The Singer Not the Song: The Best Covers Ever
Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog," famously covered by Elvis Presley
This week (Aug. 13) marks the 61st anniversary of Big Mama Thornton's recording of Leiber and Stoller's "Hound Dog." Although it spent seven weeks on top of the Billboard R&B chart in 1953, it was nearly forgotten after a fellow named Elvis Presley recorded his version of the track four years later. His version spent 11 weeks at No. 1 in the summer of '56, effectively turning Thornton into a footnote in the story of his success.
That song is by far not the first original tune which ultimately was usurped by a cover version in terms of popularity, however. Read on for our list of the best cover songs, like, ever.
The Rolling Stones "The Singer Not the Song," famously covered by Alex Chilton
Back in 1965, the Rolling Stones released a song titled "The Singer Not the Song" in which Mick Jagger maintains that the voice is more important than the material while singing about a troubled relationship. The song wasn't a hit, appearing on the B-side of "Get Off Of My Cloud" in the U.K. and as an album track on December's Children (And Everybody's) in the States, but it went on to be covered several times, most notably by former Box Tops and Big Star frontman Alex Chilton. Chilton's version was recorded for 1975's Bach's Bottom, a sloppy booze-fueled collection of originals and covers, and somehow ol' Alex's take of the song manages to sound looser and cooler than the Stones, and that's something not many artists can accomplish.
Irma Thomas' "Time Is on My Side," famously covered by The Rolling Stones
The Stones, who started their career as a cover band, have also done their fair share of remakes that have surpassed the originals, including their first big U.S. hit, "Time Is on My Side." Prior to the Stones, the song, written by Jerry Ragavoy, was recorded by New Orleans soul great Irma Thomas. Although Thomas released her version in 1964 as a B-side, hers actually wasn't the first. A jazz trombonist named Kai Winding, with vocals by Garnet Mimm's Enchanters, was the first to commit it to wax, but the Stones version, which peaked at No. 6, also in '64, remains the ultimate rendition of the song. Considering Mick Jagger just celebrated his 70th birthday after wrapping the band's "50 and Counting" tour, it's an appropriate song to be linked to the band's legacy.