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Cover Battles: Marvin Gaye vs. James Taylor – “How Sweet It Is”

By: Alex Marcheschi

James Taylor may very well be the King of Covers. Don’t let him get a hold of your song, because he might just snatch it up and make it his own. I bet there are a lot of people out there who think “How Sweet It Is” is actually a JT original. But nope, it was originally recorded by the legendary Marvin Gaye in 1964.

So, whose version is better? Let’s get into it.

The Original 

To put it very simply, I’m just not cultured enough to enjoy the original. My first taste of this song was James Taylor’s version and that’s the one I hold near and dear. I bet if our grandparents had to choose, they’d pick Marvin, but I simply can’t. It’s obviously a historically great song, but I can barely get through it. Sorry Marv.

The Cover

Smooooth. Wait, maybe I actually just prefer this version because I’m white. Yeah, that’s probably it. Why do I picture Robert De Niro dancing with his daughter at her wedding to this song? I don’t know, but I do.

Winner: James Taylor. Open and shut case.



1 Comment »

  1. Esteemed Writer,

    I cannot agree more with your being white.

    I cannot agree more with your assessment, James Taylor is the “King of Covers”.

    To examine a partial list of 237 songs covered by JT please refer to the lengthy list at the end of this comment. Marvin Gaye covered 0 songs. How many times have Marvin Gaye songs been covered? Marvin Gaye songs have been covered 437 times.

    Let’s recap.

    1. The writer is white.

    2. The writer has accurately portrayed James Taylor as a glorified coffee house performer who hit it big while simply sucking the soul out of previously created art. I guess this qualifies JT as the “King of Covers”. James Taylor is a heck of a musician. One of the most under-rated acoustic guitarist of the modern era. He was Dave Matthews before there was a Dave Matthews.

    3. The writer is a Cincinnatian. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting the writer. I played “Brown Eyed Girl” for the writer. I asked him, “Writer, who originally wrote and performed this song?” The writer replied, “Van Morrison”.

    4. The writer knows his music. How many who hail from the Queen City would have responded, “Jimmy Buffet”? Hmmmmmmm……………..??????????????????

    5. Ergo, the writer’s opinion regarding “How Sweet It Is” is valid. James Taylor deftly manages to make the song his own.

    Don’t get me wrong PUPpy people, I love Cincinnati. I can’t stand Parrot-heads, or eating Cincinnati Style Chili for any meal; except, 4th Meal, that is, when I may have been over-served.

    Cincinnati is the only town where Jimmy Buffet was able sell out a venue such as Riverbend for 3 consecutive nights. We’re the only city in the country where Jimmy Buffet has achieved this. I’m not from Cincinnati, I love Cincinnati; and, there is something in this town’s water supply, and it ain’t lead.

    It’s not like I’m stocking up for the Zombie apocalypse, but, it wouldn’t surprise me if my neighbors were doing so.

    I leave my fellow PUPpies with the following.

    Is covering or sampling a form of forgery, fraud, or theft? Those artist who cover songs rarely disclose or publicly give credit to the original artists. They just put their pants on one leg at a time and after their pants are on, they make gold records.

    Back to the Zombie apocalypse. I do sit along a watchtower of sorts. I sit on it along with my pals Dave Matthews, Jimi Hendrix and who’s that guy who comes over sometimes……………..? You know the guy with the weird hair, and does that creepy IBM commercial with “Watson”……….you know that guy who was in the The Travelling Wilberries………that guy who had a kid who was in the Wallflowers…………..ohhhhhhh yeah…….Bob Dylan. We sit all along the watchtower.

    Much Love & Two Fingers,

    Big PUPpy



    *Songs Covered by James Taylor (237 Songs)-Below are the 1st 25 of the 237

    1 How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) (Marvin Gaye cover)
    2 You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King cover)
    3 Up on the Roof (Carole King cover)
    4 Everyday (Buddy Holly cover)
    5 Handy Man (Jimmy Jones cover)
    6 Knock on Wood (Eddie Floyd cover)
    7 Wild Mountain Thyme (Francis McPeake cover)
    8 The Promised Land (Chuck Berry cover)
    9 (I’m a) Road Runner (Jr. Walker & The All Stars cover)
    10 Not Fade Away (The Crickets cover)
    11 Some Days You Gotta Dance (Dixie Chicks cover)
    12 Get a Job (The Silhouettes cover)
    13 The Twist (Hank Ballard and The Midnighters cover)
    14 The Water Is Wide ([traditional] cover)
    15 Wichita Lineman (Jimmy Webb cover)
    16 Hound Dog (Big Mama Thornton cover)
    17 Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ (Rodgers & Hammerstein cover)
    18 It’s Growing (The Temptations cover)
    19 In the Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett cover)
    20 Why Baby Why (George Jones cover)
    21 Western Plain (When I Was a Cowboy) (Lead Belly cover)
    22 Whiskey Before Breakfast (Norman Blake cover)
    23 Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm ([traditional] cover)
    24 Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran cover)
    25 Twelve Gates to the City ([traditional] cover)

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