Who first recorded “Somebody To Love?” Those of you who answered Jefferson Airplane….you’re wrong! It was Grace Slick’s former band, The Great Society that first recorded the song. Her brother in law, Darby Slick wrote the Somebody to Love. So yes, Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love covers another band, albeit one fronted by Grace Slick. When the Airplane’s female vocalist (Signe Anderson) left the group, Grace Slick took her place and took a few Great Society songs with her (including Somebody To Love and White Rabbit).
But how did the original sound? The Great Society’s version of Somebody to Love features a slower tempo than the Airplane version, and less electric guitars. Slick’s slurs her words to a much mellower grove than that found in the Airplane’s version. The Great Society’s version of Somebody to love feels perfect for listening on a summers day while contemplating stars and flowers and other hippy things.
This begs the question: Did Jefferson Airplane ruin Somebody To Love? And how do other Somebody To Love Covers measure to either version? Everyone from the Ramones to Jim Carrey has covered Somebody to Love. Do any of these covers take Somebody to Love to another level?
Cover – Jefferson Airplane (1967)
Jefferson Airplane’s version of Somebody to Love takes off right away (no waiting on the runway). We’re greeted immediately by a fast tempo and Slick’s amazing, strong vocals. A couple seconds later, the guitars make a smashing entrance. This – this was the sound that was being birthed all over the rock scene. Psychedelic rock, the precursor to hard rock, metal, punk, and pretty much any genre of rock that features loud guitars. While Jefferson Airplane didn’t invent this amazing sound – Somebody To Love helped to popularize psychedelic rock.
Jefferson Airplane’s version of Somebody to Love features a sort of urgency in the fast paced and loud psychedelic rock sounds. The change in style from the Great Society’s version actually changes the meaning of the song. Jefferson Airplane Somebody To Love signifies that something is wrong with the song’s subject. Something has to change in their life. “You” better find somebody to love! This is not an option!
Jefferson Airplane takes a hippy dippy song and paints it with exclamation points (while they steal the original artist’s lead vocalist). In doing so – Jefferson Airplane not only makes the song amazing, but also brings a new interpretation to Somebody To Love.
Cover – Mother’s Finest (1979)
Mother’s Finest gives Somebody to Love a funk/disco feel. The tempo matches Jefferson Airplane’s version. Of course, as a funk band, there’s a ton of guitars, with an extra focus on the bass guitar(s). Mother’s Finest gives us a very danceable version of Somebody to Love. But does it have the intensity that makes the Jefferson Airplane version great? Yes….kind of.
Mother’s Finest doesn’t portray the urgency to find “somebody to love” right away. However, as the song progresses, the intensity builds. This especially happens after the second chorus, when a bridge of “Somebody yeah-ah ah ah” repeats itself with a downbeat landing on the “body” part of the line. Mix in an electric guitar solo later in the song, and several vocal overtures – by the end of Mother’s Finest’s version, we get it! We need to find somebody to love!
The funk powered Mother’s Finest version of Somebody to Love gets the song.
Cover – In Tua Nua (1986)
Irish rock band, In Tua Nua starts their cover of Somebody to Love with an instrumental section that sounds like the beginning of an epic journey. Strings, synths, and eventually traditionally rock instruments dominate the track for the first minute of the song. We don’t even realize we’re listening to Somebody to Love until about a minute fifteen into the song, when the vocalist starts singing. The instrumentation continues to dominate the track, with the vocals only serving as a secondary sound. Most of the time, the instruments don’t even follow any known version of Somebody to Love.
While the In Tua Nua version of Somebody to Love does not show the urgency found in the Jefferson Airplane version. Again – this song is an epic journey. In Tua Nua replaces the urgency with adventure and gives us a quest to find somebody to love.
In Tua Nua sees Somebody To Love as a quest, and not as an urgent call.
Cover – Great White (1989)
80s hair rockers Great White starts their cover of Somebody to Love with a few bars from Greensleeves, a beautiful and surprising addition to the song. After a few seconds, Great White breaks into a no holds barred, late 80s hard rock rendition of an already loud song. So, that is to say, Great White rocks Somebody to Love harder than ever!
While the cover (asides from the intro) sounds fairly vanilla, the one thing that really sticks out is the performance by Great White. The instruments are on point, and those vocals! Mark Kendall has a very similar range to Grace Slick, and he uses it well.
Great White starts Somebody to Love with something beautiful, and gives us hard rocking perfection throughout the course of the song
Cover – Rez Band (1991)
Rez Band (aka Resurrection Band) were a christian hard rock / metal (and sometimes blues) band fronted by husband and wife duo Glenn and Wendi Kaiser. Rez band’s cover of the Somebody to Love sees the urgency in Somebody to Love first presented by Jefferson Airplane. However, being an evangelistic group, Rez Band sees that somebody to love as Jesus Christ.
Rez Band even amplifies the urgency by changing one word. Instead of “And your mind, your mind / Is so full of red,” Rez Band sings “And your mind, your mind/ is so full of dread.” So now this message isn’t just urgent – the emptiness of not having somebody to love is terrifying and dire!
Of course, Rez band preaches at the end of the song – just so we know what they mean with this version. I feel this weakens the message Rez Band wants to portray as we already know what Rez Band wants to say with Somebody to Love. Meh…whatever.
