Reporter's Notebook

The Most Transformative Cover Songs
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Readers recommend their favorites. Submit your own—especially if the cover goes across genres—via hello@theatlantic.com, and please include a short description of why you love it so much.

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A reader has some recommendations and anti-recommendations:

I really enjoy The Atlantic. I read it online and at the public library. Some covers I really enjoy: Dianne Reeves’ version of “River” (Joni Mitchell) and Stefon Harris’ cover of “Summertime” (George Gershwin).

If you are interested in bad covers, here are two: I did not care for any part of Tierney Sutton Band “The Sting Variations,” especially the songs from albums like Dream of the Blue Turtles. They were a perfect mix of pop and jazz already. Jessy J’s cover of “Feel Like Making Love” (Roberta Flack) is awful because she has such a weak voice, although the instrumentals are OK. But she does something nice with “In a Sentimental Mood” (Duke Ellington).

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

Yesterday, we noted Barbara’s recommendation of “Proserpina,” sung by Kate McGarrigle’s daughter, Martha Wainwright. The second half of Barbara’s email highlighted many cover songs based on McGarrigle’s work:

Sing Me the Songs: Celebrating the Work of Kate McGarrigle has some great songs by Kate and a few by other family members. Rufus Wainwright sings “Southern Boys,” and he and his sister Martha team up for “First Born” (“Yes, he’s that first-born son, he’s that special one...”). I like the oh-I-know-that-kid serendipity of “First Born,” as well as the porch-rocker feel of Rufus’s “Southern Boys.” He also joins Emmylou Harris on “I Eat Dinner (When the Hunger’s Gone),” which is about divorce, but it could just as easily be speaking of my experience of widowhood.

There’s also Jimmy Fallon performing the fun-in-the-sun “Swimming Song.” I wallow in the melancholy of Antony singing “Go Leave” [embedded above] and Krystle Warren’s rendition of “I Don’t Know” (“You ask me what it’s all about/ I say I don’t know/ Should you stay and work it out/ I say I don’t think so”)—either of these versions could be good additions to your cover-song series. “Jacques et Gilles” is a story and a history lesson combined. And there are plenty of other songs in addition to the ones I’ve listed.

I have always liked folk music, so McGarrigle fits right into my preferences. But there’s also a little extra memory fillip regarding the Wainwrights that shows my age: Rufus and Martha are the children of Loudon S. Wainwright III (of “Dead Skunk” notoriety and the creator of “Swimming Song”), who is the son of Loudon Wainwright, Jr., whose work I grew up reading regularly in Life magazine. I absorbed certain lessons about writing from Time, Sports Illustrated, and Life without realizing it, and the writing of Loudon Wainwright, Jr., was work I particularly looked for and enjoyed.

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

Reader Barry highlights a band of two young kids and their father that became a YouTube sensation several years ago:

DMK is a Depeche Mode cover band from Bogotá. They have a ton of videos, including a concert in Poland from last year. “Enjoy the Silence” when the kids were still pretty small and really cute.

Likewise with “Everything Counts,” the band’s mega-hit embedded above. More details on DMK (short for trio’s names—Dicken, Milah, Korben) from their Wiki page:

DMK is noted for crudely emulating the sounds of Depeche Mode using an old keyboard and various toys and household items as instruments. … The band was featured in MTV Iggy’s “10 Colombian bands on the rise” article, by JetSet Magazine as the most famous Colombians in YouTube, and their remake of “Everything Counts” has been selected by Electronic Beats magazine as one of the ten best Depeche Mode covers ever.

Here’s a much more produced video with a wonderful dream-like vibe:

From an interview with the dad:

“The first video we made was kind of an act of psychomagic,” he said. “We never expected that it would evolve beyond that. I made one video and I invited my kids to join me and sing a song with me. I am not a professional musician. I have never taken a music lesson in my life. Everything I know about music is just for the love of it; it’s empirical. … We never expected [the fame]. It was organic and natural.”

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

Anne Tek

What happens if you take Raw Power and rip it out of the socket? That’s the landmark 1973 album from the Stooges, a fierce burst of electric guitar that prefigured punk and hard rock.

But guitarist James Williamson, who wrote the songs with Iggy Pop, actually composed the guitar parts without amplification. “We were in a little mews house in London and you couldn’t be loud in there anyway, so I used acoustic to write the songs,” Williamson told me this week. “I got so I liked it better because you can really hear the notes really well.” The reason for his preference is even a little punk: “Sometimes the electric doesn’t have the same kind of punch that acoustic does. Acoustic is a little bit percussive, and sometimes the electric has the big sound, but it isn’t always as percussive.” (There are also some acoustic guitars on the David Bowie-produced record, notably on “Gimme Danger.”)

What would those classic songs sound like played unplugged? There’s no need to wonder, because on a new EP, Williamson teamed up with Deniz Tek, the guitarist in Radio Birdman and the Visitors, to record a handful of acoustic versions of songs Williamson wrote with Iggy Pop, including “Penetration.” Here’s the premiere of that track:

Acoustic K.O. (the name is a joke on the live Stooges release Metallic K.O.) also includes “I Need Somebody” from Raw Power as well as “Night Theme” and “No Sense of Crime” from the 1977 Pop/Williamson album Kill City, the former of which gets a full orchestration.

Williamson said the new EP represented the confluence of a couple currents. A Stooges superfan named Hakan Beckman (“He kinda knows what I had for breakfast in 1970,” Williamson chuckled) had long advocated for an acoustic record, and the duo of aging rockers Williamson and Tek decided to to do it after joking about playing lounge gigs together.

On “Penetration,” Williamson laid down an acoustic guitar part as well as some licks on Weissenborn lap slide. The recording process went a lot more smoothly than Raw Power. “At this point in time I think we have a clue as to what to do, and back in the day, that was my first album on Raw Power, so I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. The only hitch came when he sent his tracks to Tek, and the singer discovered they were out of concert pitch, thanks to a miscalibrated electronic tuner. It was an easy fix, though. Plus, the weird tuning was an echo of the way the Stooges did things: Eschewing tuners, they just tuned to each other’s instruments.

Williamson said he hasn’t talked to Pop about the new version. “I doubt if he cares. It’s just another version,” he said. But Williamson likes the way it compares to the 44-year-old original. “I think it stacks up very favorably. The original of course is the original. This one has more of a rhythmic thing going on with it.”

For comparison, here’s the original version:

Do you have a favorite reworking of an electric tune for acoustic instruments? Let us know at hello@theatlantic.com.

(Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)