Nadia Elkharadly: Gender Bending Covers

Nadia LogoVery recently, I had the very extreme pleasure of watching Heart perform in Toronto.  I’ve always been a Heart fan, I mean what warm blooded female rock music lover isn’t?  I wanted the powerful pipes of Ann Wilson and the effortless beauty and guitar skills of her sister Nancy.  I grew up loving songs like “Barracuda” and “Crazy on You”, and greatly admiring the women who created that music that helped to raise me.  And soon, I’d discover an incarnation of that great band that would make me love them even more.

When I was a teenager, in the throes of my nineties grunge rock obsession, I discovered a little movie called Singles.  This film wasn’t by any means a masterpiece of cinema.  It was a near mockumentary about the Seattle music scene, with a fictional slant, as created by up and coming filmmaker Cameron Crowe.  Besides appearances by my beloved Seattle rockers (such as Eddie Veddar, the guys from Alice in Chains, and of course Chris Cornell), the only other thing that truly recommended this movie was its incredible soundtrack.  It had all the epic Seattle greats in attendance, from Mudhoney to Soundgarden to Pearl Jam, all showcasing songs not found on other albums, beautiful musical gems for super fans like myself.  But there was one song that I would come to love so very much, by a band I’d never heard of.  The band was The Lovemongers, and the song was an incredible cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore”.  Being the occasional slow thinker that I am, I didn’t put two and two together on this front for years to come.  When I finally did, I kicked myself so very hard for not realizing that the band I grew up loving, and this mystery group were pretty much one and the same.  But I finally did, and the hope that the Wilson sisters (aka The Lovemongers) would play this very song live and in person and make yet another rock and roll dream of mine come true.  Lo and behold, they did play that song, and it was every bit as beautiful as I could have ever hoped it would be.

As I mentioned in my subsequent review of the show, this song may as well have never been recorded by Page, Plant and company.  The Wilson sisters completely outdo the boys, in my opinion, especially vocally. It’s a song that got under my skin years ago, for its haunting beauty and beautiful performance, and the strong and amazing ladies who put it all together.  And, as sometimes happens, that performance, and the song itself, got me to thinking about other great cover songs that were done by those of the opposite sex.  So, with “Battle of Evermore” as the defacto number one on my list, here are the remaining four of my top five gender bending cover songs.

Chris Cornell – I will always love you

How many of you lovely readers are surprised that I put a Chris Cornell song on this list?  If any of you are, then clearly you haven’t been paying attention.  This song is an amazing rendition of the vocally challenging (to say the least) song by the late, great, Whitney Houston.  The other amazing thing, to me, about this cover, is how outside of Cornell’s standard “genre” it falls.  While Cornell has definitely dabbled in some R&B and even, some may argue, a bit of hip hop with his lamentable Timbaland produced effort Scream, female oriented, R&B love songs are very much outside of the man’s musical comfort zone.  But the true beauty of a cover song lies in how well the performer can take a song, and turn it into his or her own song, while still paying the well earned respect deserved by its original performer.  And, I think you’d agree that Cornell does just that with this very song.

Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks

I believe I’ve written about this cover before in the virtual pages of the DBAWIS book, but it’s a song that can never be discussed enough.  I had no idea that Led Zeppelin didn’t actually write this song for the longest time, though I had wondered why a group of British lads were singing about levees.  But, thanks to Kim Mitchell and the Q107 afternoon drive show I occasionally listen to, I learned the true origins of the song, and realized it was probably one of the coolest gender bending covers that have ever existed.  Written back in twenties by a southern gal named Memphis Minnie, “When the Levee Breaks” is a sombre tune about the disaster that was the Great Mississipi Flood of 1927.  I’d say that the throaty, aching voice of Robert Plant does just as much credit to the lovely Minnie that Ann Wilson did for him on “Battle of Evermore”.

Joss Stone – Fell in Love with a Boy

I remember hearing this song on the radio years ago, and at first simply marvelling at the depth and beauty of miss Stone’s bluesy voice.  It took a minute or two for me to realize why I could already sing along to a song I thought I’d never heard before: it was a cover.  Joss Stone had taken the punchy, distorted guitar laden song “Fell in Love with a Girl” by The White Stripes and had turned it into a sultry smooth jazz-blues tune so very unlike the original, but so very magnificent in its own right.

Sometimes, in the privacy of my car, or my shower, I belt this tune out and I think to myself “I totally missed out on a career as a blues singer.”  Then I look around at the disgusted looking drivers around me, or I clean the shampoo out of my ears, and remind myself of why I haven’t quit my day job, or my writing, just yet.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Sheena is a Punk rocker

The Ramones made history as one of the most influential bands of all time.  Their songs have been covered time and time again, by men, women, and in this case, men and women.  This is one of my favourite cover songs of all time.  Nick Zinner and Brian Chase just rock the shit out of the punky riffs and rhythm.  Karen O’s vocals are perfection, though completely different from Joey Ramone’s.  Somehow, hearing a powerful and very spunky female voice sing about Sheena discovering her punk rock roots; it just works for me.  And I imagine if there really was a Sheena, she would probably think that Karen O was pretty bad ass, and she’d want to be a rocker just like her.  Appearing on the War Child Heroes cover compilation, this song is a standout hit among several fantastic hits that were all put together for a great cause.

Girl, boy, boy girl, it doesn’t really matter who’s in front of the mic, holding the guitar or sitting behind the drums; if the music is good, it’s good.  But it’s always fun when girls and boys start playing in each other’s sandboxes, and as I’ve listed here, sometimes some really great music comes out if it. And I’m more than fine with that.

Until next time,

Xo

N

=NE=

Nadia’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonNadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

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One Response to “Nadia Elkharadly: Gender Bending Covers”

  1. Well done! Lovemongers tune was good! Not sure if I was just glad that it wasn’t “Zeppelin” tho…but I dug it! Cornell? Always knew he had the pipes…but adding a little soul, I couldn’t help but think of Steve Marriott a bit! 🙂 And the Joss Stone was cool too…very cool! Just my two cents… Thanks!

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