Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton
Today, 64 years ago, on August 13, 1952 in Los Angeles, California, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton recorded “Hound Dog” a twelve note blues song that would make an undeniable mark on music history. It was released a year later in February of 1953. The song would go on to spend 14 weeks on the R&B charts, becoming Thornton’s only hit record.
“Hound Dog” is listed as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1956 Elvis Presley recorded his own version of the song. It blew up becoming one of the best selling singles of all time. Over ten million copies were sold. It held the position of number one on the pop, country, and R&B charts for eleven weeks, all at the same damn time. It was a record that took 36 years to break. “Hound Dog” is just one song of many, that was originally recorded by black artists, re-recorded, re-packaged, and arguably made safer, more sterile, by white artists, to wide commercial and critical acclaim. In honor of the original recording of “Hound Dog,” and original track’s everywhere that many don’t know of (and are most times flat out better than the cover) we’ve complied a list, from the U.S. to the U.K., of ten songs that have faced a similar, culturally appropriated, fate. Hounded, if you will.
First on our list is of course:
2. Pat Boone vs Little Richard – “Tutti Frutti”
Little Richard, one of the founders of Rock N Roll, a musical genre that was quickly absorbed and commercialized by white bands, recorded and released “Tutti Frutti” in 1955. The song helped form the burgeoning genre and was archived into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. It’s historic stuff. Pat Boone did a cover of the song, a version that took it down multiple notches, making it sterile and safe for the consumption of white teenagers. The cover peaked higher on the charts than the original.
3. The Kingsmen vs Richard Berry – “Louie Louie”
“Louie Louie” was originally recorded by Richard Berry in 1955 but it’s the hit 1963 version done by the all white group The Kingsmen from Portland, Oregon that is most known. Random fact: The Kingsmen version was investigated for obscenity by the FBI that ended with no prosecution. The track does indeed feature a “Fuck!” after the drummer dropped his sticks. Oh, how the times have changed.
4. Eric Clapton vs Bob Marley – “I Shot The Sheriff”
We all know Bob Marley’s song “I Shot The Sheriff” but it was Eric Clapton’s version that was the most commercially successful, reaching number one of the Billboard Hot 100 and his version – not Marley’s – being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
5. The Rolling Stones vs Eric Donaldson – “Cherry Oh Baby”
In 1971 Donaldson debuted the song “Cherry Oh Baby” to Jamaica’s Independence Festival Song Competition and won. The song spawned multiple covers, the most famous one by The Rolling Stones.
6. The Clash vs Junior Murvin – “Police & Thieves”
Recorded in the musical hub of creativity and innovation that was the studio of Reggae and Dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry, Junior Marvin’s 1976 classic “Police & Thieves” was covered by UK Punk band The Clash and is featured on their eponymous debut studio album.
7. The Clash vs Willie Williams – “Armagideon Time”
Yup. Another Clash record. They love’d to take from reggae. This time around it’s Willie Williams’ 1978 “Armagideon Time.” The song was re-done and released as a B-side on The Clash’s seminal album London Calling. Check it below.
8. KC & The Sunshine Band vs George McCrae – “I Get Lifted”
George McCrae’s 1975 “I Get Lifted” from the album Rock Your Baby was redone or “lifted” by KC & The Sunshine Band.
9. Soft Cell vs Gloria Jones – “Tainted Love”
First recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964, the song didn’t do too well. It wasn’t until nearly twenty years later, in 1981, that the song became a global hit when the duo Soft Cell released a re-work of the track, slowing it down.
10. Robert Palmer vs Cherelle/Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis – “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On”
Released in April of 1984, Cherelle’s “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On.” A year later, Robert Palmer recorded and released a cover, which did better than the original, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The original peaked at 79.