The 10 Top Covers of the #1 Hits of 1981

Hall and Oates Covers

Alright, this list has been a long time coming. So why exactly do you care about 1981? Well, there are a number of reasons. Indiana Jones fans will remember that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out in 1981. It was also the year MTV debuted on cable television, still going strong all these years later. Lastly, it was the year that pop icon and former ‘N Sync member Justin Timberlake was born. If you’re feeling totally nostalgic, you can check out the list we did for 1980.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and you’re totally into reading this list, let’s get to the first hit of 1981.

Kool & The Gang – Celebration (By Red)

We’re suckers for covers in which one guy plays 50 different instruments and covers every part. That’s why we picked this cover by Italian musician Red. He’s like the Rainman of music. He knows how to play everything. Drums? Got it. Guitar? No sweat. Vocals? Hells to the yeah. Motherfucking Trumpets? Like the second coming of Louis Armstrong.

Kool & The Gang consist of like 53 members (Ok ok only 12) but this guy is able to do all of their jobs. Granted, it’d probably be pretty tough to do all of this at once in a live setting, but it’s still incredibly impressive. Add in the fact that English isn’t even his first language and you’ve got yourself a seriously dedicated musician.

Dolly Parton – 9 to 5 (By Andrew Page)

Even back in 1981, Dolly Parton knew exactly how the 9 to 5 workers of today feel. Originally written for film, the song went on to be a smash, winning two Grammy awards, one for “Best Country Song” and another for “Best Country Vocal Performance, Female.” Additionally, Parton received an Academy award nomination, an honor that few musicians can claim.

English singer-songwriter Andrew Page decided to pay homage to Dolly with his cover of the track. There are often unexpected results when a male vocalist takes on a female vocalist’s song and vice-versa, but when it works it sounds fantastic, as is the case with Andrew’s cover. Andrew also has his own album of original material. Take a listen if you get the chance.

REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You (By Lisa Loeb)

Here’s a song that’s been covered by Keith Urban, Lisa Loeb, Tenacious D, and the Deftones to name a few. It’s just that great of a power ballad. There are certainly many middle-aged men who found themselves belting this out in the shower in their younger days. Hell, they probably still sing it.

Topping the charts in March 1981, it was REO Speedwagon’s first #1 hit. Lisa Loeb is no stranger to having a #1 hit herself, having charted in 1994 with her song, “Stay (I Miss You).” The hit made her the first artist to ever reach #1 without being signed to a record label, with the second coming just recently with Macklemore and his song, “Thrift Shop.” In any case, we love this version of the REO Speedwagon classic, featuring Dweezil Zappa on guitar, although we do miss the backing vocals that help make the chorus of the song so grand.

Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List (By Family Crest)

Is there anyone who doesn’t like Hall & Oates? Huh? You mean there are people who don’t like Hall & Oates? We don’t trust those kinds of people. We think they’re great, especially the song “Kiss On My List”. This song was actually their second number 1 hit (after “Rich Girl”) and topped the charts for the last few weeks of April.

Well, the cover we’re featuring is by The Family Crest, a San Francisco based indie rock band who were commissioned by Grey’s Anatomy (Yes, the TV show) to cover the Hall & Oates classic. If you’re a Grey’s Anatomy fan with an eidetic memory, you might remember the track from Season 10 Episode 16. If not, you might want to go back and watch the episode to catch the track. Either way, we love Hall & Oates and we also love this modernized cover of it.

Sheena Easton – Morning Train (9 to 5) (By Larry L)

Originally, the song “Morning Train (9 to 5)” was just named “9 to 5″, but then Dolly Parton came along and messed things up. In order to avoid confusion with the Dolly Parton song named “9 to 5″ and also popularized in 1981, Sheena Easton’s record label decided it’d be better to change the name of the song. Well, looks like they were right because the song ended up topping the charts for the first half of May 1981.

The cover we’re featuring is a piano cover by Larry L. Prior to performing the cover Larry makes a good point that you simply can’t change the gender of certain songs. Easton’s track wouldn’t be the same if things were changed to a man’s perspective. Now that we’ve told you what Larry says, you can skip to 1:30 of the video to watch this excellent cover!

Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl (By Frickin’ A)

It really doesn’t matter how old you are or where you live, you know the song “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. After all, the song won Springfield a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. In fact, VH1 placed it at #20 on it’s list of the 100 Greatest Songs of the 80s.

The cover of it that we’re featuring is actually one of the popular ones on the list. You might have even heard it before. The band covering it is Frickin’ A (that’s actually their name) and were actually featured on the Now! 18 compilation with this cover. In fact, that made them the only independent artists to ever be featured in the Now! series. Their music video for the cover, which features Rick Springfield himself, received regular rotation on VH1 in 2005. Listen and see if you remember it!

Diana Ross & Lionel Richie – Endless Love (By Yacob)

We certainly had plenty of options when trying to pick a good cover for this one. After all, this chart topper has been covered by Mariah Carey & Luther Vandross, as well as country crooner Kenny Rogers. However, we decided to go another route and feature an incredibly talented artist with a little less name recognition.

It’s really almost criminal that this video has less then 2,000 views. The man has a hell of a voice. It certainly isn’t easy to do Lionel Richie and Diana Ross justice, but we really think Yacob did. There’s a bit of a talking intro to the video, so skip to 2:21 to get right to it!

Christopher Cross – Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) (By Mark Petalcorin)

Back in 1980, Christopher Cross had his first #1 his with the song “Sailing”. The theme song for the movie arthur would go on to be his second (and unfortunately last) #1 hit. Unless you’re over 30, you probably don’t remember the movie featuring Liza Minelli, but the theme song for it earned Cross an Academy Award.

The cover we’re featuring is by singer-songwriter Mark Petalcorin, who boasts over 450,000 video views. What we can say is that Mark is an absolute guitar whiz, the man is legit. Also, he has a lightness to his voice that lends itself perfectly to his acoustic rendition.

Hall & Oates – Private Eyes (By Brian Fitzy)

Seeing as this is the second Hall & Oates track on the list, it’s clear they had a monstrous year in 1981. We’ve already told you about them, so there’s not much more to say. What we can say is that Brian Fitzy is really really freaking great. Seriously. Dude is amazing. Not only is he a great singer, but he’s a tremendous violinist. We’re 99.99% sure you’ll love this. The video is a ton of fun to watch to. Seriously. Just watch it already.

Olivia Newton John – Physical (By Goldfrapp)

If you’re looking for a cover that’s just completely different from the original, here you go. Strip away the quirky fun of “Physical” and what do you get? A dark sensual take on the song. Goldfrapp is an English electronic duo specializing in a trip-hop sound. They’ve done exactly that to this Olivia Newton John classic.

If it’s possible to make a song that Billboard name the #1 Sexiest Song of All Time, we think Goldfrapp has done it.

There you go! There are your 10 Top Covers of 1981 #1 Songs! Let us know in the comments below which ones are your favorites and if we left any out!

Author: Nader Ahmadnia

Nader Ahmadnia is a writer for Progressive Man Magazine, an online music publication that features new and emerging talent.

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