Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Do You Hear the People Sing Covers?

I've always wondered about the iconic poster for Les Misérables (the musical) and just learned it was taken from an illustration of Cosette by Émile Bayard from the original 1862 Victor Hugo classic novel. All this time she's been sweeping just out of the frame with a GIANT BROOM!

Last weekend some friends and I went to see the local production of Les Misérables and since then I've been singing it in my head at work ad nauseum. I'd previously seen it as a kid at the Jubilee in Edmonton in the early 90s, then again a few years ago in London. I think the double album recording of the original Broadway cast was one of our family's earliest CDs and I remember listening to it repeatedly while thumbing through the lyric book. To this day, One Day More still blows me away and is among my Top 100 most played tracks in iTunes. The show got a major boost in publicity from Susan Boyle's star-making performance of Les Miz's I Dreamed a Dream earlier this year on Britain's Got Talent, becoming the highest-selling production in the 46 year history of the Arts Club Theatre Company, selling out 72 shows and extending its run by 2 weeks until August 6 (tickets here starting at $25).

I've always dreamed of a one man rock version of One Day More, but that's probably not going to happen anytime soon as there is quite a dearth of Les Miz covers in general with most falling into the category of former Broadway singers singing Broadway hits. I've yet to discover any bands pushing these songs into different genres... prove me wrong. I Dreamed a Dream is one of the only numbers that's taken on a life of its own with various covers and more inevitably to come following the renewed interest in it.

Neil Diamond - I Dreamed a Dream [originally from Les Misérables]
Although it was originally sung in the musical by Fantine, one of the earliest covers (if not the first) was by none other than Neil Diamond who recorded it live for his 1987 album Hot August Night 2 the same year Les Misérables debuted on Broadway.

Aretha Franklin - I Dreamed a Dream [originally from Les Misérables]
Unfortunately this is cheesy 1991 production Aretha and not 60s Soul Sister Aretha. This could definitely use a better arrangement.

Allison Crowe - I Dreamed a Dream [originally from Les Misérables]
Hailing from Nainamo, BC on Vancouver Island, singer Allison Crowe made headlines a couple months ago when she and her band travelled to London to start their European tour, but were held for hours then deported back to Canada due to new stringent laws in the UK requiring a special permit for "migrant" musicians. This is from her album Live at Wood Hall, which also features covers of Ani DiFranco, Counting Crows, Tori Amos, and others. Check out her official website, which has downloads of several covers. Boyhowdy has also featured her covers multiple times over at Cover Lay Down, most recently in this post from last week.

Mandy Patinkin - I Dreamed a Dream [originally from Les Misérables]
Mandy Patinkin - Bring Him Home [originally from Les Misérables]
Patinkin is a Tony-award winning actor of the stage, so he definitely falls under the Broadway stars singing Broadway hits heading, but he is arguably most widely-known as Inigo Montoya ("You killed my father. Prepare to die") from The Princess Bride. I also have a soft spot for his role as 88 Keys in Dick Tracy. From his 1994 album Experiment, he performs two Les Miz covers.

Empire Brass - At the End of the Day [originally from Les Misérables]
A rare cover of one of the early songs in the musical. I love this number and the Empire Brass get points for at least attempting something different, although it's not quite as rousing and epic as I feel it should be.


Anonymous said...

If you're looking for more Les Miserables covers, some German eurodance group covered two songs from the musical years ago. They did "I Dreamed A Dream" and "On My Own".

Here's a link to some audio samples on

Unfortunately, the sample for "On My Own" doesn't have much of the song, but here's a better link for that track here:

I actually own the Harajuku compilation album which has both tracks and I'd be more than willing to share the full MP3 tracks with you if you're interested.

My e-mail address is

Anonymous said...

Sorry...forgot to mention, there's also a cover of "I Dreamed A Dream" by New Zealand classical artist Hayley Westenra.

Here's a sample: