Friday, 9 October 2015

21 Covers Of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” Rated

There’s a paradox with some artists — the legends who stand apart from so much of pop music history in such a way that would seemingly make their music untouchable. Nina Simone is one of those artists. Her influence is vast, and her voice is so distinctive that it’d seem impossible to have her music rendered in any context outside her own body of work. In Simone, you have an enigmatic and complicated artist with a stunning, idiosyncratic voice. On one hand, maybe that counterintuitively opens up her music. There’s no real way to approach it directly, to try perform it just like she did. Rather, there’s a way you could interpret Simone’s music as a blank canvas; you might reference her work but still need to manipulate the music to fit within your own personal aesthetic. You can’t quite get away with a straight reading of a Nina Simone song (though that’s not to say some of the artists on this list didn’t try). Simone’s voice should make her music wildly intimidating to approach. And yet, her career yielded several standards that have been covered over and over.

Within the rock and indie sphere, the song that looms over pretty much everything else has to be “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” a track written by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell, and Sol Marcus that’s been covered consistently since its release, by a vast array of artists. In 1965, just a year after Simone released her version, the Animals cut their own. It lives on as one of their most recognizable songs; and, as you’ll see with some of the covers below, the Animals’ version sometimes eclipses Simone’s original, as it became the template for most of the notable covers of the song. Fifty years later, people are still covering it — Lana Del Rey’s new album, Honeymoon, closes with her interpretation of the song, which in hindsight feels like an inevitable inclusion in her career. It was just a matter of time until it occurred. On the occasion of LDR’s new version, we’ve compiled a list of notable or curious covers of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” As it goes with these lists, the results are all over the place: from solidly run-of-the-mill, to disappointing, to batshit strange, to so good they’ll level you.


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