Famous songs that started off as country songs

Many popular songs have country roots! Check out these hits that you might not know are covers of country songs.

Janis Joplin: ‘Me & Bobby McGee’

Joplin recorded her version of “Me and Bobby McGee” just days before her death in 1970. It was included on her album Pearl and became her only number-one hit. Prolific singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson penned the track, naming the character mentioned after a studio secretary Barbara “Bobbie” McKee. It was originally recorded by Roger Miller (of “King of the Road” fame), as well as Gordon Lightfoot, who helped take it to number one on the Canadian country charts. Kristofferson didn’t know Joplin had recorded the song until after her death.

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“Act Naturally”: The Beatles

The B-side of “Yesterday”, “Act Naturally” was penned by country singer/songwriter Johnny Russell. It was originally released by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos and went to number one on the Billboard Country singles chart in 1963. It has also been covered by country stars Loretta Lynn and Dwight Yoakam.

“I Will Always Love You”: Whitney Houston

"Whitney Houston in Germany 1999" by tm_10001 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The show-stopping ballad from Houston’s 1992 film “The Bodyguard” became the singer’s signature song, but it was written by country music queen Dolly Parton. Parton wrote the song in 1973 as a goodbye to her business partner and mentor after she decided to go solo. She later said that she wrote both the ballad and her hit “Jolene” on the same day!

Parton hoped that the Godmother of Soul, Patti LaBelle, would record a version of the song. Labelle didn’t end up taking the song, but another huge star was interested in it – Elvis. Parton’s recording of the song was number one on the country charts in 1974, and she was interested in letting Presley cover it until she found out that it was standard for songwriters to sign over half of the publishing rights for any song Elvis recorded. Parton refused.

“I Swear”: All-4-One

R&B boy band All-4-One topped the charts in 1994 with their hit “I Swear”, taking the top spot for 11 consecutive weeks. However, the song has country roots – it was released by country singer John Michael Montgomery only one year prior. All-4-One and Montgomery teamed up to release a new duet version of the song for their 2015 album “Twenty+”.

“Ring of Fire”: Johnny Cash

One of Cash’s most iconic hits was actually a cover of a country song released by his sister-in-law, Anita Carter, and co-written by his wife, June Carter Cash. Carter’s version didn’t become a hit, but after Cash heard it, he said he had a dream about the song being accompanied by “Mexican horns”, and went with that vision for the song.

You can learn songs from Johnny Cash with Fret Zealot!


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