Does it ever happen to you that you catch the last chorus of a song you haven’t heard since you were a child, and because of all the memories that accompany the song, you google it, wikipedia it, youtube it, repeat the video 50 times and discover that it was covered by quite a few artists? Then you listen to all the different versions and see how each person made the song unique to them? No? Ah, just me then.
The song that’s most recently done this to me is “You’ve got a friend”. The song was originally done by Carol King in 1971 and has been covered by at least 10 other artistes since. Apparently, it was also recorded by James Taylor in 1971 and both King and Taylor won grammies for the song in the same year.
I found myself wondering today, whether that’s the mark of a truly great song. Your peers pay you the greatest amount of respect by doing your song and decades letter musicians still think the song is good enough to include on their album. And there are many songs like this – in the days of dixieland jazz, you had Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (to name a few) all cover each other’s songs. Songs like Mack the Knife, Cheek to Cheek, Ain’t Misbehaving and Nature Boy.
Inching closer in time, The Beatles wrote so many great songs, they’ve been covered more times than a newborn baby in winter. Other well-covered songs include Bill Withers‘ Lovely Day, Simon and Garfunkel‘s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Dionne Warwick‘s Walk on By, Stevie Wonder‘s AS (actually Stevie is very heavily covered too), and the list goes on quite a bit. And let’s not talk about Michael and Elvis who people not only cover but actually have acts making a living from aping them.
Today, I had 3 versions of You’ve Got A Friend on heavy rotation – Carole King’s, Don Williams’ and James Taylor’s and I got to thinking if any of the songs we’re jamming today will ever be covered. I know rappers will always look in the archives for hooks to sample but how many songs today will be worth redoing in 3 years? Narrowing the scope of the question, how many Nigerian Artistes write songs that anyone would want to redo in future? Nigerian songs from the past like Iyawo Asiko, Osondi Owendi, Eddie Kwansa, Bottom Belle, Joromi, Mo fe Mu’yan, have been covered by today’s stars. Are they making music worth covering?
- Carole King musical finds its star (bbc.co.uk)