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Encyclopedia > Cover songs

In pop music a cover version is a new rendition of a previously recorded song. Pop musicians may play covers as a tribute to the original performer or group, to win audiences who like to hear a familiar song, to increase their chance of success by using a proven hit or to gain credibility by its comparison with the original song. They may also do it simply because they enjoy playing it. Depending on context, pop music is either an abbreviation of popular music or, more recently, a term for a sub-genre of it. ...

Although cover versions are often produced for artistic reasons, they are commonly released to fill bargain bins in the music section of supermarkets and even specialized music stores, where uninformed customers can easily confuse them with original recordings, especially since the packaging is usually intentionally confusing. It combines the name of the original artist, written in large letters, with a small-letters periphrase like as originally sung by or as made popular by. Sometimes only the presence of the rather uncommon "cover" word indicates the true nature of the recordings. Certain publishing houses push the perversion up to using an expression like original cover versions. Cover versions are often sold in compilations, sorted by genre. When supermarkets conduct a major cover version sale, they sometimes put in place a DJ to play the items from the special collection exclusively. In America, this is done because compulsory licensing laws allow a musician to perform and publish a previously recorded song without getting the permission of the copyright holder. A band of unknown but talented musicians, then, can churn out imitations of popular songs that can then be sold at a high profit margin. Otherwise, the record company would have to either pay licensing fees to the copyright holders of the music or not even be able to release the music at all, if the copyright holders deny permission. Supermarket produce section A supermarket is a store that sells a wide variety of goods including food and alcohol, medicine, clothes, and other household products that are consumed regularly. ... A customer is someone who purchases or rents something from an individual or organisation. ... A compiler is a computer program that translates a computer program written in one computer language (called the source language) into an equivalent program written in another computer language (called the output or the target language). ... A genre is any of the traditional divisions of art forms from a single field of activity into various kinds according to criteria particular to that form. ... For other meanings of DJ, see DJ (disambiguation). ... A statutory license or compulsory license is a copyright license to use content under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. ...


Early cover versions

From early in the 20th century it was common practice among phonograph record labels that if any company had a record that was a significant commercial success, other record companies would have singers or musicians "cover" the tune by recording a version for their own label in hopes of cashing in on the tune's success. (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th century was that century which lasted from 1901–2000 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar (1900–1999 in the... Edison cylinder phonograph from about 1899 The phonograph, or gramophone, was the most common device for playing recorded sound from the 1870s through the 1980s. ... A record label is a brand created by companies that specialize in manufacturing, distributing and promoting audio and video recordings, on various formats including compact discs, LPs, DVD-Audio, SACDs, and cassettes. ...

In the early days of rock and roll, many songs originally recorded by African American musicians were rerecorded by white artists, such as Pat Boone, in a more toned-down style that lacked the hard edge of rock and roll, and vice versa. These cover versions were considered by some to be more palatable to parents, and white artists were more palatable to programmers at white radio stations. Songs by the original artists which were then successful are called crossovers as they "crossed over" from a black to a white audience. Also, many songs originally recorded by male artists were rerecorded by female artists, and vice versa. Such a cover version is sometimes called a cross cover version . Rock and roll (also spelled Rock n Roll, especially in its first decade), also called rock, is a form of popular music, usually featuring vocals (often with vocal harmony), electric guitars and a strong back beat; other instruments, such as the saxophone, are common in some styles. ... African Americans, also known as Afro-Americans or black Americans, are an ethnic group in the United States of America whose ancestors, usually in predominant part, were indigenous to Sub-Saharan and West Africa. ... Pat Boone (born June 1, 1934) is a singer whose smooth style made him one of the most popular performers of the 1950s and 1960s. ... In music crossover is a term used to describe artists of a certain style or genre whose popularity crosses the considered boundaries of where the music of that style or genre is normally found. ...

