Five in Five, Music

Five Absolute Classic ‘Cover’ Songs

Five Absolute Classic ‘Cover’ Songs

A Few Song Facts

Ever wondered how many songs there are in the world? The number is obviously dynamic, as new songs are constantly being written and old songs forgotten. One best guestimate puts the number of ‘official’ songs is the world at around 80 million. An official song being one that is either physically or digitally released by the artist or their record label. It must also be made commercially available to the general public.

It’s estimated that around 500,000 songs are officially released globally, each year. A number of these songs are reworkings or adaptations of old songs, popularly known as ‘covers’. In time, depending on the song’s popularity, the cover artist can become much more associated with work than the original performer. Here’s five absolute classic songs that you might not know are covers:

The Beatles – ‘Twist and Shout’

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The Beatles released their first UK album ‘Please Please Me’ on 22 March 1963. The last of the 14 songs on the album was the lively rock and roll number ‘Twist and Shout’. The song was released as a single in the USA on 2 March 1964. It hit the No.1 spot on the Cash Box 100 Chart and No.2 on the Billboard 100 Chart. However, did you know that the Beatles’ early belter was actually a cover song?

“Twist and Shout” was written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell in 1961. The song was recorded and released in August 1961 by the R&B vocalist outfit The Top Notes but failed to chart. It was not until the song was given a complete makeover in 1962 by the Isley Brothers that it became a hit. It was the Isley Brothers’ recording on which The Beatles based their version of ‘Twist and Shout’. A number of artists have covered the song since with varying degrees of success. In November 2010, 47 years after the Beatles first recorded “Twist and Shout”, it debuted in the UK (iTunes) Chart, reaching No. 48.

Rod Stewart – ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’

‘The First Cut is the Deepest’ is one of Rod Stewart’s most recognisable songs. The pop song first appeared as the second number on his 1976 album ‘A Night on the Town’. It was then successfully released as a single in the USA and some parts of Europe. In the UK, it was released in April 1977 as a double A-side single with “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”. The song spent four weeks at No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart but did you know it was a cover?

Why not check out P.P. Arnold’s fantastic original version of the song?

‘The First Cut is the Deepest’ was written by British singer and songwriter Cat Stevens in 1967. Stevens gave the song away to American soul singer Patricia Ann Cole who recorded it under her stage name P.P. Arnold. The original soulful version of the song reached No. 18 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1967. Stevens’s own version of the song first appeared on his New Masters album in December 1967. Over the years, the song has been widely recorded by various artists. And, as well as the aforementioned, it became a bit hit for Keith Hampshire (1973), Papa Dee (1995), and Sheryl Crow (2003).

Cyndi Lauper – ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’

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The song ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ was made famous by the American singer and songwriter Cyndi Lauper. Now widely recognised as a feminist anthem, the song is very much seen as Lauper’s signature tune. It was the first song to be released as a single from her debut solo album, She’s So Unusual (1983). Greatly promoted by a Grammy-winning music video, the song became a worldwide smash-hit. Between late 1983 and early 1984, it reached the No. 1 spot in 10 countries and made the top 10 in a further fifteen. The song also made No. 2 in both the UK Singles Chart and America’s Billboard Hot 100. What you might not know about the song is that it was a cover.

It might be of some surprise that ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ was originally written from a male perspective. It was composed and recorded by the American country, turned new-wave, performer Robert Hazard in 1979. However, Hazard never released the song. Lauper came across the song and changed the lyrics so it was sung from a woman’s viewpoint. Since its 1983 release, the hugely popular song has been covered by more than 30 other artists in either a live or studio recording.

Aretha Franklin – ‘Respect’

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The much heralded song ‘Respect’ featured on the soul singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin’s 1967 debut album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. In 1968, it earned Franklin two Grammy Awards for “Best R&B Recording” and “Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance”. It also went on to reach No.1 on both US Hot R&B Singles and the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. Demonstrably, the song became Franklin’s best-known recording and signature tune. It also went on to become heavily associated with both the feminist and civil-rights movements. However, what you might not know is that the song was actually a cover.

The song ‘Respect’ was written and originally performed by Otis Redding. Released as a single in 1965, it came from his third album, Otis Blue. The edgy lyrics concern a man demanding ‘respect’ from his wife for working hard to support their family. The song made it to No. 4 on the USA’s Hot R&B Singles chart. In 1967, Franklin decided to record the song radically rearranging the music. She also changed some of the lyrics, notably adding the spelling out of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” in the chorus. Franklin also flipped the song’s lyrics so it became that of a strong woman telling her unseemly partner that she needed respect.

Over the years, the best-selling song has been covered by various artists, most famously in a joint recording by ‘Diana Ross & the Supremes’ and The ‘Temptations’. A 2021 accolade saw Franklin’s cover of “Respect” elevated to No. 1 in Rolling Stone magazine’s update of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time’.

Tina Turner – ‘Proud Mary’

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Ike & Tina Turner released “Proud Mary” in January 1971, which was the second single from their ‘Workin’ Together’ album. The song hit the No. 4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 5 on the Billboard R&B chart in March 1971. It went on to earn the couple a 1972 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group. After the divorce from her husband, as a solo artist, ‘Proud Mary’ became one of Tina Turner’s most recognizable signature songs. During live performances, the song was always performed with a well-worked, explosive and energetic dance routine performed by Turner and her backing singers. This made the song an extra-special audience-pleaser for the rest of her career.

However, did you know “Proud Mary” was a song written in 1969 by John Fogerty of the American ‘roots’ rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival? The lyrics tell of the singer boarding Proud Mary, an old steamboat on the Mississippi River, to escape their old life. The song featured on the band’s second album, Bayou Country and was released as a single in January 1969. The song was a significant hit in the US and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in March 1969. In early 1969, when Turner heard CCR’s “Proud Mary” on the radio, she instantly knew she had to record it. Over the years, the song has been recorded by a number of other artists, including Elvis Presley.


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