I'm sure you could add others but my criteria was whether the cover was better than the original (or at least as good as, but in a new and exciting way).
1. Route 66 by Depeche Mode. It's a bit embarrassing to admit I'm still a Depeche Mode fan. I had to Google the original artist, I wasn't sure if it was Nat King Cole--it was. But this classic song has also been sung by The Rolling Stones, Manhattan Transfer, Buckwheat Zydeco and The Cramps (and I cheated on those last two--have you even heard of those bands?) If you want to hear more, try itunes--I bet there are others who've sung it too, but D.M. has the best version.
2. Hotel California by The Gypsy Kings. This is one of the greatest American songs ever. EVER. I'm not saying that the Gypsy Kings sing it better, but their version is so fun, so ethnic, so cheerful (and as we all know, Hotel California is all about sunshine and rainbows) I love it. It may not be better but it's a unique version that's terrific.
3. Painted Black by U2. As much as I love classic rock I've never been much of a Stones fan--for as much music as they've produced very few songs do it for me ("Ruby Tuesday" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" are the exceptions). I liked the original "Painted Black," but U2 gives it a cool edge (ha! "Edge," get it? You'd have to be a fan to understand . . . ) and it deserves a ranking on this humble list.
4. Songbird by Eva Cassidy. Another classic song done better. I love Fleetwood Mac (their album "Rumors" is fabulous) but Eva sings it better. She's amazing.
5. I Got No Strings by The Gypsy Kings. You'll crack up when I tell you that this was one of the songs from Disney's Pinocchio. Bizarre? You betcha. But it's so terrific a cover--you'd hardly recognize the original song at all I promise--that it's a must-hear.
6. Ain't No Sunshine by The Lighthouse Family. I've already mentioned this song as one of my favorites on my current playlist but it too is better than the 1970 Bill Withers original. It's got a hip new beat yet keeps the theme of the original.
7. Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel. Does this count as a cover? I mean it's an English folk song from the dawn of time so I suppose this would be the ultimate remake and it's beautiful. Every time, thirty years later, always.
8. There Is A Light by The Ocean Blue. Besides Depeche Mode I'm also a Smiths fan. Nothing like the Smiths to cheer you up when you're down (listen to "Girlfriend in a Coma" whenever you need a pick-me-up) but I was at an Ocean Blue concert where they sang this classic and when they got to the chorus, "And if a double-decker bus . . . crashes into us . . . to die by your side . . . is such a wonderful way to die . . . " and I was singing with the rest of the crowd. Terrific cover though I don't think they ever actually recorded it. Does it count? You be the judge.
9. The Nearness of You by Norah Jones. Everything Norah sings is lovely, but she makes this Hoagie Carmichael (think "Heart and Soul") classic even better. It's haunting, it's lyrical, it's a new classic. Is that an oxymoron?
10. Over the Rainbow by Eva Cassidy. I never cared that much for either the Wizard of Oz or Judy Garland's signature song. I mean it was okay, but nothing like Ella Fitzgerald singing "Someone to Watch Over Me." But Eva. EVA sings it with everything I'm missing from Judy. I know I'll get hate mail over this one, but there it is.
11. Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants. Obviously I'm still stuck in an 80s/90s time warp but you can't beat this catchy remake which was based on Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz"--a catchy song in it's own right and admirably remade by Taco back in 1980-something. Yes, I'm still stuck in the 80s, can you believe I remember Taco? The lyrics are fun and the tune is catchy and They Might Be Giants make it unforgettable.
12. Pipeline by Stevie Ray Vaughn. This cover from the 1950s tune is still on my workout playlist and if you were to take a peek around here some time you might catch me doing a wicked air guitar that the Great Stevie Himself would envy.
13. American Woman by Lenny Kravitz. I love this cover. Better than the rather droning and annoying original. It's got the classic melded with the modern in a way that makes me want to dance every time.
Good enough? I find it a crack up how so many 80s hits are creeping up in movie soundtracks as remakes. "Just Like Heaven" by the Cure or "I'll Melt with You" by Modern English were great songs and didn't need to be remade--and the covers are far inferior to the techno-bop they morphed into. If you feel I've missed a cover that should be added feel free to correct the oversight by leaving it in the comments.
Technorati tags: Thursday Thirteen, music, remakes, U2, Eagles, Depeche Mode, Eva Cassidy, Norah Jones