I was 16 years old when my parents bought me my first guitar–a beautiful, mahogany Samick 6-string acoustic, which I lovingly named Stella. It took me a while to get the courage up to actually learn how to play it, but with a couple of lessons from Dad I figured out my D, A, and G chords, and I was on my way to playing my first full song, “Helpless” by Neil Young. Thank you, Mr. Young, for writing a song simple enough for one of your biggest fans to strum along to as I learned how to play guitar.
I’ve always admired the brilliance songwriters have, stringing together notes of their own choosing and creating new melodies that people might sing for generations. Many people can easily sing along to a song, or sing from start to finish a song that’s already been written, but few can write new songs that sound like nothing we’ve ever heard before. There’s a certain magic in that to me—how a song comes to fruition, along with the distinctive rhythm and emotion it can evoke.
There’s also an art in reviving an existing song with a different interpretation because it seems to, yet again, create something new. A cover performance might mirror the original artist’s emotions or take it to a different level altogether. One cover I love is Sara Bareilles singing “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” Otis Redding’s original is fantastic, but it’s fun to hear Sara Bareilles bring her own soul to the tune.
Another remake—and this one always gives me a laugh—is Chris Cornell’s “Black Hole Sun” as performed by Steve & Eydie on the Lounge-A-Palooza album (thank you to my sister, Christie, for introducing me to this). There are several gems on the album, including also Ben Folds Five’s interpretation of “She Don’t Use Jelly” by the Flaming Lips.
So, my question for you is, what is one of your favorite new songs, or new renditions of an existing song?