Cover Up!

This is a repost from the private blog for my Spring 2016 Digital History course. The students were assigned to make a digital mixtape & blog about it. I decided to participate as well. 

Image from

A good cover (an artist performing another artist’s song) is a beautiful thing. The bands who do the best covers move beyond mere imitation and make the song their own. I remember a time when I just didn’t understand why folks would want to do things that had already been done. Then I heard The Fugees’ cover of “Killing Me Softly” and I understood. That song closes my mixtape.

“Killing Me Softly” wasn’t the first cover I heard–folks have been performing and recording other peoples’ songs as long as there has been music–but it was the first one where I remember recognizing how deeply a new take could change a song. This mix is made up of songs that are at least as good as the originals, if not better.

There are some very well known tracks that are considered better than the originals: Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (Prince), Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton), and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” (Bob Dylan). I didn’t include these, because I figure you’ve heard them. If you haven’t, drop what you’re doing and go listen to them now! But I just couldn’t resist including Jeff Buckley’s haunting cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Halelujah.”

I lead off with The Postal Service’s version of Phil Collins’ classic “Against All Odds,” because I think it represents what the rest of this playlist is about–quite different covers–while also not starting too loud or too quiet. Nico’s “These Days” (Jackson Browne) continues the indie feel. The following tracks take us up and down, but continue reimagining classics. I’m not sure that we can quite call Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” a classic, but Ryan Adams covers of her 1984 album just could not be left out of such a collection.

Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” is one of my all-time favorite songs, and I think few people’s covers do it justice, but First Aid Kit hits the right notes (#sorrynotsorry for that pun). Nirvana performed several amazing covers for their MTV Unplugged appearance, but David Bowie’s recent passing made the choice to use “The Man Who Sold The World” an easy one. In all, this mixtape was an opportunity for me to mix up some of my favorite songs and artists and put them in a new package to share.

Initially, I was going to use 8tracks to make my mix, as an opportunity to learn a new program, but they didn’t have many of the song versions that I was looking for. You can do easy itunes imports, but I’m working from a computer that doesn’t have access to most of that library. For those reasons, I went with spotify:

What are some of your favorite covers?

One comment

  1. admin says:

    I’ll add that there were a few songs that I wanted to include which weren’t available on Spotify either–notably The White Stripes’ version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” I wonder how much of folks’ media consumption is being dictated by behind the scenes contracts. Is that really any different from the days when we only learned about new music on the radio?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *