It’s generally agreed upon that if you don’t have any new flavor to add to the original, you shouldn’t bother doing a cover. But what exactly are the ingredients for a great cover?
There’s no secret recipe. Some of the songs below are great because they completely deconstruct the original, stripping it down to its most basic components of chords and lyrics, and build it back up again in a completely different style. For others, the genius of the original song was always present but the presentation was lacking, and when the talents of a different performer are added, the song gains a gravity that it didn’t have in its original form. And some of them, whether by generational ignorance or through the general obscurity of the original artist, simply didn’t receive the exposure they needed for their greatness to be recognized until they were delivered by a more familiar voice. But the finest of these, the ones we love the best, are simply great songs by great artists where the addition of a new twist and a new voice creates something that is greater than the sum of its parts. You can hear and recognize the glory of the original version in every note of the cover, but the listening experience is taken to another level through the talents of the covering artist.
The process for generating our list was fairly simple. We created a huge list (800+ songs) of nominees, and each of the authors that participated selected their own top 100. Those top 100 rockabilly songs lists were weighted on a curve and used to generate the list that you see below. Next week, we’ll publish a separate “honorable mention” post featuring some of the songs that didn’t earn enough votes to make the list, but were important enough to individual authors that we wanted to make sure they received some attention as well. If you’ve got a Spotify account, you can listen to most of the originals here, and the cover versions here. If you don’t have an account yet, you can request an invitation (they issue them pretty promptly now). Enjoy! — Zack Dennis