Record Questions » Cover of very old songs
I noticed that Slayer once covered The Stooges 'I wanna be your dog', a song from the late 1960s. It got me thinking the other day what is the oldest song covered by a rock/metal band.

Has anyone dared cover anything from the 1950s or the 1940s, or dare I add, something even older than that?

Just a thought.
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Priest did an awful cover of Chuck Berry's Johnny B Goode in the Ram It Down LP :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zxoGFjFJlk

Vulcain sang a traditional french song that seems to have been written in the 20's, as a kind of interlude more than an actual song though:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYay26WvK-w
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Digue_du_cul
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Hmm, that reminds me of the claim that the intro to Metallica's song fight fire with fire was written by cliff, and he took that from some Spanish piece written over 100 years ago.

Thanks for the input.
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There´s way older songs (then 40s or 50s), just think of songs from classical composers like Wagner, Brahms, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and so on.
They were covered by many metal bands, here just a few examples:
• Manowar — 1988 — Kings of Metal — 04 — Sting of the Bumblebee
→ Rimsky-Korsakov cover ("Flight of the Bumblebee", 1899).
• Dusk and Darkness — 2013 — Epic Escape — 07 — An unhealthy Pleasure
→ a FANTASTIC Black metal-ized cover of Johannes Brahms´ "Hungarian Dance N°5" (1869)
• Niobeth — 2006 — Infinite Ocean of Stars — 06 — The Magic Flute - Aria Queen of the Night
→ I´m sure you know this famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart cover (1791, "Die Zauberflöte: Arie 'Königin der Nacht'")
• (V.A.) — 1999 — War Vol. II - Anata vs. Bethzaida — 07 — Bethzaida — Fredmans Epistel Nr. 30· Drick ur ditt glas
→ A very fine Death metal cover (with lyrics) of a 1765 song by Carl Michael Bellman (Swe).
• Yngwie Malmsteen — 1994 — Live at Budokan (live) — 01 — Toccata (live)
→ Johann Sebastian Bach Coverversion (1709, "Toccata und Fuge in D-Moll")

In fact many songs are older than expected: House of the rising Sun is a well-known example.
Mostly known (?, maybe just my generation? :P ) for being a → The Animals cover (1964) but in fact this was a cover itself already, previously done by → Clarence Ashley & Gwen Foster (1934, "Rising Sun Blues") but neither this is the first appearance of this tune as it´s based on a → 18th century´s Traditional.
Hundreds of bands covered this song, these are the Metal ones I can think of: Eventyr, EverEve, Gomorrha [GER-RP], Satan´s Host
Scum [FIN], Sentenced, Victor Zinchuk, Vixen [USA-HI], Wardance [GER].

I´d opt for The great Kat for being the Metal artist/band with the most covers of "old" songs as she´s a studied classical violinist, thus maltreating her guitar/violin with a lot of classical stuff.
But afaik she never adds lyrics to those (just to her own compositions)…
Anyway there´s at least 17 of her songs from the 17th to 19th century (1601-1900):
• Bach´s - Partita #3 • Bazzini´s "The Round of the Goblins" • Beethoven Mosh • Beethoven on Speed • Flight of the Bumble-Bee • Funeral MarchHungarian Rhapsody #2 • Paganini´s - Caprice #9 • Paganini´s 24th CapriceRossini´s "The Barber of Seville"Rossini´s "William Tell Overture" • Sarasate´s "Carmen Fantasy" • Sarasate´s Gypsy Violin Waltz "Zigeunerweisen" • Wagner´s Ride of the Valkyries
… damned, this girl can shred, unbelievable! (shocked)

But that´s probably not the oldest songs, just think of all these Folk inspired bands picking up mediaval songs (6th to 15th century).
I was just thinking of In Extremo when I found out, that they are no metal band anymore (in terms of M-A), LOL… :/
They did a lot of traditionals from the 14th all the way down to the 9th century (801-900!), e.g.
• In Extremo — 1998 — Hameln — 06 — Two Søstra ⁄ Harpa → old norwegian Traditional from the 9th century (~850)

Ok, another thought is Italy´s Folk Stone, which still is a Metal band to the definitions of Metal-Archives.
So this will be the 'oldest' cover song I can think of is 15th century, so let´s approximate it to 1450:
• Folk Stone — 2008 — Folk Stone — 05 — Avanti → Italian Traditional (15th century)
Any older suggestions around? (HM2)

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That's much appreciated. I'd forgotten about The Great Kat. I don't think I have ever seen anyone come across as short-tempered and deranged as her when she attracted attention in the 80s.

I also forgot that the song Malpractice by Faith No More has a section from Shostakovich.
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Staying within the 20th century, i'd say it's mostly the blues that have been plundered for early inspiration.
The one that came instantly to mind is 'Big Ten Inch Record', as covered by Aerosmith. The original by Bull Moose Jackson was recorded in 1952 and was pretty risque stuff for that time frame. Aerosmith also recorded versions of Rufus Thomas's 'Walkin' The Dog' & Koko Arnold's 'Milk Cow Blues'.
There have been loads of other recordings by Rock & Metal bands of old blues songs, but it's often tricky to figger out who recorded the originals of these and precisely when. Almost all of the early Hard Rock & Metal bands had an old blues tune or an early rock 'n' roller in their repertoire.
AC/DC, Budgie, Ted Nugent & others have had a go at 'Baby Please Don't Go' which is most often credited to Big Bill Broonzy. AC/DC also did 'Chuck Berry's 'School Days'. Mountain played Berry's 'Roll Over Beethoven'. Sabbath did 'Blue Suede Shoes'. UFO did Eddie Cochran's 'C'mon Everybody'. Blue Cheer fuzzed up 'Summertime Blues' (also by Cochran), & 'Parchment Farm' by Mose Allison. Steppenwolf overhauled Willie Dixon's 'Hootchie Kootchie Man'. Deep Purple gave Joe South's 'Hush' an energy injection & made it their own. Led Zeppelin also covered a lot of those ole blues songs, (and they outright stole many without giving the original artists any credit). In addition, Zeppelin were also guilty of 'borrowing' a lot of folk stuff without giving correct credits, like 'Dazed & Confused', 'White Summer/Black Mountainside' etc.
You could also find some of those other early Heavy Rockers covering the old folkies, such as Priest doing 'Diamonds & Rust' by Joan Baez, Steppenwolf doing Hoyt Axton's 'The Pusher' & his 'Snowblind Friend' and Hendrix covering Dylan's 'All Along The Wachtower' & 'Like A Rolling Stone'.
Frankly, i think the feel & technique of today's players is poorer from missing a lot of these influences. It leaves their music less satisfying to my ears. Way too many of them seem to value technicality to feel, which is one thing that the early Metal pioneers picked up by playing stuff like Blues & Folk, or any other form of music outside of their own genre's definition.
Just listen to Iommi's soloing in this impromptu rendition of Blue Suede Shoes. He's flying by the seat of his pants, but the schooling he had in Blues, Jazz & Rock 'n' Roll gave him (and the rest of the band), all the tools he possessed.

BLACK SABBATH - Blue Suede Shoes (1970)

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Tygers of Pan Tang covered 'Love Potion No. 9' which was first recorded by the Clovers back in 1959 and Briar covered 'La Bamba' made famous by Richie Valens in 1958 but I think the song itself is much older than that.
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