Modern cover versions

Over the years, cover versions of many popular songs have been recorded, sometimes with a radically different style, and in other cases the cover version is virtually indistinguishable from the original. For example, Jose Feliciano's version of "Light My Fire" was utterly distinct from the original version by The Doors; but Carl Carlton's 1974 cover of Robert Knight's 1967 hit single song "Everlasting Love" sounds almost identical to the original. José Feliciano (born September 10, 1945 in Lares), is a Puerto Rican singer. ... The Doors self-titled debut, released in 1967 The Doors were a musical band of the 1960s and early 1970s, consisting of Jim Morrison (lead vocals), Ray Manzarek (organ, keyboard), Robby Krieger (guitar), and John Densmore (drums). ... See also: 1973 in music, other events of 1974, 1975 in music, 1970s in music and the list of years in music Events February 10 - record producer Phil Spector is badly injured in a car accident. ... See also: 1966 in music, other events of 1967, 1968 in music, 1960s in music and the list of years in music Events January 15 - The Rolling Stones appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. ...

Cover versions can also be in different languages; for example, Falco's 1982 German-language hit "Der Kommissar" was covered in English by After the Fire later in the decade, although the German title was retained. The English version, which was not a direct translation of Falco's original but retained much of its spirit, reached the Top 5 on the US charts. Falco (Johann Hölzel), Austrian pop-star whose albums became #1 multiple times on the charts in both Europe and North America during the 1980s Falco (February 19, 1957 - February 6, 1998) was the stage name of the classical music prodigy turned Austrian rock star, Johann Hölzel (also Hans... After the Fire was a British New Wave band active in the 1970s and 1980s. ...

Swamp pop

A type of cover version that existed from the early 1950s to the late 1970s in Louisiana was known as swamp pop. Contemporary and classic rock, R&B, and country songs were re-recorded with Cajun audiences in mind. Some lyrics were translated to French, and some were recorded with traditional Cajun instrumentation. Several swamp pop songs charted nationally, but it was mostly a regional niche market. Millennia: 1st millennium - 2nd millennium - 3rd millennium Events and trends Technology United States tests the first fusion bomb. ... Events and trends Although in the United States and in many other Western societies the 1970s are often seen as a period of transition between the turbulent 1960s and the more conservative 1980s and 1990s, many of the trends that are associated widely with the Sixties, from the Sexual Revolution... State nickname: Pelican State Other U.S. States Capital Baton Rouge Largest city New Orleans Governor Kathleen Blanco Official languages None; English and French de facto Area 134,382 km² (31st)  - Land 112,927 km²  - Water 21,455 km² (16%) Population (2000)  - Population 4,468,976 (22nd)  - Density 39. ... Swamp pop is a musical genre that was born in the honky tonks of southwestern Louisiana. ... Cajuns are an ethnic group consisting essentially of the descendants of Acadians who came from Nova Scotia to Louisiana as a result of their refusal to swear allegiance to the British Crown. ...

