Sometimes cover versions do become bigger than the originals, and “Valerie” cover by Amy Winehouse is one perfect example. The English indie rock band The Zutons recorded “Valerie” as the third track on their 2006 album ‘Tired of Hanging Around.’ Amy Winehouse and producer Mark Ronson covered the track for Mark’s covers album ‘Versions,’ and it just blew up all over the world.
Amy’s cover of “Valerie” is more upbeat, which might have given it the kick it needed to take off. Amy’s vocal energy is another massive part of the success of the cover over the original. However, this is not to say that the original was not successful, as it did manage to reach #9 on UK Singles Chart in June 2006. Amy Winehouse’s cover of the song was released in October 2007, and this version peaked at #2 on the UK Singles Chart and #1 on UK R&B Chart. The cover version also sold more copies than the original.
Dave McCabe of The Zutons told for an interview that he wrote the song in the back of a cab on the way to visit his mother, within less than 20 minutes. The song was inspired by real-life events; a friend of McCabe who had trouble with drinking; the song was a “musical postcard to her, saying he is having a hard time and can she come over and see him.”
Who is “Valerie” Song About?
According to an article published in Vice magazine, the hit song “Valerie” by The Zutons and later covered by Amy Winehouse, was inspired by celebrity make-up artist Valerie Star. The article reports that Valerie Star used to date Dave McCabe of The Zutons, who wrote the entire song. “She was in the States and I was home and it was kind of like a postcard,” said McCabe.
Listen to “Valerie” Cover by Amy Winehouse
“Valerie” Lyrics Meaning and Song Review
As much as we would like to say this song was written about a ‘friend’ who had a drinking problem, it is clear that the songwriter had some sort of a relationship with ‘Valerie,’ the subject of the song.
The singer says he has to go out by himself sometimes (or most times), because she was in the United States and Dave McCabe is based in the UK. He confessed that the song was sort of a ‘postcard’ for his sweetheart who was in the United States. So, sometimes he visits the ocean and looks across the horizon wondering what Valerie is doing on the other side.
The singer says that he has ‘let go’ of his physique ever since he came home to the UK after visiting his girlfriend in the States. He misses her ginger hair and wants her to come be with him.
Below is the real-life ginger-haird Valerie Star who inspired The Zutons’s hit single.
Valerie Star did speak out about the background of the song when it was finally revealed that the song was about her. She confessed how her bad driving almost landed her in jail;
“I got arrested the week before I was going to go to Liverpool to be with him. It was my, I want to say, seventh felony driving on a suspended license. She added: “I got a speeding ticket and I thought the policemen were dumb, so I thought well, by me not paying the ticket, that’s me sticking it to the man. Clearly not, because then they put a warrant out for your arrest. It becomes a whole ordeal.”
This is why The Zutons ask if she went to jail in the lyrics of the song.
Valerie Star also explained how the driving tickets were massive; “So I spent every penny I had, which was like 30 grand, to not go to prison. I did get my license taken away for like 15 years, but that was much better than jail.”
This is why the lyrics ask if she had to sell her house to get a good lawyer to defend her!
In the second verse of the song, the singer has more questions for her. It is clear that he misses her dearly. He asks if she managed to pay the fines that had accumulated, if she changed her hair, if she is busy, and so on!
IRL, things did not work out well for Dave McCabe and Valerie Star. The distance between them made it very impractical for them to hand on to their relationship.
Watch “Valerie” Video by The Zutons
Let us hear what you think about the song and the story behind the song in the comments below. Which version do you prefer?
Check out the complete lyrics on Genius.