Sometimes the Cover is Better Than the Original

A Short Tour of Some Captivating Music

First, A Note About Me and Music

This might help you understand why I selected the versions of popular music selected for today’s discussion. As I mentioned in a blog a couple of years ago, I find that I like just about all types of music, from all around the world and through the ages. The playlist on my phone would blow your mind.

I find music a remarkably powerful thing – something with great artistic and social power. Something to sooth the soul or to be used for political purposes.  Every presidential election year, some artist protests (as certainly is their right) when candidates they do not support use their music in campaigns. Music is powerful stuff.

My own musical skills are pretty much nonexistent. I do not know how to read music, but in the age of the internet, I really don’t have an excuse that this is the case. Might make that a project this year. I play no instrument, except a very short time as the nefarious organizer of a small kazoo ban that would show up uninvited at ceremonies in the Pentagon, offering to play at such events, free of charge. My kazoo capers might explain why I was able to leave the Pentagon and return to the real Army in a very short time.

The Music of Today

I have always been interested when a musician or a band chooses to cover someone else’s work. It is surely a form of tribute. The cover usually has some artistic variations to set it aside a bit from the original. The covers are often pretty darn good. There can be a really large number of covers – think about Halleluiah. It would be easier to list the living artists who had not copied this song than those who did. I have at least a half dozen variations on my phone.

But every so often, we get a cover that is actually better than the original. I am going to share three of those with you today. I very much like the originals – that is why I cam across the covers. But in my view, the covers took it to a whole other level. I play these covers a lot myself. They are excellent in every sense.

Two That Set the Standard

 First, a cover of one of my all-time favorite groups, Led Zepplin. The original, Stairway to Heaven is unmatched for its guitar and drum elements. But when the group won Kennedy Center Honors, the cover, done by Heart, pretty much an orchestra, two chorus groups, drums played by the son of the late original Led Zepplin drummer, and great lighting set the place on fire. I have played this one so often it would be worn smooth were it an old fashioned record. Check it out:

Second, a song that I always thought was pretty modern. Turns out it was first recorded in the 1940s! The great song is Ghost Riders in the Sky. Just to show how differently it can be presented check out a singing and playing version by Johnny Cash,

Now, listen to it as an instrumental by British guitarist Hank Marvin. Same score but completely different sound and atmosphere:

Two More That Are at The Top Level

Third, a cover of sorts, by the originator. Lead singer and lead guitarist for Dire Straits Mark Knopfler did an interesting thing. The group is best known perhaps for the song Sultans of Swing. A while back Knopfler did an instrumental version. The guitar work is just phenomenal and with such finesse. Happily, this video focuses a lot on his hands. Amazing to watch, a pleasure to hear. I pretty well wear this one out as well.

Fourth, a last minute surprise. By accident a few days ago, I came across a video by a young lady named Lanie Gardner, doing a cover of Dream, the very successful number originally done by the band Fleetwood Mac. I always thought Mac was just OK, although this song, featuring Stevie Nick’s smokey voice, was really good.

Or so I thought, until I heard Gardner’s version. It is phenomenal. What a voice in such a young person. She did this video awhile back, at her home, I think. By the way, she comes from a small town just 30 miles from where I live. How small a town? Well, the best restaurant in town is Pig n’ Grits.

This particular video has been reproduced dozens, maybe hundreds, of times in split screen, showing people listening to it and their reactions. This kid could be the next Taylor Swift given her voice, presence, and seemingly grounded personality. Put her name into You Tube and you will find several other songs she has done. But this one is, in my view, the cream of the crop. Enjoy.

See You Next Week

Back to war, politics, and all that fun stuff.

                Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do three things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here. If you wish to share COMMENTS anonymously, make the last word in your comment “PRIVATE.” I will assure your privacy via anonymity.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts (

(3) You are welcome to share this post with anyone. It is easy to pass on via email, of course, but also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, or Reddit; simply click on the links for these services at the end of this article.

Let’s grow our circle.

5 replies to Sometimes the Cover is Better Than the Original

  1. Thanks for pulling me away from the toxic fumes of war and politics. Music is my go-to mood enhancer. I grew up to the 50’s-era pops. By the early 60s I migrated to the folk genre of the Kingston Trio; Peter, Paul and Mary;
    Pete Seeger; Woody and Arlo Guthrie; and others.

    But my first year of college in New Orleans opened a new music obsession. I attended a Ray Charles concert at Tulane. Ray singing and playing piano, Fathead Newman on the Trombone, at the Raelettes backing them up completely captured me. Over the years I added people such as Wilson Pickett, BB King, Aretha Franklin, Odetta, Otis Redding, Jimmy Reed, Mose Alison, Monk, Laura Love, and Jimmy Smith to my list.

    Instead if studying at night in the Tulane library I’d head down to the Quarter and a plethora of jazz and Blues bars. When I transferred to the UA in Tucson I got a job reading sports as the only white on-air person at a blues station.

    While the passion has cooled, the oldies from those days remain my go-to music. An hour spent listening to Ray will pull me out of any slump.

    • Yes indeed, Ray Charles. I had the pleasure of catching one of his last live concerts. What a talent.

  2. I teach music appreciation and teach piano. One of my favorite musical videos is Roy Clark playing Malaguena. No one does it better.

  3. I do enjoy good covers. I also like some of the new songstresses like Melody Gardot.
    Like Bill Jamison, I grew up with Pete Segar, the Kingston Trio (my first concert) and Peter, Paul and Mary.
    My play list is fairly eclectic, from Billy Joel, Elton John, Queen, Willy Nelson, Heart, Mommas and Papas(especially when Cass Elliot was featured.

Your Turn to Comment