Five Rollicking Rolling Stones Cover Songs

After an 11-year hiatus from the recording studio, The Rolling Stones are releasing a new album - Blue & Lonesome - today. But calling the album "new" is a bit of a stretch. The 25th entry in the band's discography features only covers of songs by Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Memphis Slim and other blues legends that inspired the band.

But it's not the first time the Stones have paid musical tributes to their heroes. They've been offering fans their take on classic tracks ever since they released their first album in 1964. Here's a sampling of their best cover songs.

1. 'I Just Want to Make Love to You'

The Stones broke onto the scene in 1964 thanks in part to their rollicking cover of Willie Dixon's 1954 I Just Want to Make Love to You, which they performed in one of their earliest American television appearances. A guest spot on an episode of The Hollywood Palace variety show.

"They're called The Rolling Stones. I've been rolled while I was stoned myself," host Dean Martin quipped. "So I know what they're singing about."

But their fast, tagged cover left the crooner looking flummoxed.

1. 'Little Red Rooster'

After their breakthrough as one of England's hottest rock groups, the Stones pushed the limits of pop music by releasing a slow, traditional Delta blues number. Their record label thought it would be a disaster since blues standards didn't do well on the pop charts, but the band insisted on taking the risk.

"We wanted to make a statement," Keith Richards later wrote in his memoir Life. "See if you can get that to the top of the charts, motherfucker."

And it did. In fact, the song's success re-popularized the blues and helped some of the Stones' heroes make comebacks.

3. 'Prodigal Son'

By the late 60s, Stones albums contained very few covers as the band focused on writing original hits.

But they did go back to their roots while recording the 1968 record Beggar's Banquet. The album included a cover of Prodigal Son - a gospel song that Robert Wilkins reworked as a blues track in the 1930s.

4. 'Love in Vain'

The following year, the band paid tribute to one of the greatest (and most mythologized) bluesmen of all time - Robert Johnson. The band's 1969 album Let It Bleed includes a reinterpretation of the bitter breakup song Love in Vain. The track was a new discovery for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who decided to do a cover version after hearing it for the first time in 1968.

"'Love in Vain' was such a beautiful song," Richards later said. "Mick and I both loved it...and I started searching around for a different way to present it, because if we were going to record it there was no point in trying to copy the Robert Johnson style or ways and styles. We took it a little bit more country, a little bit more formalized, and Mick felt comfortable with that."

5. 'Champagne and Reefer'

In 1981, the Stones got to live out every musician's dream - playing onstage with one of their idols. In this case, it was bluesman Muddy Waters.

After spotting the Stones in the audience at Buddy Guy's Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago, the singer invited the group to join him on stage for a few songs. The best moment by far was Jagger and Muddy turning Champagne and Reefer into a duet. 

Check it out.

Banner image: aka Francois aka Mister Pink/ 


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