Contemporising older songs

Cover versions are often used as a method of making a familiar song contemporary. For example "Singin' In The Rain" was originally introduced in the film Hollywood Revue Of 1929. The famous Gene Kelly version was a revision that brought it up to date for a 1950s Hollywood musical, and was used in the 1952 film of the same name. In 1978 it was covered by French singer Sheila accompanied by the B. Devotion group, as a disco song, once more updating it to suit the musical taste of the era. During the disco era there was a brief trend towards taking well known songs and recording them in the disco style. Director Baz Luhrmann has contemporised and stylised older songs for use in his films. New or cover versions such as John Paul Young's "Love Is In The Air" in Strictly Ballroom, Candi Staton's "Young Hearts Run Free" in Romeo and Juliet, and adaptations of artists such as Nat King Cole, Nirvana, Kiss, Thelma Houston, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and T Rex in Moulin Rouge!, were designed to fit into the structure of each film, and to suit the taste of the contemporary audience for which they were made. Gene Kelly (1912-1996) Eugene Curran Kelly (August 23, 1912 – February 2, 1996 in Beverly Hills, California) was an American dancer, actor, singer, director, and choreographer. ... 1950 was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1952 - Wikipedia /**/ @import /skins/monobook/IE50Fixes. ... 1978 was a common year starting on Sunday (the link is to a full 1978 calendar). ... Definition 1: Sheila is the stage name of a French pop singer whose real name is Annie Chancel (she is not related to Jacques Chancel, the TV host). ... B. Devotion was a dance group which accompanied Sheila during her disco comeback. ... Discothèque redirects here. ... The film director, on the right, gives last minute direction to the cast and crew, whilst filming a costume drama on location in London. ... Baz Luhrmann (born Mark Anthony Luhrmann, New South Wales, 17 September 1962) is an Australian film director. ... John Paul Young John Paul Young (born June 21, 1950 in Glasgow, Scotland) is an Australian singer. ... Strictly Ballroom is a 1992 film written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce and directed by Luhrmann. ... Romeo and Juliet is a famous play by William Shakespeare concerning the fate of two young star-crossed lovers. ... Nat King Cole in The Blue Gardenia (1953) Nat King Cole (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965) was a hugely popular American singer and jazz musician. ... This article is about the 1980s-1990s grunge band Nirvana. ... The original line-up of KISS; from left to right, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and Peter Criss. ... Thelma Houston Thelma Houston (born 1946) is a African-American R&B singer. ... Marilyn Monroe Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) was an American actress of the 20th century. ... Madonna Madonna Ciccone Ritchie (born Madonna Louise Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan, August 16, 1958), simply known by the stage name Madonna, is an American singer frequently referred to as the Queen of Pop music. ... Before finding teenybopper adulation as a 1970s pop group T. Rex began life as Tyrannosaurus Rex, darlings of the hippy/lighter weight end of the UK Underground scene in 1960s London. ... Moulin Rouge! is a 2001 musical film directed by Baz Luhrmann, which tells the story of a young British poet, Christian, who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge cabaret, Satine. ...

Introduction of new artists

New artists are often introduced to the record buying public with performances of well known, "safe" songs as evidenced in Pop Idol and its international counterparts. For a the British television series see: Pop Idol; for religious icons, see: icon. ...


Established artists often pay homage to artists or songs that inspired them before they started their careers by recording cover versions, or perform unrecorded cover versions in their live performances for variety. For example U2 have performed ABBA's Dancing Queen live, and Kylie Minogue has performed The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" - songs that would be completely out of character for them to record, but which allow them artistic freedom when performing live. These performances are often released as part of authorised "live recordings" and thus become legitimate cover versions. U2 U2 is an Irish rock band featuring Bono (Paul David Hewson) on vocals and guitar, The Edge (David Howell Evans) on guitar and pianos, vocals, and bass, Adam Clayton on bass and guitar, and Larry Mullen on drums. ... ABBA on the cover of their album The Definitive Collection (2001) ABBA were a Swedish pop music group; the most successful to date from that country. ... Dancing Queen is the title of a song, which was one of the biggest hit singles recorded by Swedish group ABBA. Written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson, recorded in 1975 for the groups album Arrival, and released as a single in 1976, the song preceded... Kylie Minogue in the music video for Slow (2003) Kylie Ann Minogue (pronounced: , to rhyme with vogue) (born May 28, 1968) is an Australian singer and actress. ... The Clash was a British punk rock group that existed from 1976 to 1985. ...

In recent years unrelated contemporary artists have contributed individual cover versions to tribute albums for well established artists who are considered to be influential and inspiring. Each project has resulted in a collection of the particular artist's best recognised or most highly regarded songs reworked by more current performers. Among the artists to receive this form of recognition are ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, Dolly Parton, Duran Duran, Carole King and Led Zeppelin. ABBA on the cover of their album The Definitive Collection (2001) ABBA were a Swedish pop music group; the most successful to date from that country. ... Fleetwood Mac is a rock group led by Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (whose names partially form the groups name), who had their biggest hits in the 1970s. ... Dolly Parton (born January 19, 1946) is an American country singer, songwriter and actress. ... At the height of its fame, Duran Duran (The Fab Five) was featured on the cover of the February 1984 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. ... Carole King (born February 9, 1942) is an American singer and songwriter, most active as a singer during the early to mid 1970s, but a successful songwriter for considerably longer both before and after this period. ... Led Zeppelin (clockwise from left: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones) Led Zeppelin was a British band noted for their innovative, influential approach to heavy blues-rock and as one of the most popular and influential bands of all time. ...