On a musical note. Rez Band has always been top notch in their musical abilities, and they bring all that talent with them on Somebody to Love.
Cover – The Ramones (1994)
The Somebody To Love cover by the Ramones sounds exactly like I imagined it would sound. Right down to Joey Ramone’s snarky, dismissive vocals. The guitars are loud and jumbled, just like pretty much every other Ramones song. That’s not to dismiss The Ramones version at all. The Ramones play a decent cover of Somebody To Love.
So, what about the urgency found in other versions? Well that part is missing. Instead, The Ramones substitute love. Love for the song itself. This cover of Somebody to Love appears on The Ramones’ only cover album, an album that was a tribute to their favorite musicians of the 60s. I can picture little Dee Dee and Joey hearing Somebody to Love for the first time, and having an transcendental experience. Like I mentioned earlier, psychedelic rock paved the way for several genres of rock, including punk.
So while The Ramones sound dismissive and uncaring about Somebody to Love, that’s just the way they sound. The Ramones loved Jefferson Airplane, and they loved Somebody to Love. We may not know how much Somebody to Love shaped The Ramones sound, but I’m guessing there was quite an impact.
The Ramones turn Somebody To Love into a song about finding something to love – that something is loud, unapologetic rock and roll.
Cover – W.A.S.P. (1996)
Shock rock and heavy metal band W.A.S.P. nail Somebody to Love. Hard. And fast. In fact, those are the two words I would use to describe the W.A.S.P. cover – hard and fast.
Of all the covers on this list, W.A.S.P. does Somebody to Love louder and faster than anyone. Their cover is so loud, so hard, and so fast, we almost feel afraid. We feel a sense of dread – and not the dread we feel with the Rez Band’s version. This dread comes with a sense of hopelessness.
That being said, the harder, faster, and louder cover of Somebody to Love loses its intensity. Maybe it’s the vocals, maybe it’s just too loud and hard and fast. However, this feeling of dread makes up for the loss of instenity. This feeling of hopelessness…that’s the interpretation of W.A.S.P.
To W.A.S.P., Somebody to Love is not a cry to find someone, but a dirge of loneliness.
Cover – Jim Carrey (1996)
Essentially Jim Carrey’s cover of Somebody to Love is a karaoke scene from “The Cable Guy.” Usually I wouldn’t include something of this caliber, however Carrey’s singing! Sure, Carrey is trying to satirize Grace Slick’s vocals. But that vibrato! I would love to hear Carrey do a serious version of Somebody to Love with that vibrato!
While comedic in effect, Jim Carrey’s Somebody To Love should not be ignored.
Cover – Boogie Pimps (2002)
Technically a remix, Boogie Pimps gives us a seriously trippy version of Somebody to Love. One you can dance to, repeating and delaying the first line of the chorus to “Don’t you want, don’t you want want, don’t you want, don’t you want want,” we get an odd feeling. We want to progress, but the music won’t let us! And this is how the Boogie Pimps create a sense of urgency.
Granted, a cheap parlor trick – but still an interesting listen. I will say the video is disturbing. Babies jumping out of an airplane, trying to land on an underwear clad model’s breast. Huh….whatever.
Cover – Saint Privat (2006)
Saint Privat slows the beat of Somebody to Love to a Bossa Nova style beat. Singer Valérie Sajdik has an absolute gorgeous voice, though her high notes do not quite match Grace Slick’s range. Still, we can forgive this as the sheer bliss of Saint Privat’s Somebody to Love. And yet…there’s another emotion in the Saint Privat version. We also get a sense of sadness and melancholy.
Saint Privat does not have the intensity and urgency as most other versions but the pairing of both sadness and bliss seemingly makes up for this shortcoming. We feel a cocktail of emotion when we listen. In the end, isn’t that what matters?
Which Somebody To Love covers work and which ones don’t work?
I’m sure there are some who prefer The Great Society’s version of Somebody to Love. Still, most of us, myself included, feel that Jefferson Airplane’s version of Somebody to Love just works better. The urgency and the intensity become standards of a decent Somebody to Love Cover. Besides, all of these covers use Jefferson Airplane’s version as their source material. So Sorry Great Society, but thanks for giving us a couple great songs and Grace Slick to sing them.
As far as the Somebody to Love covers that don’t quite make it…well…the Boogie Pimps version comes to mind. As does the Jim Carey version. Both Somebody to Love covers have a good gimmick, and should be heard, but at the end of the day they’re still just a gimmick. W.A.S.P. gives us a hard rocking cover, but they somehow lose the intensity. Rez band and Mother’s Finest versions of Somebody to Love sound great! I love both of these covers. However, they’re not the best of the best. And the Ramones? Well…Joey Ramone’s snide sounding voice kind of ruins Somebody to Love. Even if that wasn’t their intention.
That leaves us with the Saint Privat, In Tua Nua, and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, the Whitesnake cover. Saint Privat replaces the urgency and intensity with emotion, and In Tua Nua sees the search for Somebody to Love as a quest. Both are interesting takes for certain. Whitesnake, on the other hand, keeps the urgency and does an excellent job on the technicals of the song. Ultimately though, the Jefferson Airplane Somebody to Love cover – that’s the best of the best. Saint Privat sure sounds pretty, Whitesnake gets everything right, and In Tua Nua gives us a different take on the song, but Jefferson Airplane defines Somebody To Love.