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20 songs you thought were originals but are actually soulful makeovers

The Telegraph gets you the list

Mathures Paul | Published 02.05.23, 05:08 AM

Nazareth: Love Hurts

Boudleaux Bryant and his wife Felice have written some of the best Everly Brothers songs, like Bye Bye Love, Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have To Do Is Dream and even Love Hurts. The song has been covered by the likes of Roy Orbison, Rod Stewart and Cher but perhaps the most famous version is by Nazareth, who took it to No. 8 on the charts. The song has also been heard in many films, like Deadpool and High Fidelity.


Blondie: The Tide Is High

The Paragons was a very active band in Kingston, Jamaica. Band member John Holt wrote the song in 1967 and it was a very different kind of music than what was coming from the US. The song was fresh and innocent as Holt’s voice pleads for a girl to notice him. It ultimately became a hit for Blondie in 1980, taking the group to the number one spot in the UK and in 2002, it helped Atomic Kitten to hit the top spot, once again in the UK.

UB40: Red Red Wine

Name a song about wine? The answer will unsurprisingly be this classic UB40 number. The song originally belongs to Neil Diamond and it’s a perfectly good song until you are into the second glass for the evening. Let UB40 help. The original song was released by Bang Records, the label Neil Diamond was once with. Though he officially left in 1968, the label was releasing his songs with clumsy arrangements.

George Harrison: Got My Mind Set on You

After the Beatles broke up, George Harrison had plenty of hits in the 1970s. When he was going through a creative drought for a few years in the 1980s, he recorded the album Cloud Nine in 1987. It contained the upbeat cover of James Ray’s 1962 original. Ray’s recording had a mournful note. By 1960-61 Ray was homeless when he was rediscovered. Harrison paid tribute to Ray with an upbeat version.

Rod Stewart: Downtown Train

Tom Waits wrote and recorded the brilliant song for his 1985 album, Rain Dogs. Now the twist. The singer Bob Seger decided to record the song in 1989 and he claimed that on a trip to London he mentioned this to Rod Stewart, who went on to record his version of the song a month later and it became a massive hit. Stewart’s management has denied the allegation. About the song Stewart has said: “I’m sure Tom Waits wouldn’t mind me saying this, I realised there was a melody there in the chorus, and it’s beautiful, but he barely gets up and barely gets down to the lower notes, so I took it to the extreme. That was a case where I brought the chorus alive and there have been a couple like that.”

Janis Joplin: Me and Bobby McGee

Kris Kristofferson moved to Nashville after leaving the army in 1965 and he started selling songs. Sunday Morning Coming Down went to Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings recorded The Taker. Me and Bobby McGee went to Roger Miller and this version ultimately fell into the hands of Janis Joplin, for whom it became a massive hit, sadly in the immediate aftermath of her death in 1971.

Johnny Cash: Hurt

Legendary American music producer Rick Rubin had already made Johnny Cash listen to Soundgarden and Tom Waits, and thought he would like Nine Inch Nails member Trent Renzor’s ballad Hurt. The lyrics are dark. Renzor, in the 1990s, rented a house in Benedict Canyon that was once owned by actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered in 1969 by the Manson Family, a cult led by Charles Manson. The house had “too much history” for Renzor to handle. He told Alternative Press: “I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone.” The song found a space on the Nine Inch Nails album The Downward Spiral but Cash made it his own.

Jimi Hendrix: All Along The Watchtower

After wielding an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival, Dylan decided to return to his Americana roots for his album John Wesley Harding. This was when his writing was taking on a new direction and he would insist on “writing shorter lines, with every word meaning something”. Hendrix’s version released just six months after Dylan’s original. With his music, he took Dylan’s lyrics to a new zone. The Nobel Prize winner later admitted that each time he performed the song after Hendrix’s death, he viewed the song as a tribute to the man.

Sinead O’Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U

A classic song. When MTV was king, Sinead O’Connor gave this stripped-down cover of the Prince song. Originally written by the Purple One for one of his side projects, The Family, the song needed the O’Connor touch. Her arrangement is simple and memorable. In 2018, Prince’s estate released his original 1984 studio recording and it’s memorable (the one for The Family came in 1985).

Jeff Buckley: Hallelujah

Nobody can deny the power of Leonard Cohen’s original song. But Jeff Buckley’s interpretation is lovely. In his short-lived career, the song is seen as the pinnacle of his musical achievements, proof of what was supposed to come. Buckley had heard John Cale’s 1991 version and he was inspired to cover it.

Joe Cocker: With A Little Help From My Friends

Those who grew up watching The Wonder Years will remember the opening sequence in which Kevin Arnold shows off the world he lives in, all to the song With A Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker. For Sheffield man Cocker, Woodstock changed his life when he performed the song there. The song began as a John Lennon composition for Ringo Starr. The song ended up becoming an anthem of the counterculture movement.

