Let’s take a second to talk about cover songs. I recently had a discussion with an individual who viewed bands/artists that performed cover songs as “weak writers and non-original”. I, on the other hand, tend to see the tribute aspect of performing cover songs. There are so many different songs that speak to so many different people in so many different ways.  It is presumptuous for one to believe that performing or recording cover songs equates to lack of originality or weak writing skills. I have heard some excellent artists (Sam Bradley, Johnny Cash, Mumford and Sons) perform some of the best renditions. In fact, some of these renditions are better than the original performances. This discussion, and my opinion on the subject, led me to the idea of ‘Take Cover Thursday’. Each Thursday I will select and write about an artist/band that has done cover songs. It should be a nice little adventure….

Take Cover Thursday: Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash has probably covered more songs than any other artist. He is also an artist whose songs have been covered many times. From Bob Dylan to Nine Inch Nails, the range of cover songs that Johnny Cash has done is vast. Because his list of cover songs is extensive, I will only review a few of my favorites.

Out of all of the songs that Johnny Cash has covered, “Hurt” is by far my favorite. “Hurt”, originally by Nine Inch Nails, is a song about an individual who causes and experiences hurt to the point of needing drugs to sooth the pain. The lyrics “What have I become, my sweetest friend. Everyone I know goes away in the end”, are lyrics that anyone can relate to at some point or another in life. Johnny Cash’s ability to make a listener feel lyrics makes this song even more tragic. All in all, it is a beautiful version of an utterly tragic song.

Another Johnny Cash cover that I enjoy is “In My Life”, originally by The Beatles. I have heard some pretty pathetic covers of songs by The Beatles. This is not one of those covers. “In My Life” was an absolutely beautiful song when performed by The Beatles. The song, originally a poem, was written by John Lennon as a tribute to places and people throughout his life that he held dear to him. Because of this, it can be hard to imagine that listening to any other band/artist performing this song would be enjoyable. Listening to Johnny Cash’s voice sing “Though I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before, I know I’ll often stop and think about them. In my life, I love you more”, can make even the hardest of hearts smile. It is a cover that I am truly impressed by.

The last favorite song that Johnny Cash covered is “Bird on a Wire”, originally by Leonard Cohen. I absolutely love the original version of this song, but there is something about Johnny Cash’s version that draws me in. When I first discovered that Johnny Cash covered this song, I listened to both versions repeatedly to try to decide which version I enjoyed the most. As it stands, I am unable to choose a favorite so I will call this a tie.

Regardless of your opinion on cover songs, one has to admit that Johnny Cash has done a fantastic job of taking already great songs, and making them great again.