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Cover Songs and Revisions – Are they really okay?

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How do you feel about cover songs? Is it a sin or is it okay to update our old favorites? I don’t always mind when an artist decides to revise or re-release one of my favorites, but am I the only one? Cover songs and revisions go way back in music history. Type the name of your favorite song into the search box in Wikipedia and you’ll learn a lot about it.

My friend Vikki was appalled by the thought that Rascal Flatts released a cover of “Life is a Highway” originally recorded by Tom Cochrane and released in 1991 . I believe her exact words were “How dare you?” when she heard it for what she thought was the first time. She’d forgotten that she had actually heard it before, while watching Disney’s Cars, released in 2006. It might surprise her to know that in 1998, Chris LeDoux also covered this song and changed it up a little. My guess is that she’s not going to like it if she ever hears it!

As she and I have been known to chase topics of conversation down the rabbit hole (see my previous article “Say What?”), we began to compare other songs we love that someone had the audacity to cover. Take for example, “I Will Always Love You” written and recorded in 1973 by Dolly Parton. Dolly reached number one on the charts twice with that song, once in 1974 and again in 1982 (re-recorded for the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas).

While I have always been a fan of this song, I have to admit that I’d struggle to pick a favorite between hers and the version Whitney Houston recorded and released in 1992; as both are lovely, in my opinion. Whitney’s was released for the film The Bodyguard, and spent 14 weeks at number one on the charts. Interestingly enough, after her death in 2012, Whitney’s version again hit the top of the charts at number three, only the second single to do so. I wasn’t aware until I was researching this that there have been several versions of this song released by other artists such as Linda Ronstadt and LeAnn Rimes.

One of my favorite remakes is the Fugees 1996 version of Killing me Softly With His Song (originally recorded by Lori Lieberman in 1971). They not only shortened the title to Killing me Softly but updated it to have a more current and upbeat sound. Roberta Flack’s version released in 1973 and is the one I am most familiar with, and therefore holds a special place in my heart. Even she had made a few changes to the original version before releasing it, giving it a faster tempo and backbeat that no doubt led to the success of the song.

Feeling Good” has been an absolute favorite of mine and I’ve heard several cover versions of this classic. In researching this particular song though, I was surprised to find out that it was originally written in for the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd. Performed on stage in the UK in 1964 and then with the original Broadway cast in 1965, this story focuses on two main characters; one in the upper and one in the lower class of British Society in the 1960s. There are a few songs that came from this musical that are recognizable I was happy to find, but “Feeling Good” might be the most well-known of them. I am over the moon for Michael Buble’s version of this song and it is a frequent favorite of mine during my private car concerts!

Of course, we’re all aware of artists who revise, remake and re-release of most holiday music – after all, how many songs about Santa could there possibly be? Sometimes though, I think it’s a good thing for these old “classics” to be given new life and discovered by new generations of music lovers.

By now, we’ve probably all seen the video of the young men (known as TwinsthenewTrend) hearing Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” for the first time. Although people may argue that we aren’t getting live reactions (the claim being that they’ve heard the songs before they record the reaction), I don’t really care if they have or have not. I admit, I lost about an hour and some battery life just watching them react to different songs. Check out the reaction to “Sweet Dreams” below, I love that they go on singing long after the song actually ends! Now that’s what music is for!

Tell me your favorite covers or if there’s a song that you believe cannot be made better. I’d love to discover something “new”.

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