So, since last post I’ve been thinking about how remake crazy our culture appears to be. I’ve had this conversation with friends and other creative folks, and often I hear someone make the statement that “we’ve just run out of original ideas.” Is it that simple an explanation? And is it a bad thing to remake a movie or cover a song if you can add something relevant to, invigorate, or dare I say improve the original? I would answer with a resounding NO and I would like to share some of my faves to support. Since this is such a broad topic, I’ve decided to focus on music in the key of Motown, and share a few examples of what I think are perfect song covers (I’ll touch on movies in another post :)).
I will start with the Heavyweight of Soul himself, Mr. Luther Vandross. Luther was a master at taking decades old songs, re-arranging them and turning them into instant classics. Who can forget his version of the Temptations hit Since I Lost My Baby? Luther made the melancholy song sound so sweet, and sang it so beautifully, I forgot how sad the lyrics were. On to the next Motown cover, have you ever heard Chaka Khan’s version of the J5’s Got To Be There? Like Chaka’s voice it really is beyond accurate description, so just take a listen below and let me know what you think. Sidebar: speaking of Chaka Khan, did you see the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown and hear her cover of What’s Going On with the Funk Brothers? Again, take a listen with the link below because it’s so (add your own word here) I won’t even try to describe.
I once heard Tony Bennett say that Stevie’s version of his song For Once In My Life was the best cover he’d ever heard. I mean Stevie took an old slow tempo standard and revamped into a funky R&B hit complete with harmonica solo. Another sidebar: Stevie also took a mid-tempo tune he’d written as a teen for the late Tammi Terrell, All I Do Is Think About You, and updated it as the upbeat All I Do (with Michael Jackson, Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and Betty Wright all contributing background vocals) on his Hotter Than July LP. Yep, that’s right I said MJ. Take another listen you’ll catch it :). See below for a link to the once rare Tammi Terrell version.
Lastly, I can’t mention Motown covers and not talk about Philly’s own Boyz II Men and their version of It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday. Boyz II Men successfully took a very nostalgic song, and anyone who’s seen the movie Cooley High knows what I mean, and made it their own. And talk about invigorating, with their a cappella remake the song peaked at #1 and #2 on the Billboard Hot R&B singles and Hot 100 charts respectively (compared to peaking at #38 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart when originally released).
What are some of your fave remakes? I know I stuck to a specific period and genre, but are there more recent covers that you consider classics? Share your comments and let’s discuss. Until next thought, Thomasena.
Chaka Khan Got To Be There (Chaka Khan, 1982 Warner Bros.): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6PCKxcxTss&feature=related
The Funk Brothers featuring Chaka Khan What’s Going On (Standing in the Shadows of Motown, 2002 Artisan Entertainment) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA1sO3YZRhk&feature=related
Tammi Terrell All I Do Is Think About You (A Cellarful of Motown, 2002 Motown): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqbvX_sYoN0