Patti Smith: Because of the Night

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith are both Jersey natives and another connection is the song Because of the Night. Jimmy Iovine, who was engineering Springsteen’s records at the time and producing Smith’s 1978 album, Easter, took The Boss on a drive towards Coney Island. Iovine asked Springsteen if he could send the E Street Band’s recording of the unfinished Because the Night to Patti Smith. “Now Jimmy had, has always had, and still has some very sly ears. Now me, I had a nice hook and a melody on a song that I could not finish the lyrics for. So Patti took it and turned it into the hit it became, writing a beautiful love song for her husband, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith. Now it wouldn’t have been a hit if I had finished it and released it. It needed a woman’s voice, it needed Patti’s voice and her vision,” Springsteen has told Asbury Park Press.

Aretha Franklin: Respect

When you think of Aretha Franklin, this song comes to mind. Franklin’s Respect is a re-recording of a piece by Otis Redding and his version sounds different — there’s no spelling of ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ and no backup singers. “My sister Carolyn and I got together and — I was living in a small apartment on the west side of Detroit, piano by the window, watching the cars go by — and we came up with that infamous line, the ‘sock it to me’ line,” she has told Terry Gross. “Some of the girls were saying that to the fellas, like ‘sock it to me’ in this way or ‘sock it to me’ in that way. It’s not sexual. It was nonsexual, just a cliche line.”

Whitney Houston: I Will Always Love You

Few remember the film Bodyguard but everyone still listens to Whitney Houston’s recording of I Will Always Love You, which was featured in the film. The song was originally written and recorded in 1973 by Dolly Parton. It was a famous farewell to her early mentor Porter Wagoner. Recalling the first time she heard Houston’s cover, Parton said in 2020: “It was one of the most overwhelming feelings I have ever had to hear it done so well, so beautifully and so big. I had no idea I’d written a song that could be that important… She just took it and made it so much more than what it would ever have been.”

The Fugees: Killing Me Softly

No, we haven’t forgotten the original song by Roberta Flack but the transcreation is memorable. Actually, there’s more. The original song is by Lori Lieberman, who recorded it in late 1971 and released it as a single in 1972, produced by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox. The song did not chart for Lieberman. Flack discovered Lori Lieberman’s song on a plane from Los Angeles to New York and made it her own. “I was not limited to just taking the song off of the page of music,” said Flack.

Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now

Both Sides Now can make people cry and it was a massive hit that closed Joni Mitchell’s 1969 Clouds album. The song was penned by Mitchell but technically the first person to release the song was Judy Collins, who released it as a single from her 1967 Wildflowers set. By the time the song was written, Mitchell had dealt with a lot of issues. As a young, single mother, she put her child into foster care, then married (and divorced) Chuck Mitchell. She said: “I was reading Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King on a plane, and early in the book, Henderson, the Rain King, is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window, and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.”

Lenny Kravitz: American Woman

Lenny Kravitz’s American Woman is a classic and he has said in an interview how he could buy a new house and start a new life because of the song. The song is originally by the Canadian band The Guess Who whose version of the track reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970. Group member Burton Cummings has told CBC: “I ran in and jumped up on stage, and just started making stuff up out of my head — one of those Bob Dylan stream of consciousness moments where you just go with what’s coming out of your imagination. And I was more or less looking for things that rhyme. You know, coloured lights can hypnotize, sparkle someone else’s eyes.”

Elvis Presley: Blue Suede Shoes

Elvis Presley made every song his own, like Blue Suede Shoes. The rock ’n’ roll anthem was actually originally written and performed by resident Sun Studio recording artiste Carl Perkins in 1955. Here’s the twist. Perkins was booked for a multicity tour kicking off at Parkin, Arkansas. Before one of his shows, Johnny Cash visited his dressing room and asked what he was working on. “Ain’t nothing worth writin’ home about, John,” he said. It was then that Cash suggested the idea of writing a song about blue suede shoes.

Urge Overkill: Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon

You have probably heard the song in Pulp Fiction, performed by the rock band Urge Overkill. Other versions of the song have been recorded by Cliff Richard and the Biddu Orchestra. But the original song is by Neil Diamond.

Cyndi Lauper: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

It’s originally a forgotten demo by Robert Hazard. For a long time in the 1980s, Hazard was one of the biggest singers in Philadelphia. Hazard had recorded the tune in 1979, but never released it as a single. When Rick Chertoff was putting songs together for Cyndi Lauper, he asked Hazard about the song. Hazard said in 1986: “He knew about Girls Just Want to Have Fun for years. He always told me what a great song he thought it was. When he met Cyndi, it was a match made in heaven.” Hazard made enough money with the song to buy a house on a lake in New Jersey.

Last updated on 02.05.23, 05:08 AM

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