Cover Wars: I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)

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A song that shows up pretty high on a number of greatest songs of all time lists, I Can’t Make You Love Me was recorded in 1991 by Bonnie Raitt for the album Luck Of The Draw. HT fave Bruce Hornsby contributed piano work to the original and has covered the tune in concert. Many artists have added their own spin to I Can’t Make You Love Me over the years. I meant to cap this at ten, but somehow an eleventh snuck in. Enjoy.

The Contestants:

Artist: Adele
Album: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
The Skinny: 2011 has been quite the year for Adele. Her second album, 21, is enjoying major crossover success (I like it, my sister likes it, my Dad likes it), and this has drawn attention to her first album, 19, which also frequently appears in the Top 10 charts despite being released two years ago. In addition to her studio efforts, her CD/DVD release Live at the Royal Albert Hall is also a major hit. Be sure to check out her cover of Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan as well which is available on both 19 and the live release.

As far as this performance, it’s sung over just piano accompaniment and it is stellar.


Artist: Bon Iver
Album: Calgary
The Skinny: Adele’s having a good year, so is Bon Iver – that’s for sure. On a personal level, his 2011 album sits comfortably at #2 for my top albums of the year and even higher at #1 for best concert I’ve seen this year (Greek Theater in Berkeley, Calif.).

After performing this cover, complete with a snippet of Nick of Time (also by Raitt) on Jimmy Fallon, Bon Iver included a studio recording as the B-side to his single release Calgary. Another entry with just piano as the sole instrumentation and Bon Iver actually sings it in a higher key than Adele.

Now if only he would lay down a studio version of his unreal cover of Your Love by The Outfield.

Artist: Boyz II Men
Album: Love
The Skinny: Did you know that Boyz II Men was still around and releasing cover albums produced by Randy Jackson of American Idol fame? You do now!


Artist: Candy Dulfer
Album: Sax-A-Go-Go
The Skinny: Maybe you’re like me and you first heard the words “Miss Candy Dulfer” on Maceo Parker’s 1992 Life On Planet Groove. Or maybe you like this smooth jazz shit that came out on this 1993 record. Personally, listening to music like this just always makes me think of Pat Metheny’s visceral reaction to the music of Kenny G.


Artist: George Michael
Album: Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael
The Skinny: This cover was originally released on the 1996 Older EP and then included on the more popular 1998 Greatest Hits album Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael. Is it just me or does anyone else immediately think of Dana Carvey on Weekend Update imitating George Michael every time they hear his name? Well, when it’s not Arrested Development related anyway. Oh the cover, cover is good.


Artist: Kenny Rogers
Album: She Rides Wild Horses
The Skinny: I previously had Kenny Rogers and Candy Dulfer back to back, and I’ll tell ‘ya sometimes alphabetical order is pretty cruel. Because Adele and Bon Iver lead off with incredible renditions and then we follow it up with Candy Dulfer and Kenny Rogers. I can make at least make it through this one, I’ll say that. But thankfully we had George Michael to fill in there last minute.


Artist: Nancy Wilson
Album: Love Nancy
The Skinny: Legendary jazz singer Nancy Wilson, who has been recording music since 1959, laid down this beautiful cover on this 1994 album which also includes a wonderful rendition of Duke Ellington’s Day Dream.


Artist: Nina
Album: Nina
The Skinny: Before Adele and Bon Iver had put their mark on this cover, Filipino singer Nina had her mark for the most popular global cover, which she recorded in 2007.

Artist: Patti LaBelle
Album: Classic Moments
The Skinny: Great to see both Nancy Wilson and Patti LaBelle, whose careers both predate that of Bonnie Raitt, tackling the tune this week and doing such incredible jobs of putting their own spin on the melody.


Artist: Prince
Album: Emancipation
The Skinny: A guitar that sounds like a sitar, Prince’s vocals and well-placed finger snaps make this cover from this triple-album released in 1996 a winner. Great original harmony in the chorus.


Artist: Tank
Album: Now Or Never
The Skinny: R&B singer Tuck placed this cover as the last track on his 2010 album Now Or Never. Another cover, another music video.

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5 thoughts on “Cover Wars: I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)

  1. Functusian Reply

    I got a chance to open for Bonnie this year, and watched her do this song from the side of the stage. She wrote it, and you can tell that it is a heavy song for her to sing every time. All these versions are pretty “thin” in comparison in my opinion. What a great song!

  2. mike j Reply

    you forgot Sophie Milmans cover. check it out

    • JERRY Reply

      Sophie Milman’s version is such a lovely version. I’m glad someone mentioned it. I actually prefer it to all the other versions that I’ve heard so far (and I’ve heard A LOT). The original is still the hardest hitting. In my humble yet expert opinion šŸ˜‰

  3. Steve Reply

    Sorry, Fructusian, not a Raitt original, written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin.

  4. James Reply

    Listen to Matt cardle live version

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