Appreciating all that makes America special

Johnny Rivers

Johnny Rivers,

Johnny Rivers made a living doing covers of other people’s songs – but in an original way. Uploaded by

Okay, Johnny Rivers was the King of Covers. Granted. But does every recording act have to only sing original songs? What about the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout”, isn’t that better than the Isley Brothers’ version? Bruce Springsteen’s “Because the Night” better than Patty Smith’s? Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” better than Bob Dylan’s?

Johnny Rivers,

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What’s ironic is that before he broke through as a singer, Johnny Rivers (nee John Henry Ramistella) had substantial success as a songwriter. But he knew the songs that worked with his voice, and it didn’t matter if others had done them first. Here are his records that made the top 20:

  • “Memphis (#2, 1964)
  • “Maybelline” (#12, 1964)
  • “Mountain of Love” (#9, 1964)
  • “Midnight Special” (#20, 1965)
  • “Seventh Son” (#7, 1965)
  • “Secret Agent Man” (#3, 1966)
  • “(I Washed My Hands in) Muddy Water” (#19, 1966)
  • “Poor Side of Town” (#1, 1966)
  • “Baby, I Need Your Lovin'” (#3, 1967)
  • “The Tracks of My Tears” (#10, 1967)
  • “Summer Rain” (#14, 1967)
  • “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” (#6, 1972)
  • “Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancin’)” (#10, 1977)

A pretty impressive catalog. Rivers is still being held out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though, since many don’t consider his work to be original. But his mixture of a “live” sound and his unique vocals convince me that he belongs.

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