Q: While listening to a 1960s music station, I heard the song “Both Sides Now,” but it sounded a bit “off.” When I looked at the singer, it was Judy Collins from 1967, but I only remember the Joni Mitchell version from 1969. So here is my question: Which songs “covered” by a different artist than the original went on to become the more popular version?
C.F., of Edwardsville
A: I could name you two or three dozen without breaking a sweat, but in honor of all the wasted hours listening to KXOK (AM-630) as a youth, let me pay tribute to the beloved Johnny Rabbitt playing his stacks of wax with this top 10. (Please remember this is only one possible list and heavily weighted to songs I rocked to, so if you have other favorites, feel free to write or call).
10. Raindrops may have kept falling on B.J. Thomas’ head after he saw what Blue Swede did to “Hooked on a Feeling.” In 1968, Thomas rode the song to No. 5, which marked the start of his commercial success in the 1960s and ’70s. But in 1974, Blue Swede got hold of it and almost before lead singer Björn Skifs could cut loose with his first “ooga-shocka-ooga-ooga” intro, the song was in the top spot on the U.S. charts.
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9. Can you believe that Ed Cobb of the Four Preps wrote “Tainted Love” way back in 1964? He gave it to Gloria Jones, who put in on the B-side of her “My Bad Boy’s Coming Home,” and, as you might expect, it went absolutely nowhere. Then, in 1981, the English duo Soft Cell laced it with its synth-pop British sound and watched their “Love” rise to No. 8.
8. “Me and Bobby McGee” remained busted flat in Baton Rouge — and everywhere else — until Janis Joplin put her unforgettable pipes to it. Not that plenty of others didn’t try, including Kris Kristofferson, who co-wrote the song. Roger Miller was the first to release the single, but it stalled at No. 12 on the Hot Country singles. Gordon Lightfoot went to No. 13 on the mainstream chart, but it took Joplin’s soulful version to make it her only No. 1 single and No. 148 on a Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs.
7. Millions may love Dolly Parton but when it came to choosing between her and Whitney Houston on their renditions of “I Will Always Love You,” it was no contest. After writing it in 1973 as she was separating professionally from Porter Wagoner, Parton saw her version go to No. 1 on the country charts in 1974 and again in 1982, making her the first star to do it twice with the same song. But when it came to mainstream popularity, Parton’s version peaked at a tepid 53 before Houston’s heart-wrenching delivery powered it to the top of the Hot 100 for 14 weeks in 1993. It was an easy choice for Grammy Record of the Year.
6. Speaking of soul, I’m sure Otis Redding didn’t get as much “Respect” as he would have liked when he released his song in the summer of 1965. Recorded on his “Otis Blue” album, it went to No. 5 on the Black Singles Chart but only 35 on the Hot 100. You probably know what happened next. In 1967, Aretha Franklin turned “Respect” into a powerful personal anthem and made it her No. 1 signature song. Yeah, sock it to me, baby.
5. “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” — yes, I do, but not the way the Arrows recorded it. After writing it in 1975, the Arrows’ Alan Merrill said he did it as “a knee-jerk response to the Rolling Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It).’” It wound up winning the Arrows a British TV show, but it took Joan Jett and her Blackhearts to make the U.S. love it all the way to No. 1 in 1982.
4. J.J. Cale tried to make music fans get high on his “Cocaine” in 1976 but it failed to pack any punch on U.S. charts. That left the door open for Eric Clapton, who took what he saw as an anti-drug song and shot it up to No. 3 in Canada and No. 30 in the United States as it led off his immensely popular “Slowhand” album.
3. “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and nothing compares to Irish recording star Sinead O’Connor’s version. You may not know it, but this song was written by Prince in 1985 for one of his side projects, The Family Band, a funk group designed to offer more of Prince’s genius. For him, the song barely registered a blip, but in 1990 O’Connor turned it into a monster hit around the world.
2. Fans were not exactly “Blinded by the Light” when writer Bruce Springsteen — yes, the Boss himself — led off his 1973 debut album with it. Although released as a single, it failed to chart. Three years later, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band lit up the music world with it, making it Springsteen’s only Billboard No. 1 hit as a songwriter.
1. Let me end with four musical giants in case you want to quibble with one of my choices. Bob Dylan calls it the song he has performed the most since the late ’70s, but Jimi Hendrix took “All Along the Watchtower” to No. 20 in 1968, making it his highest-charting U.S. single. And whose version of “Hound Dog” do you reach for first — Big Mama Thornton’s 1952 recording or Elvis’ 1956 release (which was only the B-side to his “Don’t Be Cruel”)? By the way, don’t forget what Janis Joplin did with Thornton’s “Ball ’n’ Chain,” too.
What history-related novelty song helped put They Might Be Giants on the musical map in 1990 — after first becoming a hit for The Four Lads in 1953?
Answer to Sunday’s trivia: In the telephone’s earliest days, you placed a call by telling an operator the last name of the party you wanted to talk to and the operator would make the connection. But during an 1879 measles outbreak in Lowell, Mass., Dr. Moses Greeley Parker worried that if operators took ill, their substitutes would not be familiar with all of the names. He suggested using numbers instead of names, so today he is largely credited for inventing the phone number.