REWIND: Five Black artists improve white artists’ songs

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin. Courtesy: Wikicommons.

So, look: I love Billy Porter. He’s amazing, he’s awesome, he’s a fashion icon. He’s an overall talented man. But… what in the world was that cover of “For What It’s Worth” from the Democratic National Convention?

It’s like a skit from a second-tier Adult Swim show that fell flat. It’s edited like a bad public access show. It’s a parody of itself. I don’t understand why, just, in a general sense. Just… why.


But RIFF Rewind’s Black History Month, currently in its 12th week, isn’t about criticizing inexplicable covers. It’s about celebrating good covers! I’ve covered white musicians who stole music from Black people, so here are five covers by Black musicians of songs originally performed by white musicians.

Tina Turner — “Proud Mary”

I’m a huge Creedence Clearwater Revival fan. I absolutely love them and have my whole life. Beyond being an East Bay band, they’re just really, really good at music.

All that said? Tina Turner’s cover of “Proud Mary” is better.

Also, Ike Turner is credited on the song too, and I guess he was also involved, but screw Ike Turner. He doesn’t get credit for Tina’s talent. She’s the better singer, the better performer and despite what Master Blaster says, she runs Bartertown.

Otis Redding — “Day Tripper”

There are a lot of Beatles covers I could put here.

Stevie Wonder did “We Could Work It Out,” Smokey Robinson did “Yesterday,” Wilson Pickett did “Hey Jude.” All great. Any of them could hold this spot. But it’s my column, and I like “Day Tripper” better as a song. If you want one of the other ones, get your own column.

Earth, Wind, and Fire — “Got to Get You Into My Life”

That’s right, second Beatles cover! Just try and stop me!

There are some bands that just write songs so good that they work no matter who’s performing them. Nirvana is absolutely one of those bands, and The Ramones before them. And yet for some reason none of them have as many great covers by Black musicians as the Beatles.

If you don’t like it gets your own column.

Aretha Franklin — “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

I wanted to put Mavis Staples performing “The Weight” here because I love Mavis Staples and I love “The Weight.” But I’ve included Mavis Staples so many times already I should probably stop. This can’t just be Mavis Staples Rewind Featuring Mavis Staples.

That said, the greatest singer of all time isn’t exactly a consolation prize. She’s the greatest singer of all time. And while she did cover “The Weight,” and while it’s amazing, I’m going way off the board.

Actually… now that I think about it, can it be an all-Mavis column? I mean, it is my column. Someone remind me to ask Gokhman if this can just be all Mavis all the time. [Gokhman note: No.

Ella Fitzgerald — “Sunshine of Your Love”

You may notice that all these songs are old. Well… yes. It’s called RIFF Rewind. Even the name of the column is a reference kids probably wouldn’t even get, since what do you even wind? CDs are old to kids these days!

Get off my lawn!

Anyway, Ella Fitzgerald is amazing. “Sunshine of Your Love” is also amazing. So you should listen to this song.

It’s been over 100 degrees every day in the East Bay for over a week with no sign of it letting up any time soon. Most of California is on fire from the unprecedented summer lightning storm. Your power may go out any minute. The President endorsed a conspiracy theory. Also there’s still a plague on, and a civil rights movement with nightly protests that everyone just kinda forgot about. Also, on top of all that, weren’t there murder hornets? Did we deal with the murder hornets or should I be worried about that?

Anyway, one of the best musicians of all time covered one of the best songs of all time, and I don’t mean Mavis Staples and “The Weight” again. So listen and enjoy.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at

(1) Comment

  1. Judy

    Ike Turner can't take credit for Tins Turner's talent but he was a talented musician himself. He gave Tina a platform to shine. He wrote, produced, and arranged most of there music. He deserves credit. Ike & Tina's version of "Proud Mary" is better than Tina's solo version.

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