Iconic Songs Played by Musicians Around the World: “Stand by Me,” “Redemption Song,” “Ripple” & More

We here at Open Cul­ture love to see how well known and well loved songs pop up all over the globe in new and inter­est­ing forms. These cov­ers could be played on very un-rock instru­ments, or on ones we’ve nev­er heard of. We’ve seen schoolkids sing songs that their grand­par­ents loved, and we’ve heard senior cit­i­zens singing death met­al. Music unites us in trou­bling times, and we need more of it.

The above video from Play­ing for Change imag­ines a world where peo­ple from all four cor­ners of the earth play and sing a song togeth­er, and makes it real through the pow­er of tech­nol­o­gy and inter­con­nec­tiv­i­ty.

It start­ed in 2005 when Mark John­son heard street musi­cian Roger Rid­ley singing Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” in San­ta Mon­i­ca. Struck by Ridley’s emo­tive voice, he returned with record­ing equip­ment and began a process of bring­ing the world to join in. John­son record­ed Grand­pa Elliott in New Orleans shar­ing a verse, Wash­board Chaz pro­vid­ing wash­board rhythm, then Clarence Bekker in Ams­ter­dam tak­ing a verse, the Twin Eagle Drum Group pro­vid­ing a Native Amer­i­can rhythm, and so on. By the end of the video, John­son had racked up fre­quent fli­er miles and stitched togeth­er a cohe­sive track.

Years lat­er, the Play­ing for Change non-prof­it has accu­mu­lat­ed an impres­sive back cat­a­log of cov­er songs and has helped fund 15 music pro­grams world­wide.

One take­away is this: the world agrees on Bob Mar­ley. Whether he’s being polit­i­cal or spir­i­tu­al, every­body seems to get it. Here’s “War” fea­tur­ing Bono. Also see “Redemp­tion Song” here:

Oth­er stars have done guest spots to bring aware­ness to the project. Bun­ny Wail­er, Manu Chao and Bush­man singing “Soul Rebel”:

Most recent­ly, they record­ed “The Weight” with Rob­bie Robert­son and Ringo Starr:

And we always enjoy this ver­sion of the Dead­’s “Rip­ple.”

The videos are heart­warm­ing, but the music stands by itself with­out the glo­be­trot­ting. For those who need a good vibe injec­tion to start 2020, start here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Music Is Tru­ly a Uni­ver­sal Lan­guage: New Research Shows That Music World­wide Has Impor­tant Com­mon­al­i­ties

BBC Launch­es World Music Archive

Behold the MusicMap: The Ulti­mate Inter­ac­tive Geneal­o­gy of Music Cre­at­ed Between 1870 and 2016

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.