Producing a completely original song is probably impossible now. You might think what you are doing is new, but after a few listens, someone with a decent knowledge of music can find your sonic theme, chord progression, intonation and other sundry elements in plenty of songs that came before. Don’t feel bad though. At least you tried. Some folks just say to hell with all that writing my own music stuff and just sing someone else’s song like it’s really theirs. Nothing can be said for the originality of that move, but sometimes the duplicate comes out really dope.
Planet Ill has decided that our infinite wisdom allows us to determine what songs should make the definitive “best covers of all time” list and in our infinite generosity we are going to share it with you. Kick back, relax and enjoy the de ja vu of it all. The best covers ever in the history of ever. Part 2.
“La Di Da Di”
Original –Get Fresh Crew – La Di Da Di
Cover – Snoop Dogg – Lodi Dodi
“La Di Da Di” is a classic, no doubt. Folks were skeptical when Snoop came from another coast and another decade to cover it. But he did it anyway and his multiple, yet subtle changes gave the song new life without dismissing what made the song special. Snoop ditched beat box for synth, Polo for Cool Water and Slick’s Kangol for some indo and the rest is history.
“Black Magic Woman”
Original – Fleetwood Mac – Black Magic Woman
Cover – Santana – Black Magic Woman
The members of Fleetwood Mac seemed a bit bitter about how this whole “Black Magic Woman” thing turned out. They did record it first and that version was mildly successful. But once Carlos and company got their hands on it, they turned it into a completely different tune. The addition of elements from another song, “Gypsy Queen,” and the Afro-Cuban style added to the instrumental section made Santana’s version the definitive. Sorry Mick.
“Killing Me Softly”
Original – Lori Lieberman – Killing Me Softly
Cover – The Fugees – Killing Me Softly
Honorable Mention – Al B Sure - Killing Me Softly
Lori Lieberman’s version was an album cut and generally unremarkable. The song became a hit when Roberta Flack’s rendition was used in the movie, Play Misty For Me which was actually “covered” years later by Michal Douglas and Glen Close and called Fatal Attraction. (Check it one day. It’s too close for coincidence.) But decades later a Hip-Hop trio coming off a less than phenomenal debut album took a chance and covered the soul classic. The Fugees’ “Fu-Gee-La” was getting respectable spins, but it was Lauryn Hill’s updated version of Flack’s most memorable tune that signaled this crews depth and Lauryn’s ability to hold down a song on her own. Al B. Sure covered this song as well. Close, but no cigar.
“Tell It Like It Is”
Original – Aaron Neville – Tell It Like It Is
No truer words have ever been committed to wax. Fellas, if she likes to play games and you’re tired of it, put this on the stereo (if you still have one) and it should get her back on the path to relationship righteousness. Aaron Neville’s version is magic, but Percy Sledge adds just the right amount of emotion to stop the lady in question in her tracks. Get it together girl. He’s not playing with you.
Original – Nine Inch Nails – Hurt
Cover – Johnny Cash – Hurt
It’s just the saddest thing, this song. But when delivered from Trent Reznor’s youthful perspective, you can’t help but to think it’s a bit melodramatic. However, Johnny Cash singing the same lyrics at 71 put a new spin on the NIN classic. The disappointment in his voice is tangible and the odd decision for Cash to re-make this song may have been one of Rick Ruben’s best.
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