As I found the first part of this post becoming quite long, even for me, I decided to break it up into a two only slightly long-winded pieces. Here's part two of my favorite covers:
Originally recorded by the Rolling Stones
Covered by Townes Van Zant
"Dead Flowers" is one of my all-time favorite songs, period. I'm not sure why I love it so much, but I do. It's not really all that smart or poignant, nor does it have any true social relevance beyond saying, "taking drugs is a great way to get over an old lover," but I just think it's great. It's one of those honky-tonkin' Stones songs that could have just as easily been played on country radio as it could on rock stations (though not anymore because both country and rock stations for the most part suck now, but especially country radio). I will openly admit that I don't know as much as I should about Townes Van Zant (he wrote "Pancho and Lefty" and was a major influence on Steve Earle) but I like his version of this song almost as much as the Stones version. It's stripped down even more than the Stones version and just has an easy feel to it. From my understanding of Townes, he never shied away from narcotics either, so I'm sure the song is relatively telling in that regard as well. All that being said, I think maybe I like it so much because it sounds perfect playing at the end of The Big Lebowski. That's probably closer to the truth.
"I'd Rather Go Blind"
Originally recorded by Etta James
Covered by the Faces
I will be honest. I have never heard the Etta James version of this song. I've only heard the version the Faces do on the box set Five Guys Walk Into a Bar, and that's enough for me. I got on a Faces kick about a year ago, and have since come to the conclusion that had they not broken up they would have been one of the great pure rock and roll bands of all time. They just seemed to have all the elements. Rod was a hell of a front man, the rhythm section was solid, and obviously Ronnie Wood is a great rock and roll guitarist. But, alas, Ronnie Wood left for the Stones (who can really blame him?) and Rod decided to make millions singing to horny 40-something housewives everywhere. But this song (mainly because Rod fucking KILLS the vocals) is a great indication of their potential range as a band. Sure "Stay With Me" was a great rock and roll song and "Ooh La La" is a great pop, country, whatever you want to call it song, but this cover showed something in Rod's voice that Mick Jaggar couldn't quite pull off, soul. Rod could pull off the white man soul and still keep a dirty rock quality about it. Of course that all went out the door around the time of "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy," but for a brief time Rod was one hell of a soulful rock and roller.
Originally recorded by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick as "La Di Da Di"
Covered by Snoop Dogg
More than anyone else in Hip Hop Snoop loved to pay homage to the old school playas (OK, I promise no more white boy Hip Hop lingo in this post), and this song exemplifies that more than any other. In fact I would guess that most people think that it is a Snoop Dogg song because he covers it so well and makes it his own. But I was amazed to find out how many other artists have either sampled it or used lines from it (most notably Biggie Smalls in "Hypnotize"). I read one list of greatest Hip Hop songs that had it ranked #3 all time (which I think is a stretch, but helps illustrate how good the song is). It's cool, chill, laid back, has a great hook, and begs to be listened to high. It's Snoop personified in song. Fo' Shizzle (I lied).
"Don't Think Twice It's Alright"
Originally recorded by Bob Dylan
Covered by Mike Ness
I'll spare you all another one of my Dylan songs are better when sung by other artist rants and just say that this song is really the best middle finger break-up song from a guy to a girl around. Usually songs that men sing about breakups are sad and lonely or lamenting something stupid that we did. But this one says, "you know what, this shit was you fault and while it kinda sucks that I don't get to fuck you anymore, I'm probably better off. Bitch." We needed one of those and Bobby D gave it to us. What Mike Ness does with it is he adds a second middle finger and a kick in the balls to it (or I suppose a kick in the labia majora in this case). But then again Mike does that with everything he touches, and we love him for it. (For further evidence see Social Distortion's "Ring of Fire" and "Under My Thumb").
Originally recorded by Elton John
Covered by William Shatner
If you don't like Bill Shatner, then I have nothing for you.
"Sunday Morning Coming Down"
Originally recorded by Kris Kristofferson
Covered by Johnny Cash
I'm completely certain that Kristofferson actually recorded this before Johnny Cash, but he did write it and record it at some point so it is a cover for the sake of this post. And while I love his version of it, this song belongs to Johnny Cash. I think even Kris would agree with that. There's something in Johnny Cash's voice and delivery and very essence of being that allows him to reach into the deepest depths of soul and consciousness and expose what's hiding in the shadows of our hearts just through singing a song. I think that's why he's the greatest country music artist of all time and, for me, the greatest American musical icon of all time. He is truth. We feel that Johnny Cash truly understands every word and note of every song he's ever sung, whether written by him or someone else. He is the one truly empathetic singer, songwriter, musician, legend that has ever existed and no song proves that more than "Sunday Morning Coming Down."