my darling/ I’ve hungered, hungered for your touch
Always On My Mind (1972)
Originally by: Brenda Lee. Don’t underestimate the power she wielded in the 1960s, when she had 37 US chart hits, including the heartbreaker I’m Sorry; Always On My Mind was a lesser-known hit.
Overpowered by: After Elvis Presley split from Priscilla, all he could do was look back at a failed marriage. That’s when he recorded Always On My Mind in 1972, a song of regret and pain. And 10 years later came the Willie Nelson version, which earned him the best male country vocal performance Grammy.
Popular takes: Pet Shop Boys, Michael Buble
Best line: Little things I should have said and done/ I just never took the time/ You were always on my mind
I Shot The Sheriff (1973)
Originally by: Bob Marley. The reggae singer once said that the song’s story about a man who shoots a sheriff for harassing him (but is accused of killing the deputy) is true in parts.
Overpowered by: Eric Clapton. Well, the house is divided over which is a better version – Marley or Clapton. Eric wrote in Clapton: The Autobiography: “I tried to ask him (Marley) what the song was all about, but couldn’t understand much of his reply. I was just relieved that he liked what we had done.”
Popular take: Warren G
Best line: Reflexes had got the better of me/ And what is to be must be/ Every day the bucket a-go a well/ One day the bottom a-go drop out
All Along The Watchtower (1967)
Originally by: Bob Dylan. While recovering from an accident, he spent 18 months writing and recording songs at his home in Woodstock. The result: the album John Wesley Harding. But the song did not chart.
Overpowered by: Jimi Hendrix. The legendary guitarist received a tape containing the song in 1968 and almost immediately started working on the track. Later Dylan said: “Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.”
Popular takes: U2, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band
Best line: All along the watchtower/ Princes kept the view/ While all the women came and went/ Barefoot servants, too
With A Little Help From My Friends (1967)
Originally by: The Beatles. Briefly titled ‘Bad Finger Boogie’, John Lennon attributes most of the composition to Paul McCartney while the vocals are of Ringo Starr.
Overpowered by: Joe Cocker. Like it or not, this
power-packed rendition was one of the high points of Woodstock 1969. Later included as the title track of the Emmy Award-winning TV show The Wonder Years.
Popular takes: Wet Wet Wet, Mumford & Sons
Best line: What do you see when you turn out the light?/ I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine
Killing Me Softly With His Song (1972)
Originally by: Lori Lieberman. The American singer was spellbound when she saw Don McLean perform at a club in Los Angeles. She thought his songs were as personal as reading aloud one’s letters and this idea was presented before lyricist Norman Gimbel, who wrote the song based on her account. Lori recorded the song.
Overpowered by: Roberta Flack. She heard Lori’s song and performed it live in 1972 as an opening act for Marvin Gaye. When she released the song in 1973, it spent five weeks at number one.
Popular takes: The Fugees, Carole King
Best line: Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words/ Killing me softly with his song