By: Kidman J. Williams
The cover song is sometimes more vital than the original song itself. When bands play live they always throw you some amazing rendition of an older song, covers are also a very good way for newly formed bands to hone their skills as a unit and sometimes these bands manage to make a great and unique version of what another skilled artist wrote.
We have all heard Aerosmith’s cover of The Beatles Come Together, Nirvana doing David Bowie, or Johnny Cash’s version of Trent Reznor’s Hurt. This collection focuses on cover songs that you may not have ever heard for many different reasons.
These are some of the greatest cover songs that you may not have heard.
1. Redemption Song: By Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer of The Clash
Redemption Song was originally written and recorded by the legendary Jamaican Bob Marley in 1980. It was recorded on his final album and was the last recorded song he did for the album before he died from complications from cancer on May 11 1981.
The song was recorded during Rubin and Cash’s last recorded album together and the duet was “accidental” as Rick Rubin puts it. According to Rick Rubin, ” Joe was coming every day, because he loved Johnny Cash, and he just happened to be in L.A. on vacation. And he actually extended his trip a week longer just to come every day and be around Johnny.”
The song was made and we are thankful for these two musical prophets who came together to bring life back to the words of another musical prophet.
2. Brick House: By Rob Zombie
You read that subtitle right. Rob Zombie did a cover of The Commodores’ Brick House with the one and only Lionel Richie.
The original song released in 1977 on the Commodores’ self-titled release was quite the heavyweight composition in funk. But when Zombie got a hold of it in 2003 it went fairly unoticed to many people. The song was put on his greatest hits album named, Past, Present, and Future.
3. I’m on Fire: by Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
Bruce Springsteen, The Boss, released I’m on Fire back in 1984 and since then there have been many, many renditions and covers over the years. Some of them by legends like Johnny Cash, some of them by others like Awolnation, Tori Amos, and even John Mayer.
But none really captured the overall tone that Whitey Morgan and the 78’s were able to sonically portray with their version of the Springsteen classic.
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s released it on their debut album Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels in 2008. The band might not be a household name, but you can bet your farm and your bottle of whiskey in the barn that they will be in no time.
4. Gin and Juice: By The Gourds
We all know Snoop Dogg’s song Gin and Juice by heart. It is a legendary song at this point. But did you ever think that it could be done in a country way AND be good? I don’t think anyone did.
The Austin, Texas Alt-country band, The Gourds managed to do just that. The Gourds have been putting out albums and touring now for 17 plus years with their brand of country music.
From the first notes that come out of Kevin (Shinyribs) Russell’s mouth you are pretty hooked into this unique take on one of raps’ most popular songs.
There is even a video out there where the song is being played to Snoop Dogg himself. It got the King of Marijuana to sit and bop his head, we are sure you will too.
5. Black Betty: By Ministry
We all know about Ram Jam’s version of Black Betty and some of you might actually think that that was the original version of the song which makes this a weirder choice for number 5, but necessary I think considering most people think the original is Ram Jam.
The fact is that nobody really knows for sure where the song originated from or from who. Huddie “Led Belly” Ledbetter recorded one of the most popular versions of the song back in 1939, before him Alan Lomax did a cut.
Some people believe that the song was an old slave song that talked about flintstock guns. Some think it referred to a whiskey, but nobody really knows.
Now, even though Ram Jam saw considerable more success with the song, this is about covers you may not have heard before. Ministry the industrial/hardcore/metal band fronted by the always moody Al Jorgenson (Uncle Al) put out an insane and epic cut of the old song on their album Cover Up.
The album also included many other covers including an intense version of the T. Rex classic Bang a Gong.
6. True Love Ways: By My Morning Jacket
Buddy Holly is a legend in the world. He was using recording techniques that weren’t used again until The Beatles came out with Sgt. Pepper. He was one of the originators of Rock music and his life was cut terribly short by a plane crash that took the lives of two others, Ritchie Valens and Big Bopper.
The music of Buddy Holly still lives on and inspires many musicians around the globe including My Morning Jacket.
My Morning Jacket released this gem for a Buddy Holly tribute album in June of 2011 and to my surprise, not a lot of people knew about the song. It does prove to be epic from the opening line, “Just you know why,” it sucks you in and doesn’t let your heart go.
7. Lithium: By Muse
We all know the song Lithium by Nirvana. Nirvana came out of the Seattle Grunge scene and was another band that was gone way too soon with the death of Kurt Cobain.
Nirvana released Nevermind Sept. 24 1991 and lit the whole world on fire with their brand of punk/metal and disillusionment. Lithium was one of those epic songs released and produced by Butch Vig.
Muse who have not done an official release of the song (I’m sure it is right around the corner) have been playing it live at many different events including Coachella. How long they have been doing it…don’t know, but we do know that this huge sounding band does the job and captures exactly what this song needs.
8. Hotel California: By SkaDaddyZ
The Eagles Hotel California is one of those over-played classics that everyone loves; even the people that hate The Eagles love its overly poetic lyrics and Don Henley’s high and pompous…yeah, I don’t much care for Henley, but this song is gold.
Hotel California was released in 1976 and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. It was also put into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
But this cover is gold. Not many people know it and even fewer people on the internet seem to know exactly who does the song.
Many people think it is done by Pennywise. Other people scream in comments that it is Reel Big Fish, well, it isn’t.
It is done by a lesser known band called SkaDaddyZ. The SkaDaddyZ were founded in 1993 out of Silver Strand Beach in Oxnard, California and have played alongside Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, No Doubt, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
9. Whole Lotta Love: By Prince
Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin is a well known classic that many bands and artists have over done over the many years. Zeppelin released the song on their second album Led Zeppelin II, Oct. 22 1969.
Prince did it live, never to have recorded it as far as I know. But this version of the old Zeppelin song really takes off as an entity of its own. The second you hear Prince proclaim to the crowd, “No format tonight!” you know you are in for something really special. And he does NOT let you down.
10. We Can Work It Out: By Stevie Wonder
The Beatles released We Can Work It Out
The Beatles recorded this song while recording the Rubber Soul album.
It takes a serious musician to step up and cover The Beatles..and do it well. Enter Stevie Wonder, a soul/funk legend himself. Stevie recorded the song in 1970 and put it on his Signed Sealed Delivered album. He put his own twist and sound on the song making this one of the greatest cover songs of all time.