Why Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Springsteen Cover Was Brilliant

Manfred Mann's Springsteen Covers

Photo: Ralf Schulze (rs-foto.de) cc-by-sa [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Artists like Bruce Springsteen are covered all the time by famous rock and roll acts and in many circumstances not so famous rock and roll acts. It seems Springsteen is one of the most covered artists in rock and roll history. Other acts like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Bob Dylan are also covered heavily, but Springsteen attracts a different type of artist who attempts to cover his music. While Springsteen’s compositions are deeply painted in cinematic lyricism, melody, and prose, its Springsteen’s vocals performances that captivate his audiences. Its one of the reasons why bands take a heavy chance on embarrassing themselves when they cover Led Zeppelin songs. Who wants to compete with Robert Plant? You simply cant do it. An artist either must have the same chops; which very few do, (Ann Wilson is the only one who comes to mind) or completely rework the song. That’s pretty much what Led Zeppelin did with old blues songs. So covering songs from a band with an incredible vocalist is risky. When was the last time you heard a band cover a Steve Perry Journey song and make it work?

Covering Springsteen is not an easy thing to do. There have been many Springsteen cover albums released over the years. Most artists stay close to the original arrangement and try to bring their own vocal styles to the table. But for the most part those covers tend to be boring. Whats the point of covering a song if one changes very little? Some may feel that’s it disrespectful to drift too far off. They may argue that it’s no longer a cover, if one can no longer hear the original melody. Or maybe they are just not listening close enough. Jazz artists have made a living interpreting a set of standards that were written during the first half of the twentieth century. From Miles Davis to Mike Stern, the song “Autumn Leaves,” has been covered thousands of times. And jazz fans never get bored of hearing it.

Manfred Mann’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded By The Light,” was hugely successful because Mann did what most jazz artist do, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band made the song their own. The Manfred Mann Earth Band’s cover of “Blinded By The Light,” was one of the most original interpretations and productions of a Springsteen song ever recorded in rock and roll history. Manfred Mann;s Earth Band “Blinded By The Light,” cover stretched the melody as far as one could without erasing it. The band stayed true to the melody but also created new lines of phrasings and harmonies that were simply brilliant. The addition of the keyboard work at the beginning of the song introduced a fresh original arrangement that captivated listeners. But the reason it worked so well, is that despite all the changes Manfred Mann made to the musicality of the sons, Mann’s vocal captured the Springsteen intensity. Not just the Springsteen passion found in Bruce Spingsteen’s vocals, but in his prose. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Springsteen cover version of “Blinded By The Light,” was simply he best cover of a Springsteen song in the past forty years.

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Cover of Springsteen’s “Blinded By The Light,” was not only an artistic success, but also a commercial success. The cover of “Blinded By The Light,” hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February of 1977. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band has also recorded versions of Springsteen’s “Spirit In The Night,” and “For You.” Its interesting that all the Manfred Man Earth Band’s Springsteen covers were taken from Bruce Springsteen’s first album Greetings From Asbury Park.  

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