The Best of the Best

A couple of days ago I ran the results of a poll on the 50 greatest covers of all time. Ari Schwartz makes his case for what he considers to be the two covers that should be considered the “best of the best.” He’s convincing as usual. (Mark)

The two greatest covers of all time

For a musician to cover another musicians song they have three choices:

  1. Play the song as it was first played, changing nothing. Trying only to rekindle the emotions that was first expressed by the composer of the song.
  2. Change parts of the structure and melody of the piece but at the same time still staying true to the ideals of the musician who wrote it.
  3. Revolutionise the song, keeping its bare essentials (lyrics and chords), but changing almost everything else. This option is the most risky and of course almost no musicians dare to do this. A musician named Jimi Hendrix took this risk , successfully turning Bob Dylan’s ‘All along the Watchtower’ into a rock and roll classic.

The two greatest covers of all time, in my opinion:

Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower

The greatest cover of all time, take your pick, its all opinions of course, but that devil-like voice of Jimi Hendrix playing ‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Bob Dylan is just so special. Dylan can be praised with his song-writing talent, but it’s the way Hendrix takes apart the song, pulls it inside and out; taking the listeners in a mere 3:28 through a magical journey of astonishment and amazement. Hendrix might have been known for his guitar virtuosity, but in this song, he shines with every masterful stroke he touches the piece with. From his underated soulful blues voice to his electrifying, all inspiring and innovate guitar playing; Hendrix turns this Dylan song into a true classic, now covered by almost every artist on the circuit.

Jimi Hendrix might be dead, but listen to this song and try tell me he is not breathing stronger then any of us today…In the shallow, corrupt and materialistic world of the music industry, this song acts as a symbol of hope for all modern musicians- create music, live music, and love music, I do.

Jeff Buckley- Hallelujah

Just writing about this miracle of a song makes me want to go listen to it. Very few songs combine music, knowledge, inspiration and clarity together. Most pieces of music struggle to get past the music, often trying to find a catchy melody or a ‘cool’ riff to help create a good song. Others, like Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah get past the artificial and petty guitar riffs of modern music and create a song worthy of incredible praise. Leonard Cohen might have written this song, but Jeff Buckley has turned it in to a truly sacred song.

If you listen to the divine melodic contours that Jeff Buckley sings in this piece you will begin to see how beautiful music can really be. Accompanied by his own electric guitar playing, the voice of a million angels couldn’t create a sound so pure as the sound that comes out of Jeff’s guitar. His plucking of strings are so delicate throughout, often making you ask the question ‘How good was he?’

By Ari Schwartz


  1. I really think that Bob Dylan is able to set up a solid foundation with his songs that allow him to be covered in so many different directions. Let’s face it, the man is a lyrical genius, perhaps THE best in modern music (rivaled only by Lennon in my opinion) but isn’t always the most creative or talented musician. That allows artists such as the Birds or Jimi to step up, add another element to the song and take the entire experience to a whole other level that could never have been acheived by the two seperately.

  2. Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah is the first I heard — I later searched out other covers, of which there are several, but jeff’s still blows me away as one of the most hauntingly beautiful sad and touching peices of music and singing I’ve ever heard. Should be heard by many more people — I stumbled into it on the Jeff Buckley web site.

  3. Best song / performance- all along the watchtower-

    of course …….at Bobs fest

    performer: Mr. Neil Young !

    when God made …neil

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