I’m sure that all of you recall a little ditty called “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. I distinctly remember seeing the video for it for the first time late one Friday night in 2006 on The Wedge and being drawn in and mesmerized by the Rorschach style ink blots that formed and re-formed images of the performers and such. And man, was that song catchy. I immediately went on the hunt for the album on which it appeared, “St. Elsewhere”, and learned that Gnarls Barkley was the duo of R&B wonder vocalist CeeLo Green and Midas touch uberproducer Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse). Of course, “Crazy” went ubiquitous and intergalactic as a hit but the rest of the album was quite excellent too – a compelling collection of genre-bending and genre-defying tracks – and produced two more singles, the last being the double A-side release of “Who cares?” and this very song, a cover of Violent Femmes’ “Gone daddy gone”*
Now, to close these posts, I typically give my opinion (and solicit your own) on whether I prefer the original or the cover but I am going to get this out of the way right now. Though the cover is quite excellent, I am going with the original here. It appears as track nine on the iconic self-titled debut album by the Milwaukee based trio. It is just over three minutes of punk and folk mashup and with a jazz-type song structure, including not one but two xylophone solos performed by bassist Brian Ritchie. In fact, I love how each performer takes their turn in the solo spotlight in such a short barn-burner and no one misses a beat.
It is amazing though and a testament to the range of music influences that surged through “St. Elsewhere” that CeeLo and Brian chose to cover a lesser known Violent Femmes tune from over thirty years prior and did so, faithfully. The cover is thirty seconds shorter and using digital sounds rather than organic instruments, managed to even speed it up some. It introduced a whole new audience to a great track and like many successful covers, the new audience fell for it, not necessarily even aware of its origins. And man, does that CeeLo have a voice!
*Interestingly, Violent Femmes’ original is also a cover of sorts, including a complete lyrical verse of Willie Dixon‘s “I just want to make love to you”. Hence, the shared writing credit.
For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.