clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Friday Cannon Fodder: covers and samples

2019 American Music Awards - Red Carpet Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for dcp

When I walked into Starbucks this morning to get my coffee, there was some new song I’d never heard before playing that was sampling December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!). So we have Spotify (or whatever music service Starbucks is using) to thank for today’s CF.

The song got me thinking about covers and samples. There seem to be a lot of songs on the radio these days that are heavily sampling from songs I recognize from two and three decades ago. That may just be anecdotal on my part, but it feels like a trend. It seems especially prevalent among the more hip-hoppy artists making songs for the charts — Post Malone and Cardi B jump to mind first.

Speaking of chart-topping songs, I’ve been fascinated by the impact that TikTok has been having on pop music. There is a direct route from a song becoming part of a trend to the charts. I recently read an article that lamented the effect it was having on music production. A music exec (or artist, I don’t remember) lamented that songs are now being produced with an eye (ear?) to creating a 20 to 30 or 45 second clip that goes viral rather than made with the entire song in mind. They said it’s leading to crappy overall songs with a short, catchy section.

Circling back around to my meandering thoughts at the coffee-shop this morning, even though the song I heard wasn’t a full-on cover, I’ve been thinking about covers since. It’s always fun to discover that a song you really like is actually a cover. And then you listen to the original and discover that the cover is much better. Or maybe vice-versa! Fun fact: Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” is a cover of Roger Miller. I did not know that.

A quick Google for “covers that are better than the original” found this article. I totally agree with some of the inclusions. Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” is much better than NIN’s version. Is calling Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” better than Bob Dylan’s a controversial take? Because Hendrix’s version is better.

But John Mayer’s “Free Fallin’” better than Tom Petty? Put that take in the dumpster where it belongs. And don’t get me started on them calling Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Blinded by the Light” better than the Bruce Springsteen original. I might need to physically fight somebody.

So over to you, TSFers. Sidenote: we need a better name for members of this community — Cannoneers, Fuselighters, I don’t know, let’s workshop it. What are some of your favorite covers / songs that sample heavily? Any that you think are better than the original? What’s your go-to “did you know that’s a cover” fact to surprise people with?