Sometimes it really blows your mind when you hear a slow cover of a song that you loved when it was a fast hit song. Then, much to your surprise, the slow version also becomes a hit and it even grows on you! Fast song, slow song, same lyrics but with a totally new arrangement … it’s a whole new song. Here are some of the best songs that hit the charts fast and slow:
“Do You Wanna Dance” – Bobby Freeman’s 1958 original is, I believe, the greatest. Bobby was only 17 when he wrote it and his recording hif #5 on the Pop Chart and #2 on R&B. The Beach Boys covered “Do You Wanna Dance” in 1966, with drummer, Dennis Wilson on vocals. It made it to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was unique because Dennis Wilson (considered by many the cutest Beach Boy) rarely sang vocals.
In 1972, Bette Midler came along with a slow and sexy version called “Do You Want To Dance,” which reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bette did a “Divine” job of turning this rocking dance song into a sexy and seductive slow dance number.
“Light My Fire” – The Doors’ 1967 #1 hit “Light My Fire,” featuring sexy Jim Morrison in tight black leather pants, quickly shot to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and continues to rank high as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. It’s #35 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 and VH1 thinks it is #7 of the 100 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In 1968, just a year after it’s original release, blind Puerto Rican singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jose Feliciano made a much slower version of “Light My Fire,” adding a Latin influence of flamenco and Spanish guitar, propelling him to instant international fame. (Jose was already well known in Latin America). The slow version reached #3 and sold over 1 million copies. Not everyone thinks that Jim and those tight pants are responsible for the song’s success. In a 2000 interview, “Light My Fire” songwriter and Doors’ guitarist, Robby Krieger said: “… I think I owe a big debt to Jose Feliciano because he is actually the one, when he did it, everybody started doing it. …”
“You Keep Me Hanging On” – Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard were still just The Supremes when their 1966 song, “You Keep Me Hanging On” became their 8th #1 hit. The Supremes’ version is an uptempo dance number.
The following year, Vanilla Fudge had a slower hard rock, psychedelic version that went to #6. The group’s drummer Carmine Appice said: “… We tried to slow down the song and put the emotion the song should have into it with the hurtin’ kind of feeling the song should have.”
“Hooked on a Feeling” – B.J. Thomas had a #5 pop hit with “Hooked on a Feeling,” with a cool electric sitar intro. The lyrics were written by Mark James, who also wrote that awesome Elvis hit, “Suspicious Minds” and another monster hit, “Always On My Mind” (for Willie Nelson). B.J. Thomas’ “Hooked on a Feeling” has an uptempo perky beat. In 1971, English singer, Jonathan King came out with a cover, mixing “ooga chaka” jungle chants sort of like the 1960’s Johnny Preston hit “Running Bear.” The tempo of King’s huge hit (in Europe) was similar to B.J. Thomas’ original.
In 1974, Swedish pop group, Blue Swede, with Björn Skifs on lead vocals, covered the “ooga chaka” version, but slowed the tempo down some. Somebody thought that was cooler than a sitar intro — Blue Swede’s “Hooked On a Feeling” hit #1. It was also included on the 1992 soundtrack of “Reservoir Dogs.”
“Heard It Through the Grapevine” – Gladys Knight and the Pips’ fast version of “Grapevine” was released by Motown in 1967, hitting #1 (R&B chart) and #2 (pop chart). The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer kept it off the top pop spot. It was Motown’s highest seller up to that time.
Marvin Gaye actually recorded his slower version of “Heard It Through the Grapevine” before Gladys Knight, but it was not released until September 1968 and even then, only on an album. When Marvin’s “Grapevine” became the most requested track, Motown released it as a single. Marvin Gaye’s slow version became an even bigger hit than the first release, and Motown’s highest seller until the Jackson 5 released “I’ll Be There.”
“Sugar, Sugar” – The fictional pop group, The Archies (featuring the voice of Ron Dante) had a #1 hit in 1969 with the bubblegum melody “Sugar, Sugar,” written by singer, songwriter, Andy Kim and songwriter, Jeff Barry. Andy Kim, Toni Wine and Ellie Greenwich provided additional vocals on the hit, with Toni singing the “I’m gonna make your life so sweet” line.
The following year, soul singer, Wilson Pickett had a #25 hit with “Sugar, Sugar” (#4 R&B) with a somewhat slower arrangement that changed the song from a peppy dance tune to a sexy and sensual groove. Wilson Pickett brought unique covers to quite a few pop songs, like the Beatles “Hey Jude,” Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” and Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.” When he covered “You Keep Me Hanging On,” it was more like Vanilla Fudge with soul than the Supreme’s version.
“Breaking Up is Hard to Do” – If there’s a top champ in this article, I nominate prolific singer and songwriter, Neil Sedaka, because he was the singer in both versions of his huge #1 hit and signature song, 1962’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” Neil first released it as snappy pop number.
At the end of 1975, Neil brought it back but this time around, he slowed the tempo down and we got a ballad. The slow version of “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” went to #8 (Top 100) on its second run, and #1 on the Easy Listening Chart. Neil Sedaka is currently getting even more mileage out of “Breaking Up” with a change to one single word in the title and a children’s book called “Waking Up is Hard to Do,” which is bound to be very popular.
You’ve got to hand it to Neil Sedaka, he’s made quite a bundle from not just “Breaking Up,” but the many other songs he wrote and made famous or other singers made famous, like “Love Will Keep Us Together (Captain and Tennille). There’s also a musical currently running in London, entitled “The Neil Sedaka Story: Laughter in the Rain,” another well-known Sedaka hit.
Mediateka.net: Jose Felicano My Guitar