For me, the song is IT. IMO, a lot of Pop music is made by musicians who just use the song as a platform from which to show their stuff. The song to me is the same as the script is to a movie---without it, you got nothin’. I could go on for pages, but here are some songs having multiple great versions that spring to mind, the writer(s) in parenthesis, followed by performers:
- What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted (William Weatherspoon/Paul Riser/James Dean): Jimmy Ruffin, Joan Osborne.
- Shake, Rattle, & Roll (Jesse Stone): Big Joe Turner, Bill Haley & His Comets, NRBQ.
- No Time To Cry (Iris DeMent): Iris DeMent, Merle Haggard.
- That’s How I Got To Memphis (Tom T. Hall): Tom T. Hall, Buddy Miller.
- Love Hurts (Boudleaux Bryant): The Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons.
- A Song For You (Gram Parsons): Gram Parsons, The Continental Drifters.
- Shake Your Hips (Slim Harpo): Slim Harpo, Lou Ann Barton, Joan Osborne. Yeah, The Stones did it too, but as usual not particularly well.
- Get Rhythm (Johnny Cash): Johnny Cash, NRBQ.
- (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care (Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller): Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Dwight Twilley, Phil Seymour.
- Let Her Dance (Bobby Fuller): Bobby Fuller Four, Phil Seymour, Marshall Crenshaw.
- Cadillac Walk (Moon Martin): Moon Martin, Mink DeVille.
- Let It Be Me (Becaud/Curtis/Delanoe): The Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, Dave Edmunds.
- Singin’ The Blues (Melvin Ensley): Marty Robbins, Guy Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Dave Edmunds.
- Rock ’n’ Roll Music (Chuck Berry): Chuck Berry, Dave Edmunds, The Beach Boys.
And now, a separate section just for the best cover artist Rock ’n’ Roll has produced, Dave Edmunds. All the following have been done by Dave, the writer and original recording artist listed here:
- I Hear You Knocking (Dave Bartholomew): Smiley Lewis.
- The Promised Land (Chuck Berry): Chuck Berry.
- Sweet Little Rock ’n’ Roller (Chuck Berry): Chuck Berry.
- Let It Rock (Chuck Berry): Chuck Berry.
- No Money Down (Chuck Berry): Chuck Berry.
- Dear Dad (Chuck Berry): Chuck Berry.
- Maybe (Richard Barrett): The Chantels.
- I Ain’t Never (Mel Tillis/Webb Pierce): Webb Pierce.
- Born To Be With You (Don Robertson): The Chordettes.
- Get Out Of Denver (Bob Seger): Bob Seger.
- Back To School Days (Graham Parker): Graham Parker & The Rumour.
- Crawling From The Wreckage (Graham Parker): Graham Parker & The Rumour.
- Almost Saturday Night (John Fogerty): John Fogerty.
- I Want You Bad (Terry Adams/Phil Crandon): NRBQ.
- Where Or When (Richard Rogers/Lorenz Hart): Dion & The Belmonts.
You have not lived until you here Dave’s version of this incredible song!
Here are two songs written by Bob Dylan, recorded by both he and The Byrds: Mr. Tambourine Man, and My Back Pages. The Byrds’ versions are almost unbelievably great. Marshall Crenshaw’s My Back Pages is also absolutely fantastic.
And finally, the partnership to beat all partnerships, Bob Dylan and The Band. All songs below recorded by both he and they, and, as above, songwriting credit in parenthesis:
- When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob Dylan).
- I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan).
- This Wheels On Fire (Bob Dylan/Rick Danko).
- Tears Of Rage (Bob Dylan/Richard Manuel).