An Appreciation of Cover Songs

sublime4I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for cover songs. I don’t know exactly why, I just know I do. I appreciate a good cover song- meaning one that is well done either in line with the original or polished with a band’s own spin in a creative, yet not in an over-indulgent way. I like the feeling you get when a band surprises you with one live and I like hearing a band’s take on a classic.

As far as cover songs go, I think you either toe the line or you jazz it up tactfully. It’s all about giving the song it’s proper due. Your version will never be better than the original, so either pay homage or aim for second place. I’m serious about that. A cover can never be better than the original. It’s impossible. Without the original, the cover would never exist and that’s a big strike right out of the gate. A cover can come close, but it can never surpass the original.

Cover songs can be fun- whether you’re in a band playing 0ne, in a crowd hearing one or exploring an album and one is on it. But yes, cover songs can get a bad rap sometimes. As with anything, they don’t always work. One major instance of a cover not quite sticking the landing is Limp Bizkit’s version of “Faith.” That one was a bummer because it both butchered the original and also introduced us to Limp Bizkit. Double fail. As a nation, we’ve just started to recover. Other bad examples of cover songs are Guns ‘n Roses’ version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” Smashmouth urinating on the legacy of the Monkees with their version of “I’m a Believer” and Sheryl Crow’s take on “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Also, any time Kid Rock or his bastard Uncle Kracker tackle a song, the result is a dumpster fire. I’m also not counting anything performed on American Idol, The Voice or Glee. Reggae covers of songs really don’t count either. Come on, you can’t turn anything into a reggae song. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Below is Giddy Up America’s list of favorite cover songs, as well as the original version. Obviously live shows are where most covers can be found, but I also think there’s a been a fair amount of good studio versions of cover songs as well. This list features both. Some of these covers have been a band’s biggest hit (Save Ferris and Alien Ant Farm,) while some are killer live versions of a song (Phish’s “Loving Cup,” Rage Against the Machine’s “Kick Out the Jams” and Dave Matthews’ Bands’ “All Along the Watchtower.) Some tunes are wildly creative remakes (Sublime’s “Scarlet Begonias,” Cake’s “War Pigs,” and the Gourds’ “Gin and Juice”) and some are almost note for note homages to the original (Jack White’s “I’m Shakin” and the Chili Peppers’ version of “If You Want Me to Stay.”) My favorite cover songs are Cake’s take on Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Sublime’s cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias.”

Giddy Up America’s Appreciation of Cover Songs…
*cover version in bold

“I’m Shakin'” Little Willie
“I’m Shakin'” Jack White
“Loving Cup” The Rolling Stones
“Loving Cup” Phish
“Last Kiss” J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers
“Last Kiss” Pearl Jam
“If You Want Me to Stay” Sly & the Family Stone
“If You Want Me to Stay” Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Kick Out the Jams” MC5
“Kick Out the Jams” Rage Against the Machine
“War Pigs” Black Sabbath
“War Pigs” Cake
“Paranoid” Black Sabbath
“Paranoid” Paranoid Social Club
“Scarlet Begonias” Grateful Dead
“Scarlet Begonias” Sublime
“All Along the Watchtower” Bob Dylan
“All Along the Watchtower” Jimi Hendrix Experience
“All Along the Watchtower” Dave Matthews Band
“Ring of Fire” Johnny Cash
“Ring of Fire” Social Distortion
“Higher Ground” Stevie Wonder
“Higher Ground” Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Love Song” The Cure
“Love Song” 311
“Live and Let Die” Paul McCartney & Wings
“Live and Let Die” Guns ‘n Roses
“Gin and Juice” Snoop Dogg
“Gin and Juice” The Gourds
“Fell in Love with a Girl” the White Stripes
“Fell in Love with a Boy” Joss Stone
“Come on Eileen” Dexys Midnight Runners
“Come on Eileen” Save Ferris
“Smooth Criminal” Michael Jackson
“Smooth Criminal” Alien Ant Farm
“Hallelujah” Leonard Cohen
“Hallelujah” Jeff Buckley
“Gone Daddy Gone” Violent Femmes
“Gone Daddy Gone” Gnarls Barkley
“Heart of Gold” Neil Young
“Heart of Gold” Charley Bradley
“Hurt” Nine Inch Nails
“Hurt” Johnny Cash




Categories: Music

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1 reply


  1. The Jack White Conundrum | GIDDY UP AMERICA

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