13 remakes that make you forget the original
OK, this list is going to be much tougher than the ones I’ve cranked out before. These 13 songs are all remakes of older tunes that either gave great tribute to the originals or made you forget them altogether.
“Hard To Say I’m Sorry” – Az Yet
Originally recorded by: Chicago
In what was maybe an unlikely venture for the R&B quartet, Az Yet conquered Chicago’s ballad and made it arguably more popular than the original. The best part about it? The cameo on the final chorus by Peter Cetera, who sang the original. By the way, I only learned very, very recently that this song wasn’t done by Boyz II Men. That tells you how Az Yet’s career went.
“Georgia On My Mind” – Ray Charles
Originally recorded by: Hoagy Carmichael
Ray was not the first person to perform this sad tune, and he certainly wasn’t the last, but he was the first to take it out of the state. It’s amazing too, considering the treatment he got in Georgia during the segregation years. Throw the Count Basie Orchestra in as accompaniment, and this becomes one of the greatest songs, not just covers, of all time.
“All Along The Watchtower” – Dave Matthews Band
Originally recorded by: Bob Dylan, then Jimi Hendrix
The Dave Matthews Band could be considered the Bob Dylan of their time, considering their raucous live shows and cult following, and the members of the quintet are unabashed fans. A staple in their concerts, the haunting song is a crowd favorite for the long buildup and rocking payoff. Not to mention Carter Beauford’s creepy “ha ha ha ha” in the middle of the verse.
“Make You Feel My Love” – Adele
Originally recorded by: Garth Brooks
The sultry-voiced singer may as well have been the original artist for this song, considering how perfectly it seems to fit her raspy voice. What was originally intended as a sort of breath-catcher in the middle of Brooks’ rock n roll sets turned out to be one of the most beautiful song’s on Adele’s debut album. Her version blow’s ole Garth’s out of the water.
“Smooth Criminal” – Alien Ant Farm
Originally recorded by: Michael Jackson
Leave it to the mohawked four to take a Michael Jackson tune and throw it to the mosh pit. This cover became the first (and arguably, last) big hit for the rock band. They did a masterful job, though, on the song. I wouldn’t say they “improved” it, more like they “translated” it for the 21st century. It has all of the appeal of the original with the added bonus of reaching out to the younger generation.
“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Originally recorded by: Judy Garland
If you looked at this giant, 500-pound Samoan and said “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” would be his biggest hit song, I applaud you and give you 500 points. This dude looks more like a bodyguard than a balladeer, but he proved us all wrong with his ukelele-driven version of the Wizard Of Oz staple and, in my opinion, one of the top five songs of all time. It takes guts (ahem) to take on such a huge (uh) undertaking.
“I Could Have Danced All Night” – Jamie Cullum
Originally recorded by: My Fair Lady, Frank Sinatra, tons of others
Anyone who has talked to me about music probably knows my love of Jamie Cullum, the throwback crooner whose “Twentysomething” album keeps finding its way to my speakers. He scats the bassline at the beginning until the bass actually comes in and pretty much, along with the light drums, carries the tune. This kid is gonna outlast Michael Buble, write it down.
“Bold As Love” – John Mayer
Originally recorded by: Jimi Hendrix
It’s no mystery Mayer has modeled himself after Jimi, but this song is the highest compliment he could have paid to one of the rock n roll and electric guitar pioneers. What wasn’t one of Hendrix’s best-known songs was maybe one of his most colorful and interesting with some of the more technical guitar playing that he displayed in his short time here. What better song for John Mayer to make his own than this one?
“Wagon Wheel” – Old Crowe Medicine Show
Originally recorded by: Well, nobody really, but it’s a Bob Dylan song
OK, so this isn’t technically a cover because nobody actually recorded it, but it comes from a Bob Dylan song from the movie Billy The Kid that was never released. But OCMS found a bootleg copy, wrote a couple versions and recorded it. It became a newgrass song that appealed to college campuses across the country and skyrocked the band to kind-of fame. Also it was my ringtone for like a year.
“Live and Let Die” – Guns N Roses
Originally recorded by: Paul McCartney
This title track from the James Bond movie of the same name apparently didn’t have enough oomph, so Axl Rose made sure that was remedied. GNR snatched McCartney’s tune and turned it into a sweeping ballad with a smidgeon of Beatles’ influence. Having Slash distorting the hook in the chorus didn’t hurt, either.
“I Shot The Sheriff” – Eric Clapton
Originally recorded by – Bob Marley
Because when you think reggae, you think white guy from England, right? Thought so. Well this isn’t any old white guy from England, this is Eric Clapton, the soulful guitarist who has no problem genre-hopping and taking on even the most unlikely of covers. Even so, you still believed that Clapton was the guy in the situation. Hard to say whose version was more popular, too, as Clapton’s following was so much larger than Marley’s was.
“Ain’t No Sunshine” – Al Green
Originally recorded by – Bill Withers
I am more familiar with Al Green’s version more than anybody else’s, including Withers’. But another one of the greatest songs ever has been recorded by countless artists, including Aaron Neville, Maroon 5 and even a young Michael Jackson. So that’s really saying something, giving the reverend honors for the best version of one of my favorite songs. It’s the combination of the R&B beat and the sweeping strings, I think, that make it memorable.
“Killing Me Softly” – The Fugees
Originally recorded by: Roberta Flack
And we come to my favorite song on this list, which I conveniently saved for last. Lauryn Hill has an uncanny ability to take her voice from sweet and sultry, as she does in the beginning of the recording, to raw and still pleasing, as she does in the verses. It’s a far cry from Flack’s straightforward version of the tune, which makes use of soft harmonies and even the ting of a triangle that is a testament to her crystal voice.
So there you go. What did I miss? And if you say the Obadiah Parker version of “Hey Ya,” your opinion will no longer be considered.