Patti Smith is one of those artists who has a natural talent for covering other musicians’ songs—it’s a real gift. Whether it is Bob Dylan or Nirvana, Smith has an uncanny ability to be able to mould someone’s song into a piece that sounds entirely like one of her own without losing its original sentiment.
This 2007 cover of R.E.M’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ does all of that and more as Smith embodies the song’s very core and brings this tearful anthem into the new millennium. .
The track was originally released on the 1992 album Automatic for the People and eventually got its own release as a single in 1993 after it became a stand out moment on the record. The reaction to the track at the time was slightly warmer than mild, far removed from its place on the mantel of melancholia it enjoys today.
It peaked at 29 on the Billboard 100 but did find room in the top ten across a host of other nations, including the UK. The somewhat lukewarm reaction to the song belies the track’s massive impact now. It ranks highly among the biggest heartbreak anthems of all time and is often cited as one of the saddest songs ever, something every band would like to own.
However, in a recent interview with Radio X Michael Stipe had his own thoughts on the song: “Everybody Hurts is one of those songs that when you’re in the mood, it’s exactly right – but when you’re not in the mood for it, you can skip right over to the next one.” It’s hard to argue with, you have to be in the mood to listen to that version of the track. Not so with Smith’s.
It’s still rightly considered one of the finer pieces of work R.E.M. has ever completed and now we can look back at another career the song has graced if only for a short while. Patti Smith’s cover of the iconic track is spellbindingly beautiful. The cover was completed as part of Smith’s fantastic 2007 album Twelve and ranks highly among the best tracks on the LP, despite the record taking a wide panning from critics upon its release. Much of that dismay originated from the disappointment that it wasn’t a Smith original record.
Clearly, with 12 years maturation under its belt, the gravity of Smith’s presence more considered, and a younger viewpoint, it’s hard to see this album, and this song in particular, as anything but a credit to her work. It’s a mark of Smith’s artistry that she’s able to take a hold of these iconic songs and truly make them her own.
One particular point on this song is Smith’s vocals. As unique and potent as you are likely to find, Michael Stipe’s crystal polished croon is replaced by Smith’s vulnerable and accessible tone, marking her out as a continued voice for the downtrodden and desperate. It allows the grand rises and sullen falls to connect with greater volition and with it Smith fully establishes the emotion of the song, if there was any doubt.
Take a listen to Patti Smith’s cover of R.E.M’s iconic sad song ‘Everybody Hurts’.