Awesome Cover Songs – I
Cover Song started out as a racist term. Its first use was to describe a white artist recording a song by a black artist. The black artist did not receive royalties from the use of their song. An example would be Pat Boone poorly covering the Little Richard song “Tutti Frutti.” It was an attempt to keep black artists off the radio airways. It also helped appease uptight white parents who tried to ignore the future of Rock ‘N’ Roll.
The History of Cover Songs
As time passed, the words evolved into a new meaning. Some may say “cover song” is incorrectly used, but the definition changed. As I list my favorite cover songs, it represents a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist who released the song. In many cases, the arrangement, music genre or some lyrics may be different. The original composer should receive royalties regardless of race. Unlike Pat Boone, the cover may even be better than the original.
I attempt to list the greatest covers of all time in this multiple piece series. I explain why I chose the covers song and then give you a side by side comparison to the original. My goal is to identify songs, which pay homage to or improve upon the original. Changing genres and tempo is a plus. Charting higher is also a measure used. I welcome your opinion or suggestions for the future articles in the series. We will begin with Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt”
Hurt – Johnny Cash
Toward the end of Johnny Cash’s life, he records the album American IV: The Man Comes Around. The album is mostly cover songs, sung in Cash’s own sparse sound. The song “Hurt” is arguably one of the best from the album and one of his best ever. He changes a single word, “shit” to “thorns”. It alters the meaning of the song to now represent a man wishing it wasn’t too late to correct his errors. He adds the honesty of a man looking back in regret at his failures and the pain he caused. Recorded at the end of his life, you feel that he is sincere in what he sings. It is a heartbreaking cover that is difficult to hear without feeling his sadness.
The Original by Nine Inch Nails / The Cover by Johnny Cash