Hit Cover Songs Mistaken For Originals (Part Three)

"Real Wild Child" by Iggy Pop
In 1985, Iggy Pop was ready to get back to work after a three-year break.  He signed a deal with A&M Records, recruited former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and put together a series of demos that convinced his old friend, David Bowie, to co-produce his new album.
Entitled Blah Blah Blah, it spawned five singles.  The most famous one is Real Wild Child which became a fixture on rock radio and hit the Top 10 in Britain.  Like Lust For Life, it has since been licensed for TV commercials and movies.  (You might remember it from Adventures In Babysitting.)  And it’s been heard in between face-offs at hockey games, as well.
But here’s the thing.  It’s not an original.  Real Wild Child dates back to 1958 when an Australian rockabilly performer named Johnny O’Keefe, who co-wrote it with Johnny Greenan and Dave Owens, released it under the title "Wild One", which became his unofficial nickname.  It was his first Top 40 hit Down Under and he would end up accumulating more than two dozen others in his native land.  He died in 1978 at the age of 43.
"Respect" by Aretha Franklin
It hit number one in 1967.  It won two Grammys in 1968.  The Grammy Hall Of Fame welcomed it with open arms twenty years later.  The Library Of Congress added it to The National Recording Registry in 2002.  And Rolling Stone named it the fifth greatest rock song of all time.
Pretty damn good for a cover.
Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect is actually a reworking of a song originally written and performed by the late Otis Redding.  The lyric was inspired by an innocuous conversation he had with Al Jackson, the drummer of Booker T & The MGs, an instrumental group (best known for Green Onions) who recorded with him in Memphis, Tennessee.  Jackson told authors Bob Shannon and John Javna that Redding had just wrapped up a tour and seemed a bit down.
"I said, ‘What are you griping about, you’re on the road all the time.  All you can look for is a little respect when you come home."
Inspired, Redding wrote lyrics that reflected the lack of appreciation the protagonist feels from his woman.  Recorded for his 1965 album, Otis Blue, the original version of Respect was a minor hit, peaking at #35 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart.  Two years later, Franklin covered it for her debut album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You, easily overshadowing the earlier version by topping that same chart.  There were some slight changes in the lyric, back-up singers were added and a sax solo was stolen from a Sam & Dave song called When Something Is Wrong With My Baby (King Curtis played the same notes for both tracks). 
Redding would die that same year in a tragic plane crash.  He was just 26.
"I Will Always Love You", "I’m Every Woman" by Whitney Houston
The Bodyguard was one of 1992’s most commercially successful movies.  It was also unfairly maligned by some critics.  (If you haven’t seen it, check it out.  It’s a good film.)  One of the big reasons it became a hit was Whitney Houston.  Making her feature film debut as a singer/actress needing Kevin Costner’s protection after an obsessed fan expresses a strong interest in killing her, Houston would sing on half of the twelve tracks that made up the hugely popular soundtrack.  (According to Wikipedia, it’s sold over 40 million copies internationally making it the best selling film soundtrack in history.)  Two of them were even nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar (I Have Nothing and Run To You).
Without question, the best known song from the movie is I Will Always Love You, the unstoppable juggernaut that refused to die.  (It stayed at number one in America for three and a half consecutive months.)  Considering how huge it was, you might wonder why it wasn’t also nominated for an Academy Award.
Believe it or not, it’s a Dolly Parton song.  Written in 1973 but recorded and released a year later (it’s on her Jolene album), it was a tribute to Porter Waggoner, a fellow country performer she worked with during her early years.  They had a nasty professional split which inspired Parton to write the song in the hope of easing the pain.  The song failed to make an impression beyond her core country audience.  In 1982, while making The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, she re-recorded it and once again, it was a number one country smash.  However, this version also failed to hit The Top 40 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart.
A decade later, Whitney Houston was all set to record What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted, an old Jimmy Ruffin number from 1966, for The Bodyguard but when it was discovered that the song was going to be heard in Fried Green Tomatoes, the rush was on to find a suitable replacement.  Costner found Parton’s song and the rest is history.  Parton would re-do I Will Always Love You one more time in 1995 as a duet with Vince Gill.  It peaked at number 15 on the country singles chart.
Another important single from the soundtrack was I’m Every Woman, which would later be used as the theme for The Oprah Winfrey Show.  Even though Houston’s version would hit the Top 5 in America, it’s not the original take.  That honour belongs to Chaka Khan who released it in 1978.  It was a significant moment in her career, too.  It was her first solo hit following her departure from the disco outfit, Rufus, peaking at #21 on the Hot 100.  The R&B duo, Ashford & Simpson, are the credited songwriters.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 24, 2008
7:34 p.m.
Published in: on March 24, 2008 at 7:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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