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We are so happy to be celebrating Black Music Month here at Black America Web, allowing us the chance to celebrate Black music in various ways throughout the month of June.

Our latest editorial is all about R&B cover songs, which seems to be a sweet spot in the recording booth for some of our favorite soul singers. Hey, why have one version of a hit record when you can have a few!

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The key to pulling off a good cover song really comes down to a few factors. Is it a direct remake? Are you speeding it up into an uptempo version? Are you slowing it down for a more stripped rendition? Is it an acoustic version now?

In short, there’s so many ways that you can pull off a cover song that’s both respected and respectful. Thankfully you have these 10 R&B singers as examples for how to do it the right way.

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From Aaliyah’s amazing 1994 rendition of The Isley Brother’s 1976 timeless album cut “At Your Best,” to Frank Ocean’s spin on a classic tune from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, take a look at 10 outstanding examples of standout R&B cover songs over the years:

 

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10 Unforgettable R&B Cover Songs From Black Singers  was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

1. “A House Is Not a Home” – Luther Vandross (1981)

Originally Sung By:
Dionne Warwick (1964)

Luther and Dionne are legends in their own right, so there’s definitely not a “better” version between the two. However, that Vandross voice is simply unbeatable.

2. “I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston (1992)

Originally Sung By:
Dolly Parton (1974)

It’s safe to say that if Whitney covered your song, it’s hers now! All respect to the country queen Dolly P, though.

3. “Sweet Thing” – Mary J. Blige (1992)

Originally Sung By:
Rufus & Chaka Khan (1975)

There’s something about the raspiness in MJB’s voice that absolutely fits the progression of “Sweet Thing.” It’s like she was born to cover this song!

4. “At Your Best (You Are Love)” – Aaliyah (1994)

Originally Sung By:
The Isley Brothers (1976)

Even the Isleys will admit that late R&B queen Aaliyah made the definitive version of “At Your Best.” Baby Girl simply made it perfect with her heavenly falsetto — she was only 15 years old at that!

5. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” – Lauryn Hill [with Fugees] (1996)

Originally Sung By:
Lori Lieberman (1972)
Honorable Mention: Roberta Flack (1973)

Major props to Lori Lieberman for putting this tune on the map, but we’d be remiss to not give Roberta Flack her flowers as well for making what many consider to be the most-recognized version of this song. Overall though, Mary definitely gave it a more modern spin for a new generation. 

6. “This Woman’s Work” – Maxwell (1997; 2001)

Originally Sung By:
Kate Bush (1989)

Although Maxwell did a respectable version for his 1997 MTV Unplugged album, the 2001 remake of the remake is what puts people in their feelings the most. Anybody got tissue?

7. “Wishin’ On a Star” – Beyoncé (2004)

Originally Sung By:
Rose Royce (1977)

This outstanding cover definitely superseded the Tommy Hilfiger campaign it was originally made for. Only a queen like King Bey could accomplish such a feat.

8. “Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)” – Erykah Badu (2010)

Originally Sung By:
Sylvia Striplin (1981)

Leave it to Badu to make one of the most original covers ever, almost to the point that it became its own song completely. Gotta love that Baduizm!

9. “Rolling In the Deep (The Aretha Version)” – Aretha Franklin (2014)

Originally Sung By:
Adele (2010)

Usually it’s the newbie who covers the soul icon, but in this case it was the other way around. You rarely see legends pay tribute to the younger stars who were inspired by them, so we absolutely give r-e-s-p-e-c-t to Aretha for proving the late Queen of Soul was welcoming to her successors.

10. “Moon River” – Frank Ocean (2018)

Originally Sung By:
Audrey Hepburn / Henry Mancini (1961)
Honorable Mention: Jerry Butler (1961)

Shoutout to Frank for proving classic cover songs can still be created today! We’re sure he made both Audrey Hepburn and soul-singer-turned-politician Jerry Butler quite proud with this one.