It Was Twenty (or more) Years Ago Today…

By now you may be wondering if I’ll ever finish with this topic (different recordings of the same song).  In fact, I’ve wondered myself!  Perhaps because there are so many examples.  Perhaps because I continue to discover new performances while investigating ones I already know.  Regardless, I think this month (this post plus one) will conclude “The Unexpected” series.

For this post, I’m looking at some songs which were originally hits at least twenty years before my chosen counterpoint interpretation.  Of course there have already been examples in previous posts e.g. Bach‘s Jesu Joy had enjoyed centuries of popularity before The Beach Boys fiddled with the music.  Even I Say a Little Prayer had about four decades of exposure before BossHoss gave it their “guy twist”.  Regardless, today I’ll look at four examples where the spacing between version one and version two was at least two decades.

Example One

Let’s start with some CanCon (Canadian content).  In 1969 The Guess Who further enhanced their international reputation by releasing American Woman.  The song reached #1 both in Canada and the U.S. and a respectable #4 in Switzerland and The Netherlands.  There have been political interpretations of the lyrics and the music (according to Burton Cummings [who should know]) is almost impossible to translate to a solo piano arrangement.

Fast forward to 1999.  Looking for a suitable musical addition for the new Austin Powers movie soundtrack, the producers decided to revisit the Guess Who hit but with Lenny Kravitz  doing the reinterpretation here.  Although not reaching the coveted #1 status of its predecessor, Kravitz did achieve top 10 placement in both the U.S. and Canada.  Here he is…

You may notice that the political innuendo of the former has been replaced by innuendo of a different order in the latter…

Blinded by the beauty...
Is not beauty in the eye of the beholder?

 Example Two

Here’s an interesting one.  Take the 1961 hit Stand by Me as made famous by Ben. E. King (who was also one of the song’s composers)…

There have been over 400 versions of Stand by Me recorded since its creation.  Even John Lennon had his take on the song.

Lennon’s 1975 version reached #20 in the U.S. and #10 in Canada.  Now, if you’ve been doing your math, you’ll be saying that there is not a 20-year separation between the King and Lennon version.  Which is true but… in 1989 the original song was re-released in conjunction with the movie release of Stand by Me.  The 1961 recording reached #4 on the Hot 100 and the 1986 incarnation also made the  Billboard Top Ten (#9).

(1986-1961= 25 years… it qualifies!)


 Example Three

James Taylor is, of course, an excellent songwriter in his own right… but he is also willing to put his spin on others’ hits from time to time.  In 1978 he teamed up with (then wife) Carly Simon to re-record a classic hit from the Everly BrothersDevoted to You.

First the brothers (a Top 10 hit in the U.S., #1 in Canada in 1958)…

And then, the (short-lived) couple (from 1978 [and exactly 20 years later])…

The song reached #2 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts in 1978.
The song reached #2 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts in 1978.

 Example Four

We’ve already looked at examples where the original hit has been reworked for another generation of fans. In 1964 Gerry (Marsden) and the Pacemakers were part of the very successful “British Invasion” in popular music.  One of their enduring hits, Ferry Cross the Mersey, reached #6 in the U.K. and #4 in the U.S.  This is a very solid live performance from the band in 1965…

The re-recording, in this case, served as fundraiser and commemoration for a soccer tragedy.   The Hillsborough disaster occurred on April 15, 1989 at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England.  During the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest football clubs, a human crush resulted in the deaths of 96 people (95 at the time, one subsequently) and injuries to 766 others.  The aptness of the selection was (in part) due to its reference to the River Mersey which runs through Liverpool to the Irish Sea.  The 96 fatalities were all Liverpool fans.

Marsden (composer and lead singer on the original recording) was joined by The Christians, Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson and Stock Aitken Waterman in this reprise.  It achieved #1 status in the U.K. and Ireland upon its release.


I have noticed, in occasionally looking back over earlier posts, that sometimes a Youtube video I’ve referenced has been removed, either by the “uploader” or by Youtube itself.  Most times an alternative video can be found and, when I have the opportunity, I’ll replace some of these gaps.  Sorry about that…  


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