By Cameron Stuart | Radio Director
While it is wise never to judge a song by its cover, sometimes the cover does more justice to the song than the original artist can accomplish. In this list, you will not find the greatest covers ever, just the greatest ones you probably haven’t listened to. Don’t expect Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” or Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” as those covers are far more popular than their original versions and are therefore far too mainstream for the intentions of this list.
5. Jolene by the White Stripes
Originally by: Dolly Parton
It might seem like a tall task for anyone to cover Dolly Parton’s seminal 1973 classic without her mystical pipes, but Jack White of the White Stripes took a vastly different approach in restructuring the country anthem. With White on guitar and vocals, he applied his patented garage rock sound to the song, making it sound and look like a Led Zeppelin performance when the duo played it live for their album “Under Blackpool Lights.” White proves that this tune can sound good no matter what genre it is thrown into, whether with a drawn-out, slower pace or an intense song with a drum line and an angst-filled delivery.
4. Rolling in the Deep by Linkin Park
Originally by: Adele
If Dolly Parton’s is a tough voice to cover, I don’t know just what to say about Adele’s. The powerful original that sky rocketed to the top of the summer billboards and propelled Adele into international stardom in 2011 was covered by Linkin Park later that year. In a live show in Adele’s native London, the late Chester Bennington kept the integrity of the song by using just a piano and his voice to tweak what was already a masterpiece. Bennington’s voice makes for a mood of quiet intensity, knowing he can hit just about any note Adele does in the original, yet keeps a rather methodic pace, lending another great artist to an already iconic song.
3. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? by Amy Winehouse
Originally by: The Shirelles
Although the original, written by Carole King and performed by the Shirelles, reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, the late Winehouse made it her own. Going back to the Motown roots that inspired her dazzling career, Winehouse, as was so often the case, poured her heart and soul into this song. The penultimate verse is absolutely spine-tingling as Winehouse melodically belts out the lyrics in a way only she can, with vocals that no other jazz singer in the world can replicate. By the final utterance of the chorus, you can hear just how emotionally drained Winehouse is, as the title question turns from a rhetorical question to an imploring plea. As it was released on her posthumous album, “Lioness: Hidden Treasures,” it never reached much commercial success even though it had her vintage sound and message. If you are a fan of Winehouse or any modern jazz, the only answer to her question in this cover is a resounding “yes.”
2. Hey Hey, My My by Oasis
Originally by: Neil Young
Neil Young’s folk classic unfortunately took on new life in the ‘90s after its iconic line “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” was referenced in Kurt Cobain’s suicide note in 1994. Oasis, the hallmark band of the decade, made the song their own in their only recording of it during a live show at Wembley Stadium in July 2000. While their cover of fellow Slade’s “Cum On Feel The Noize” deserves ample credit, the song was featured on the deluxe edition of “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory,” one of the highest selling British albums of all time, so it was hardly unknown. Instead, their rocked out version of “Hey Hey, My My” is what is most under-appreciated. While the crowd doesn’t seem to recognize the band’s introduction of the cover at first, prompting Noel Gallagher to tell a disgruntled female fan “I know love, but I wasn’t born either” — even though he was 12 when the original came out — they win over the massive Wembley crowd by the end. While clocking in at less than four minutes, Gallagher delivers a version of the song so far removed from its original but with might that even Cobain could be proud of. He turns a folk song into pure, unadulterated rock and roll and makes it sound like it’s been his the whole time.
1. Born to Run by Amy McDonald
Originally by: Bruce Springsteen
A vocal Springsteen fan, Scotland’s Amy MacDonald has also done an orchestral of “Dancing in the Dark” but her cover of “Born to Run” will leave you with chills. Her only recordings of the song are available on YouTube with a few live performances, the best one being for a French radio station. Although it never gained much popularity or any type of chart success, MacDonald fills the classic with the passion her countrymen and women have made famous for centuries. Even though the cover is acoustic, it is arguably more intense than the original. Her intense vocals give the song the build-up we didn’t even know it needed. MacDonald gives one of Springsteen’s masterpieces a personality even The Boss himself couldn’t give it. With her vulnerability showing, she eeks out the line, “strap your hands cross my engines,” and her mighty climax of “the highway’s jammed with broken heroes” after nearly three minutes of build up. It is this writer’s sincere hope that MacDonald can record this in the studio so that the world can soon find out that although the Springsteen original is a timeless classic, her cover is actually better.