Country artists covering R&B songs?
September 30, 2012 12:11 PM   Subscribe

What are some examples of country artists covering R&B/soul songs?

Inspired by this excellent FPP about R&B artists covering country songs, I’m curious about the reverse. There were some suggestions in that thread but to clarify, I’m talking about an established country singer recording and releasing a track that had been recorded and released first by an R&B or soul singer ...and I'm not counting tribute, “duets” or other gimmicky albums. (Though if there's a reverse equivalent to Ray Charles' Modern Sounds, that would certainly count.)

That thread had a lot of discussion of cross-influence and what do these labels really mean and the history of blues vs appalachian traditions -- interesting topics but, respectfully, I’d like to avoid them here. I’m looking for clear cut examples of covers, not just influence.

I can think of lots of examples of R&B artists covering straight-up country songs in the way I’m talking about, even beyond the ones mentioned in that post -- and some that were real hits too, like Solomon Burke’s “Just Out of Reach (of my Two Open Arms)” or Candi Staton’s “Stand By Your Man.” But in the other direction I’m drawing a blank. The only one I can think of is Gram Parson’s cover of “Dark End of the Street” and I wouldn’t call him a pure country singer. And Charlie Rich covered some blues songs but that’s also not quite the same thing.

So which songs am I missing? Or has it really been as much of a one-way street as it seems?
posted by pete_22 to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing I can think of is the Gourds' cover of Gin n Juice and that's not really R&B at all.
posted by elizardbits at 12:24 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reba McIntyre did Beyoncé's If I Were a Boy and the Everly Brother's Cathy's Clown.

The album Rhythm, Country and Blues falls into your "duets" album rubric, but I call your attention to it regardless.
posted by drlith at 12:28 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also many R&B cover version on Dolly Parton's 1984 album of 1950s/60s covers "The Great Pretender", including The Four Tops and The Drifters, and The Platters. She also has a 1977 cover of Jackie Wilson's Higher and Higher.
posted by drlith at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2012

There was a popular song in the mid-90s by "All 4 One" called "I Swear" that was also recorded by country artist but I'm not sure which came first.
posted by Pollfabaire at 12:53 PM on September 30, 2012

drlith, great answers! I actually have that Dolly Parton album but I had forgotten all about it. Another one I just thought of is "Rainy Night in Georgia" covered by Hank Williams Jr. (and others I think)...
posted by pete_22 at 1:03 PM on September 30, 2012

Johnny Cash did "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," but it was a folk song before Roberta Flack had her hit with it.

Cash also did a reworking of Joe Tex's "Papa's Dream" as "Look at Them Beans."
posted by hydrophonic at 1:28 PM on September 30, 2012

Carolina Chocolate Drops does Blu Cantrell's Hit 'Em Up Style
posted by Grandysaur at 1:42 PM on September 30, 2012

Chuck Berry's "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" has been covered by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Tanya Tucker, Wanda Jackson, and Lyle Lovett.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:47 PM on September 30, 2012

Louise Mandrell did a version of "Everlasting Love"* on her debut 1979 album. I suspect you'll find a lot of stuff like this in the female country pop of the late seventies and eighties.

*I couldn't find it online, but I sat through this where she does a bit of "Last Dance." I hope you appreciate what we're doing for you here.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I Heard It Through the Grapevine — Mac McAnally

I Want You Back — The Civil Wars

Signed, Sealed, Delivered — Nora Collins and Andrew Edstrom

You Really Got a Hold on Me — Dick Curless (also, She & Him)
posted by John Cohen at 2:10 PM on September 30, 2012

Jerry Lee Lewis - Hi Heel Sneakers
Ronnie Milsap did a disco-fied version.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:15 PM on September 30, 2012

Does Willie Nelson's version of Georgia on My Mind count? Hoagy Carmichael wrote it in the '30s, but arguably the definitive version is Ray Charles's. Also his version of "The Thrill is Gone" (I can only find a live version here), originally written in the '50s, with the definitive version by B.B. King.
posted by scody at 2:21 PM on September 30, 2012

Piece of My Heart by Faith Hill
posted by peakcomm at 3:02 PM on September 30, 2012

Here's a few more for you:

Glen Campbell with Smokey Robinson's/The Temptation's My Girl, and Allan Toussaint's Southern Nights

Chet Atkins did a lot of pop covers: here he is with Ray Charles' What'd I Say
Trace Adkins with 634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.), which was a first a hit for Wilson Picket.
Mickey Gilley with Lawdy Miss Claudy
Both Roy Clark and Johnny Duncan recorded Ray Charles' Here We Go Again
Patty Loveless and Vince Gill recorded the Everly Brother's Sleepless Nights
And Loretta Lynn recorded another Everly Brother's hit, Bye Bye Love
Here's Barbara Mandrell doing "The Letter" and Marvin Gaye's "You're All That I Need (to get by)"

I think you get the point. If you want to dig some more, the Second Hand Songs database is AWESOME. You can either start with well-known often-covered R&B hits like "The Letter" and see what country artists covered it, or start with well-known country artists (the period from about 1968 to the early 1980s is the most fruitful one for these sorts of cross-genre covers) and see who they covered.
posted by drlith at 6:36 PM on September 30, 2012

Thanks for all the suggestions. I checked them all out and marked “best answer” for the ones that I think meet my definition, which are Dolly, Cash/Joe Tex, Dick Curless/Smokey Robinson, Louise Mandrell, Faith Hill, and a few of that last list.

The others are a bit of a stretch to me. Early rock & rollers like the Everly Brothers, I see how you could call them R&B but it’s not really what I meant. Same with blues songs like “Hi Heel Sneakers” and “The Thrill is Gone.” Live performances (even on a live album) don’t quite count. “I Swear” would count but the country version came first. “If I Were a Boy” technically counts but that’s not really an R&B song.

I think you get the point.

Yeah I think I do -- the point being that it was indeed much less common in this direction. Together we've come up with barely ten examples, none of which were much of a hit that I know of, a few of which are late-career indulgences or true obscurities.

I mean, I would have thought someone like George Jones or Johnny Cash, who both spent decades recording anything that someone put in front of them, would have gotten around to an Otis Redding song or two, you know? :)

Still, there were some great tracks here that I hadn’t heard before, and I appreciate all the suggestions.
posted by pete_22 at 11:03 PM on September 30, 2012

Oh, and I just remembered Soul'd Out by John Cowan -- another borderline case but a fun album. He also covers 634-5789 and Dark End of the Street.
posted by pete_22 at 11:34 PM on September 30, 2012

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