Popular Songs We Forget Are Covers
So Many Covers, So Little Time
If you ask me, covers in the music industry are like remakes and sequels in the movie industry. After sometime, they are to be expected. And it seems like the same types of songs are covered as movies are remade. Either its a cult favorite or an instant classic. Never really in the middle.
However, I think some covers just like some movie remakes are not necessary. But then there are a solid few that you actually forget are covers. And to me that's the hallmark of a genuine artist. Having the ability to take someone else's original work and make it your own is a rare quality.
So without further ado, I present a few good songs that really belonged to someone else.
Boyz II Men "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday"
Boyz II Men essentially defined the 1990s and while now it's fun to reminisce on the days of parachute pants and hi-tops- back then they were making a name for themselves with distinct and unique harmonies.
In 1991, they burst on the scene with their debut album CooleyHighHarmony which is not only a tribute to the sounds of doo-wop but a tribute to an iconic Black American film of the 1970s, Cooley High starring Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs.
And to pay further tribute, Nathan, Michael, Shawn and Wanya decided to cover the Motown song that plays at the beginning of the credits for the film, "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday."
The song was originally sung by Motown artist G.C. Cameron but as we all know, it is Boyz II Men's version that became the breakout hit. Released in 1991, as a tribute to their slain tour manager it hit #1 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
But beyond that it is now a song you expect to hear at the end of a sad movie, funeral, graduation, and so on. Just don't pour out too much liquor at the end!
"Torn" Natalie Imbruglia
Unless you were too young or under a rock, "Torn" was probably on the mixtape of a girl you knew. And I'm sure that mixtape was called "Breakup Jams." But nonetheless Natalie Imbruglia had our number when this song came out in 1998.
But did you know this song actually belonged to alternative rock group Ednaswap? Me neither. They were a Los Angeles based band and released a total of four albums but actually broke up around the time Natalie's version of "Torn" became a worldwide smash.
"Torn" was on the group's first album released in the early 1990s. But it became Natalie Imbruglia's signature song. I listened to Ednaswap's version out of curiosity and soon realized why it was not a hit for them. In my opinion, it is overloaded with funky instruments and you soon forget what the song is about. Natalie Imbruglia did a better job of letting the lyrics grab you.
It obviously worked since Imbruglia's version was Grammy nominated and sold four million copies worldwide.
"Nothing Compares 2 U" Sinead O' Connor
It takes a great skill to take a track by an iconic artist and make it a worldwide smash. Yet somehow Sinead O' Connor did it.
Back in 1985 Prince had a band named The Family which was really was another vehicle for more Prince music. For their debut (and final) album they recorded a song called "Nothing Compares 2 U" - it went nowhere fast as did the group.
Across the pond, Sinead O' Connor decided to use the song as a single for her second album. While Prince's version was updated as a live duet between him and fellow band member Rosie Gaines, Sinead's version was a toned down power ballad that fit in well with early 1990s music culture.
The accompanying video resulted in O'Connor being the first female artist to win Video of the Year at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. The song also hit #1 in the United States and several other countries, eventually becoming O' Connor's signature song.
"Respect" Aretha Franklin
What would this list be without the Queen of Soul? Aretha Franklin is in a category of her own and this song is no exception. But the same can be said the artist who originally wrote and record the song, Otis Redding.
In 1965, Otis Redding was the flagship artist on Stax records and had many hits to his name on the R&B charts. He wrote and recorded "Respect" from the perspective of a man who wanted to give his girlfriend anything she wanted. The song caught on and became a pretty big crossover hit for Otis.
But in two short years, Aretha Franklin managed to make the world forget that. She recorded "Respect" from the perspective of a woman whose man would not listen. The song not only became a hit, it became a feminist anthem and another Best Female R&B Vocalist(aka the Aretha Franklin award) Grammy for Queen Re.
"Twist and Shout" The Beatles
Two words come to mind when I hear "Twist and Shout" by The Beatles and that is "Ferris Bueller." And just like The Beatles, this song has an enduring legacy.
Even though this song is associated with being a breakthrough moment for The Beatles in the US, it started out as a dance hit for little known Phil Spector outfit, The Top Notes in 1961.
However, it really caught on for legendary R&B group The Isley Brothers in 1962. It was a solid R&B hit and did well as a crossover tune too.
But once John, Paul, George, and Ringo got a hold of it, the first strike of the British Invasion. The song helped propel their second album and EP to #1 in the UK and made a name for them across the pond.
In 1986, Matthew Broderick brought the song to the Gen X masses in that iconic parade scene in " Ferris Bueller's Day Off." It helped propel the song back to the top of the charts.
As recently as 2010, the song finally charted on the UK singles charts and on iTunes as the group's material was finally made available on the site.
Stevie Wonder was always ahead of his time in what he sang about. And his slow-burning ballad of marital infidelity, "Lately" is no exception. However, it was a version by R&B group Jodeci that turned the song into a hit.
When I think of a Stevie Wonder love song, I usually think of him pining for a peer like in "My Cherie Amour" or bashfully in love as in "Uptight", or the ultimate wedding song "You are the Sunshine of My Life." But done wrong? Not Stevie.
That's why in 1993 as part of MTV's groundbreaking series, Unplugged, Jodeci delightfully melded their vocals with Stevie's lyrics and gave us a masterpiece. The song charted as the group's biggest pop hit peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles tracks.
"Everytime You Go Away" Paul Young
As with many songs on this list, they immediately conjure up a sense of specific time in one's life. And to me, Paul Young's version of "Everytime You Go Away" is one of those songs you hear at senior prom and instantly think of the last four years of your life flashing by.
But the original version, written and performed by the best duo of all-time Hall & Oates sounds more like a soulful torch song. It was not released as a single but does appear on their 1980 album voices.
Paul Young, an up and coming British artist was breaking away from a series of failed bands when he released his second solo album. "Everytime You Go Away" became his biggest hit worldwide.
Pick Your Favorite
Which Cover is Your Favorite?See results without voting
More by this Author
Songs that make you go, hmm.. what are they talking about?
A playlist of some of the most memorable songs with Baby in the title.
What to buy, how to buy, and what you might want to think twice about before you buy