Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Catchy song covers that give classic hits a fresh sound

A set of songs revived through a new wave of genres that may surprise you
Photo courtesy of Wikicommons

It can be incredibly refreshing when artists sing songs they did not originally produce. While opinions on music can vary by extremes based on the singer or the song, some may find themselves liking cover songs much more than the originals. The following songs are excellent covers of classic tracks that are worth a listen.

“(Oh) Pretty Woman”  – Van Halen

Starting off strong we have “(Oh) Pretty Woman” by Van Halen, originally recorded by Roy Orbison in 1964. Van Halen covered the song in 1982 and they identically released this song as a single. “Pretty Woman” is rooted in rock and roll and power pop, thanks to Orbison. But thanks to Van Halen, the song has since seen the light of hard rock. Orbison’s lyrics were inspired by his wife. She went out one night, and by the time she came back, Orbison and his songwriting partner Bill Dees had the song all wrapped up. The hasty production of the song mirrors its fast-paced beat. Both tracks are certified classics, although Van Halen’s cover may lead you to having more of a strut in your step listening to it when “walking down the street.”

“Last Kiss” – Pearl Jam

The day I first listened to Pearl Jam’s cover of “Last Kiss,” I had it on repeat for the remainder of the week. The song’s only flaw is that it makes me cry because it is so beautiful. And so, you could imagine my surprise when I found out that it is a cover of the song written by Wayne Cochran. In fact, it is also based on a true story. The song is about a group of friends united by a tale of a couple who experienced a tragic car accident. Pearl Jam’s take on it ties the lyrics, the sound, the story and even the title to a more intense level. Wayne Cochran released “Last Kiss” in an early 60s pop fashion, while Pearl Jam’s cover infuses the song with their pulsating alternative rock sound.

“Good Lovin’” – The Grateful Dead

The Olympics formed in 1957 and began releasing songs as an American doo-wop group. Their release of “Good Lovin’” is a reworking and rewriting of a song under the same name, first recorded by Lemme B. Good (also known as Limmie Snell). Grooving away from the doos and wops of rhythm and blues, the song dances with rock propertiesn The Grateful Dead’s rendition while maintaining melodic aspects of a blues tune. The jam band recorded their cover of “Good Lovin’” in 1978 as part of their “Shakedown Street” album. Get yourself some “Good Lovin’” playing through your speakers, you deserve it.

“American Woman” – Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz’s 1998 cover of “American Woman” steers the song into a new direction of hard rock, initiating an electric rhythm with its first guitar riff. Kravitz was called to perform the song for the soundtrack of the “Austin Powers” sequel. “American Woman” was originally released in 1970 by The Guess Who. While they maintain a softer intro to the song before getting into the body of the track, Kravitz dives straight into it with a drum hit that will immediately make you nod your head to the beat. The exhilarating guitar riffs can practically be envisioned waving out from the speakers the song is played through. You’ll also get a satiating taste of Lenny Kravitz’s rousing vocals, leaving you with a stirring appetite to hear more.

“Love Potion No. 9” – Tygers of Pan Tang

In 1959, The Clovers recorded “Love Potion No. 9” in their R&B/doo-wop fashion but the song was fully roped past the genre of rock when Tygers of Pan Tang covered it with their heavy metal sound. The following decade after The Clovers were formed, they would be regarded as one of the most prolific R&B groups in the nation, with “Love Potion No. 9” becoming one of their biggest hits. Tygers of Pan Tang became known in a much different fashion after emerging as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the late 70’s. Without spoiling the lyrics too much, I can uncover that they tell the story of a man intent on looking for love, and so when he is given a magic potion and a reassuring wink, he may find what he is looking for. The original version, The Clovers’ soulful vocals and patterned melody capture their genre’s sound from their respective era. Meanwhile, Tygers of Pan’s 1982 cover lights a fire under the song that will get you burning to whip your hair and pull your head back once you start listening.

“Hallelujah” – Rufus Wainwright

Hallelujah. Hallelujah Leonard Cohen! Thank you for this classic, we all thank you. “Hallelujah” has been covered countless times but the one you need to make sure to listen to is by Canadian American singer Rufus Wainwright. Canadian singer Leonard Cohen wrote and released it in 1984 and he is described to embody the folk rock/pop rock genres. Wainwright’s interpretation also eloquently grasps the gripping emotion derived from the lyrics and the song, illustrated through powerful piano progressions. If you want a second cover of “Hallelujah” to check out, I recommend the lovely and potent singing of Nicole Nelson when she sang the song in her 2012 audition for The Voice.

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – Guns N’ Roses

Now it’s time for another couple of classics: “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (1973) originally by Bob Dylan and its 1987 cover by Guns N’ Roses. Dylan wrote the track as part of a soundtrack for the film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” but the public felt the magnetic pull of the song from the beginning and soon after it became a worldwide hit. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is an equally emotionally hard-hitting when sung by Guns N’ Roses, if not more amplified through their spiritually charged guitar riffs and beautifully agonizing vocals. A greatly respected record in the band’s repertoire, the song itself holds infinite credibility solely through the multitude of artists that have performed it.

Juliana Yacoubian can be reached at [email protected].

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