Covers: Cotton Fields

“Cotton Fields” was written by Lead Belly and recorded by him in 1940. There have been lots of covers by a wide range of artists. The strangest one I found was by Teresa Brewer and the Muppets.

The Beach Boys version (1969) was number 1 in Australia, South Africa, Sweden and Norway, and top five in other countries. The Creedence Clearwater Revival version (1970) was number 1 in Mexico.

another strange cover
earlier version from 1968
in French!

Covers: A Casual Look

The Beach Boys recorded 15 Big Ones, mostly a covers album, in 1976. One of the more obscure choices was “A Casual Look”, a 1956 hit for the Six Teens. The oldest member of the group was 17. Doo-wop was an influence on the Beach Boys and other artists as diverse as Frank Zappa and George Clinton. This is what covers are for – bringing back a forgotten old song.

update 11/18/20

Here’s another version from 1956 by Little Clydie and the Teens. Clydie King went on to a long career as a singer. King would have been no more than 13 when this was recorded. I’m glad the Beach Boys version exists to remind us of the song but they can’t capture the innocence of the two versions by adolescents.

Covers: Money (That’s What I Want)

The original version of “Money (That’s What I Want)” from 1959 was Motown’s first hit. I like early Motown records better than the later ones with strings – they are rougher R&B and less mainstream. I’ll take the Marvelettes over the Supremes any day. This song was co-written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford and sung by Barrett Strong. Strong is best known as a co-author of many Temptations records rather than as a performer. It’s a great song with a very simple theme – “I need money”.

The Beatles covered it in 1963. This is the best Beatles cover – John Lennon just screams it out. There was an odd cover by the Flying Lizards in 1979 and there are many other versions.

Covers: Woodstock

“Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell was about the famous 1969 music festival. Mitchell didn’t actually attend the festival (though the song is from the perspective of someone who was there). There were three versions from 1970: Mitchell’s folk version, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s rock version and a country-rock version by Matthews Southern Comfort.

Covers: Blowin’ in the Wind

Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” was released in 1963. The most popular cover is the 1963 version by Peter, Paul and Mary. I don’t think it’s bad but I think the way Dylan sings is part of his message. There’s a live electric 1974 version by Dylan and the Band which is slow but loud, an unusual combination. One thing I admire about Dylan is that he doesn’t treat his songs as museum pieces.

There are many cover versions including one by Stevie Wonder from 1966.