A French Canadian singing in Spanish, a song originally written in English, based
on music stolen from a Russian classical composer. Now that’s a cover song! In 1996,
Celine Dion remade Eric Carmen’s 1975 hit “All By Myself.” Eric Carmen’s original
song turned out not to be so original. He borrowed heavily from the second movement
of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Opus 18. Carmen incorrectly
assumed that the song was in the public domain because Rachmaninoff had been dead
for 30 years.
With a five octave range and a voice that is credible in French, English, and Spanish,
how could Celine Dion not be number one on our list? She could sing the alphabet
and we would like it. And, when Celine Dion sang “Sola Otra Vez” we liked it a lot.
In the past, Celine Dion’s critics complained that she was “more voice than heart.”
By singing in a romance language like Spanish, which is closely related to her native
French, and not the harsher sounding Germanic based English, Celine Dion conveyed
emotion and sentimentality not heard in the English version. Celine Dion brought
an amazing voice, and Spanish gave that voice a “heart.” For giving Celine Dion’s
amazing voice a more heartfelt feeling, “Sola Otra Vez” is the Spanish Version’s
number one Spanish cover of an American Song.
Note: Cue approximately 2:10, for a good example of Rachmaninoff’s influence on Celine
Dion’s version of “Sola Otra Vez.”
Isn’t it enough that Beyonce is beautiful, has vocal chords of gold, her dancing
would make Bob Fosse proud, and she is married to Jay Z?
Apparently, its not enough. She also speaks Spanish. She was exposed to Spanish growing
up in her native Houston, Texas, and later as an adult enlisted help of a language
coach to produce a string of Spanish language covers of her songs. By all accounts
her accent is pretty good.
The Spanish Version is an internet radio station that celebrates music’s ability
to cut across cultures. With this in mind, Ottmar Liebert personifies the idea of
many different cultural influences combining into a sum that is greater than any
individual part. German born by a Hungarian mother, and Chinese, German Father, Ottmar
grew up traveling between Europe and Asia. Envision a man that eats his spaetzle
with chopsticks, and washes down cabbage stuffed spring rolls with a Dreher Classic,
enroute to the Buddhist temple, and you will have some idea of the extreme multiculturalism
that is Ottmar Liebert. …But just in case any doubt remains, Ottmar, our German born,
Hungarian, Asian, now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is at the forefront of
the noveau flamenco style of music. With his band Luna Negra, he lands in the Spanish
Version’s top ten with a remake of Marvin Gaye’s timeless 1971 lament on the environment
Mercy, Mercy Me (Ecology), or Ten Piedad de Mi.
M-Clan is a Spanish rock band that was formed in Murica, Spain in 1992. The lead
singer, Carlos Tarque is a Spanish speaking vocal doppleganger for Rod Stewart. The
band covered Rod Stewart’s classic “Wake Up Maggie.” In Spanish the song is called,
Magie Dispierta. M-Clan also does a good cover of the Kink’s, “Lola.”
Really? They remade it in Spanish. Yep! And, it was big. The English version became
an object of derision thanks in no small part to Billy Ray Cyrus’ mullet and his
use of baby talk. Fact: No grown man should ever be heard to speak the words “Achy
Breaky.” Fortunately, Kampesino Musical ditched the baby talk for the more palatable
“No Rompas Mas.” Absent the bad hair and the poor word choice, the Spanish version
of the song is catchy without being plagued by the embarrassment that is Billy Ray
Before Castro and Communism, there existed in Havana an institution called the Buena
Vista Social Club. The politics and economics of the Cold War brought about the end
of the club. Fifty years after its closure, American musician, Ry Cooder sought out
the club’s house band and recorded an album of their music. For the second time in
its long history, The Buena Vista Social Club became an international sensation based
on taut musicianship and mastery of the Afro-Cuban sound that is unique to their
island home. With renewed fame, came an opportunity to partner with top artists from
around the world as part of a charitable project to save the environment. This project
is known as Rhythms del Mundo, and is a gold mine of Latin infused cover versions
of American and English pop songs.
The project has produced several albums and has involved a variety of artist including
Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Nirvana, U2, Jack Johnson, Artic Monkeys, Radiohead, and Amy
Winehouse just to name a few. The albums contain some brilliant tracks. For instance,
many people enjoy the addition of Latin flavors to Coldplay’s,”Clocks”, or Maroon
5’s, “She Will be Loved?” Both of those are excellent, although neither deviates
too far from the original English version. Coco Freeman took a risk with his cover
of Franz Ferdinand’s, “Dark of the Matinee.” He went “full” Spanish, and came up
with something both familiar and new. And, here at TheSpanishVersion, that’s the
way we like it.
