Joe Cocker is 70

The Cocker version sounds sexy, whereas Randy Newman, who wrote it, makes it sound a tad sordid.

Joe_Cocker_-_The_EssentialNeed to note the significant birthday of Joe Cocker, a great UK interpreter of other people’s songs in an R&B style. He’s #97 on Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Singers of All Time.

On my Top 10 roster of favorite songs by Cocker are three Beatles tunes. Most of the songs on this list, plus a ton more, are located HERE.

10. Cry Me A River, which you can hear HERE.
Like many of his great songs, it appears on the Mad Dogs & Englishmen album, the only one of his I own on vinyl.

9. You Can Leave Your Hat On – The Cocker version sounds sexy, whereas Randy Newman, who wrote it, makes it sound a tad sordid

8. Darlin’ Be Home Soon – Lovin’ Spoonful cover

7, Many Rivers To Cross – there’s a version that appears on a Coverville cover story at 94:15; the whole Joe Cocker section starts at 40:45.

6. Delta Lady – Leon Russell wrote this about Rita Coolidge; both appear with him on Mad Dogs

5. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window – took a snippet of a Beatles song from the second side of the Abbey Road LP and made it a real song

4. Feelin’ Alright – actually, the first version of this song I heard from Three Dog Night, but the original was by Traffic.

3. With A Little Help From My Friends – when they make lists of greatest covers, songs that are so transformative that you almost forget the original. One must consider this song from Sgt. Pepper, originally sung by Ringo. Like most people, I first became aware of Cocker’s version via the Woodstock movie and soundtrack album. It ranks so (relatively) low on this list from overexposure, including as the theme song to the TV program The Wonder Years.

2. The Letter – letting that Box Tops hit and letting it breathe

1. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away. I LOVE the background singers on this song from the movie Help! Here’s another link.

C is for Cover songs

For arcane reasons, I listen to a lot of Beatles covers in the month of July, in honor of Ringo Starr’s birthday.

A cover song is a version of a recording released subsequent to the original one. Sometimes the most popular version is a cover: Good Lovin’ by the Young Rascals [LISTEN] was initially recorded by someone dubbed Lemme B. Good, then was a minor hit by The Olympics [LISTEN], which I own. I Heard It Through the Grapevine was a massive hit for Marvin Gaye [LISTEN], though the original by Gladys Knight and the Pips [LISTEN] (my preferred version, actually) went to #2 on the US charts a year earlier.

What makes a good cover song is that it is not merely a slavish imitation of the original. Otherwise, what’s the point? The version of You Keep Me Hanging On by Vanilla Fudge [LISTEN] had been criticized as excessive, but it’s sure different than what the original Supremes [LISTEN] put out.

Sometimes a cover is SO good that even the originator will bow to the successor. Otis Redding [LISTEN] acknowledged that Aretha Franklin [LISTEN] had “stole” Respect from him, meaning it was now hers, though he wrote it and sang it first. Likewise, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails realized that Hurt has become a Johnny Cash [LISTEN], not a NIN [LISTEN], song.

For arcane reasons, I listen to Beatles covers in the month of July, in honor of Ringo Starr’s birthday. There are a LOT of them; by the time the Beatles broke up, there were over 2500 versions of Yesterday alone, most of them boring.

I have about three dozen Beatles’ cover albums. There are classical, Latin, bluegrass, country, soul collections. I have whole albums covered by various artists, some compiled by MOJO magazine, plus whole albums by the Smithereens, Big Daddy, and others. My friend Fred Hembeck put together some compilations; the worse version among them, Hey Jude by an uninspired, off-key Elvis Presley. I made a few collections myself, from CD that have Beatles-inspired cuts.

Arguably the best Beatles interpreter is Joe Cocker. He came to fame at Woodstock singing A Little Help From My Friends [LISTEN to the studio version]. He’s made a whole song out of the Abbey Road-segued She Came Into The Bathroom Window [LISTEN]. But my favorite of his takes is You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away [LISTEN].

I should mention again my favorite music podcast, Coverville, which comes out twice a week. One episode is a cover story of a particular artist, while the other might be a request show, some independent artist hodgepodge, or based on a theme.

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