Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Music Box: Gender ReasSONGment

With the release of "War Child presents Heroes," a new album of cover songs to benefit children affected by war that features Duffy doing the Wings classic "Live and Let Die," it got me thinking of some of my all-time favorite gender-bending covers. While I understand why some people think covers are an cop out, I've always felt there's something magical about a transgender cover, the way the new point of view always makes me hear the song as if it were completely new. (How often do you get to fall in a love with the same thing twice?) Occasionally, I will know the "new" version first -- as in the case of Blondie's "Tide Is High" -- and will enjoy discovering it in reverse (an equally thrilling proposition).

Off the top of my head, I came up with this list of winning gender-reassigned cover tunes. While I prefer female vocalists, there are a few FTM songs that might surprise you. Now tell me some of yours.

"Crimson and Clover" (Tommy James and the Shondells)
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Arguably the greatest cover song of all time.

"Tougher Than the Rest" (Bruce Springsteen)
Everything But the Girl
My favorite song from my favorite Bruce album, "Tunnel of Love."

"All I Want" (Lightning Seeds)
Susanna Hoffs

"The Tide Is High" (The Paragons)
This clip uses the original 1965 Paragons version and sets it to the 1980 video of Debbie Harry & Co.

"(They Long to Be) Close to You" (Carpenters)
Paul Weller

"Don't Worry Baby" (Beach Boys)
Ronnie Spector
Brian Wilson apparently wrote this song for Ronnie, but Phil Spector wouldn't allow her to record it (so the Beach Boys did). She finally got to do it as a solo artist many years later.


"If Not for You" (Bob Dylan)
Olivia Newton-John
Hard core Dylan fans make fun of this, but I still say it's the definitive version of this masterpiece.

"You've Got a Friend" (Carole King)
James Taylor

"When You Were Mine" (Prince)
Cyndi Lauper

"Baby, I Love You" (Ronettes)
Andy Kim
Thought of as a one-hit wonder for the 1974 No. 1 smash "Rock Me Gently," the Montreal-born Andy Kim actually had a Top 10 hit with this rollicking cover of the Ronettes' "Baby, I Love You," making the song all his.

"Stormtrooper in Drag" (Gary Numan)
Saint Etienne

"I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" (Beatles)
Rosanne Cash

"September Gurls" (Big Star)
How the girls could let Michael Steele sing lead on this pop gem but REMOVE the line "I was your butch"(!) is one of the great mysteries of pop music.

"You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby" (Smiths)
Kirsty MacColl

"(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" (REM)
Natalie Merchant

"I Want You" (Marvin Gaye)
Working with the incredible Massive Attack, Madonna was never more sensual.

"The Scientist" (Coldplay)
Aimee Mann

"Out of Control" (Rolling Stones)
Pal Shazar (download HERE)

"Hazy Shade of Winter" (Simon and Garfunkel)
The Bangles

"For What It's Worth" (Buffalo Springfield)
Holly Beth Vincent

"The First Cut Is the Deepest" (Cat Stevens)
Sheryl Crow

"My Guy" (Madness)
Tracey Ullman
Turning a girl into a guy, Tracey Ullman rode this Madness favorite to No. 23 on the U.K. charts back in 1984.

"Femme Fatale" (Velvet Underground)
Tracey Thorn

"I'll Keep It With Mine" (Bob Dylan)
Susanna Hoffs

"These Days" (Jackson Browne)

"Long Train Running" (Doobie Brothers)
I was never a fan of Doobie Brothers music, but after hearing this Youth-produced track by the Nanas, I sure was.

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    Anonymous said...

    What about "Hazy Shade of Winter" reasSONGed to the Bangles from the Beatles?

    The Indigo Girls have many as well - "Uncle John's Band" from the Grateful Dead, "Romeo & Juliet" from Dire Straits, "Mona Lisa & Mad Hatters" from Elton John and "I Don't Want to Talk About It" from Crazy Horse AND Rod Stewart...

    Anonymous said...

    "Could It Be Magic" (Barry Manilow)
    Covered by Donna Summer

    Ok, Manilow is good and all, but Donna's take on this song is perfection!

    BW said...

    "Hazy Shade of Winter" was Simon and Garfunkel, of course.

    Don't forget the greatest cover ever, the completely reshaped Romeo Void version of "Wrap It Up."

    BW said...

    And somehow I had no idea "The Tide Is High" was a cover.

    Stephen said...

    Train In Vain (The Clash)
    Annie Lennox

    Leonard said...

    Wow, these are all good selections!! A lot I forgot over the years!

    Anonymous said...

    Police "Everything She Does is Magic"
    Covered by Shawn Colvin.