Saturday, October 26, 2013

They Had It Covered First

Chances are, at least once you have been surprised to discover that a song that you like by a particular artist turned out to be a cover - that is, a song actually written by someone else. Even performers that generally write their own songs sometimes record and/or perform music written by another artist.

I recall being surprised when I learned that 'Call Me The Breeze' - a signature Lynyrd Skynyrd song - was written and first performed by JJ Cale. As it happens, there are many 'signature' type songs associated with a performer that had a big hit, that turned out to be covers of someone else's music.

The following videos are the songs performed by the original artists, made famous by someone else (sometimes a more famous performer) that covered the song, and made it their own. I'll leave it up to the reader to decide whether you like the original or the (usually much better known) cover version better. These videos are performed by the man that wrote the song.

Crazy - written by Willie Nelson - covered by Patsy Cline

Black Magic Woman - written by Peter Green - covered by Santana

I Need A Lover That Won't Drive Me Crazy - written by John Mellencamp - covered by Pat Benatar

Fire - written by Bruce Springsteen - covered by The Pointer Sisters

Call Me The Breeze - written by JJ Cale - covered by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Cocaine - written by JJ Cale - covered by Eric Clapton

Downtown Train - written by Tom Waits - covered by Bob Seger and Rod Stewart

Move It On Over - written by Hank Williams, Sr. - covered by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Me and Bobby McGee - written by Kris Kristofferson - covered by Janis Joplin

Turn, Turn, Turn - words set to music by Pete Seeger (from the Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes) - covered by The Byrds

Mr. Tambourine Man - written by Bob Dylan - covered by The Byrds

Of course, there are many other examples of cover songs. Many are not so surprising, such as 'California Girls' as covered by Van Halen. Most music fans know that the song was written by Brian Wilson and first performed by the Beach Boys, or Bob Marley's 'I Shot the Sheriff', as performed by Eric Clapton.

This article focuses on songs that are less likely to be known as covers. If you know others, post them in the comments section.

Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts'.

He also writes about baseball for Climbing Tal's Hill, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

He lives in Central Texas with his wife and family.


  1. Ha! I knew all that. Yeah, right! Thanks for another fun and educational blog entry, Larry.

    Tom Minet

  2. freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose. cheers Larry.


  3. Great stuff, Larry. Hmmm.. covers made famous by other bands.... How about nearly everything by Led Zeppelin. ;) joking people.....joking!!!
    What about "Bad Company's "Come and Get It" written by Macca. I guess not really a cover since he gave it to them. I don't think he performed it, did he?