(Note: Rhythms del Mundo actually produced two versions of Dark of the Matinee, one
in English and one in Spanish. The Spanish language version is on the album Rhythms
del Mundo, Cuba. The English version is on the Rhythms del Mundo, Revival, and is
called the Chili Spice Remix)
Number 8 on our list is a Spanish song interpreted from the most famous rap of all
time…well, almost an “interpretation.”
By the summer of 2002, enough time had passed since 1994′s infamous La Macarena,
that the world was ready for another Europop dance craze. Enter Las Ketchups, a group
of four sisters, all daughters of renowned flamenco guitarist El Tomate (The Tomato).
Thats right, the group’s name is a horrible, horrible pun. Fortunately, the girls
could sing well enough to distract from their poor choice of a band name…and, oh
yea, it didn’t hurt that they were all beautiful.
Their hit Asereje, borrowed its chorus from The Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 breakthrough
hip hop song “Rapper’s Delight.” Only problem, the girls didn’t bother to translate
the words into Spanish…nor did they sing the lyrics in the original English. Instead,
they sang what they “thought” the English words sounded like to a person that speaks
only Spanish…makes perfect sense right?
As it turns out, there are actually phrases to describe this type of nonsensical
“translation.” ”Soramimi” is a Japanese term for foreign lyrics that are misheard
to sound similar to words in the hearer’s native tongue. In English, this same idea
is captured by the word “mondegreen”; a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase,
or song lyric, due to near homophony. Both “soramimi” and “mondegreen” are types
of homophonic translation <insert joke here>.
About the origins of the songs, Las Ketchups explained that as little girls in their
native Spain, they had sung along to Rapper’s Delight without understanding the words.
When they created Asereje they just plugged in the chorus the way they remembered
Note: There are dances moves that go along with the words. The video for the song
only features three of the four sisters. The fourth was pregnant at the time it was
A staple of classic rock and adult contemporary radio stations since its release
in 1977, the Eagle’s overplayed masterpiece about the perils of hedonism was ready
for a reboot by 1988 when it was covered by the Gipsy Kings. The original already
had a Latin flavor which the Gipsy Kings capitalized on by adding more prominent
flamenco guitars and Spanish lyrics. This song is a wonderful example of how a Spanish
cover can amplify and refresh the spirit of a song while remaining true to the original.
Interest in the Gipsy Kings’ rendition of the song was renewed after it was featured
in the movie “The Big Lebowski.”
To out emote the Smith’s lead singer Morrissey would seem an almost impossible task,
and yet Mikel Erentxun appears to have upped the emotive quotient to eleven with
his Spanish language cover of the classic, “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”.
In the English version, Morrissey proclaims that being run over by a ten ton double
decker bus and “being killed next to you” would be a privilege. Senor Erentxun reinterprets
the phrase as “morir por ti sería un ambicioso final,” or “dying by you would be
an ambitious end.” …Okay, on second thought no one will ever out emote Morrissey…but,
like German is a natural fit for Heavy Metal, the romantic sound of Spanish seem
to lend itself to the proto-emo stylings of the Smiths.
Although not a cover song in the strict sense because it is not a word for word translation,
Selena’s “Foto y Recuerdos” is clearly inspired by the Pretender’s “Back on the Chain
Gang,” which in turn echoes Sam Cooke. At their worst, Spanish cover songs are poorly
translated Karaoke, and at their best they build upon the work of their predecessors.
”Fotos y Recuerdos” is a great example of a derivative work that is inspired by,
yet completely different from the original.
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1. All By Myself
3. Dark of the Matinee
4. Hotel California
7. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
8. Rapper’s Delight
9. Mercy, Mercy Me (Ecology)
10. Achy Breaky Heart
5. Wake Up Maggie
2. Back on the Chain Gang
LOS DIEZ / TOP TEN
Trying to compile a top ten list of the best Spanish cover songs is hard because
there are so many good options. In developing the list below, we tried to select
songs from across several different genres, and tracks that we felt illustrated successful
examples of the different types of covers songs that exists from original artists
covering themselves to reinterpretations of songs into Spanish that are very different
from the original English. Read further to learn more about the songs that we selected.
Click the album covers to listen to a sample provided by Amazon.com.