Punk music is known for deconstructing classic rock or pop songs by reinterpreting them in punk form. Bands like Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Rancid, NOFX and Goldfinger are especially known for doing so. In recent years, several jam bands and related groups have begun covering hip hop songs, most frequently only live in concert. Perhaps the most famous such-cover recorded in a studio and released commercially is a bluegrass version of "Gin and Juice" by Snoop Doggy Dogg, as performed by the Gourds. Other artists like Phish and Keller Williams have covered "Rappers Delight" (The Sugarhill Gang), "Baby Got Back" (Sir Mix-A-Lot) and other hip hop songs. Punk rock is an anti-establishment music movement beginning around 1976 (although precursors can be found several years earlier), exemplified and popularised by The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. ... Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is a punk rock cover band that formed in 1995. ... Rancid is a band that originated in Berkeley, California from the ashes of Operation Ivy, a punk/ska band founded in 1987. ... NOFX is a Californian punk band. ... Goldfinger is a 1990s ska-punk band, formed in 1993 and named after the James Bond film. ... The term jam band is commonly used to describe psychedelic rock-influenced bands whose concerts largely consist of bands reinterpreting their songs as springboards into extended improvisational pieces of music. ... Hip hop is a cultural movement that began amongst urban African American youth in New York and has since spread around the world. ... Bluegrass music is considered a form of American roots music with its own roots in the English, Irish traditional music and Scottish traditional music of immigrants from the British Isles (particularly the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia), as well as the music of rural African-Americans, jazz, and blues. ... Snoop Dogg Calvin Cordozar Broadus (born October 20, 1971 in Long Beach, California) is a rap musician and actor. ... The official Phish logo. ... Fredricksburg, Virginia resident Keller Williams (Unnoficially and affectionately known as K-Dub and the Jam-Man) is a majorly self-taught, percussive, and a rather rhythymic musician, playing mainly on acoustic guitars while looping other instruments with a Gibson Echoplex Delay system. ... Rappers Delight is a 1979 (see 1979 in music) single by American hip hop trio The Sugarhill Gang; it is widely acknowledged as the first hip hop hit single. ... The Sugarhill Gang is an American hip hop group, known mostly for one hit, Rappers Delight, the first hip hop single to become a Top 40 hit. ... Sir Mix-a-Lot (born Anthony Ray, 12 August 1963) is a rapper and producer from Seattle, Washington, USA. He created his own brand of hip hop - influenced by Electro, Kraftwerk and Gary Numan, and funk. ...

An extreme example of punk cover versions is the punk band GABBA, who mix the songs of ABBA and The Ramones. ABBA on the cover of their album The Definitive Collection (2001) ABBA were a Swedish pop music group; the most successful to date from that country. ... The Ramones were a hugely influential punk rock band, formed in Forest Hills, Queens, New York in March 1974. ...

Most covered bands

The Beatles have been covered more than any other band; "Yesterday" has been covered over three thousand times since its original release in 1965. Other songs which have been released many times as cover versions include the infamous "Louie Louie" by Richard Berry, "Freebird" (Lynyrd Skynyrd), "No Woman No Cry" (Bob Marley & the Wailers) and many of the less recent works of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen (as of December 5, 2004, there were at least 940 published cover versions of Cohen songs [1] (http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/test.html)). The Beatles (L-R, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon), in 1964, performing on The Ed Sullivan Show during their first United States tour, promoting their first U.S. hit song, I Want To Hold Your Hand. ... Capitol Records released Yesterday as a single in the United States in 1965, and it topped the charts for a month. ... 1965 was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1965 calendar). ... Louie, Louie is a pop song written by Richard Berry in 1955. ... Richard Berry (April 11, 1935-January 23, 1997) was an American singer and songwriter. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... Lynyrd Skynyrd is a Southern rock band that gained prominence in the 1970s. ... No Woman No Cry was a song written by Bob Marley. ... Bob Marley Robert Nesta Marley (February 6, 1945 - May 11, 1981), better known as Bob Marley, was a singer, guitarist, songwriter and Rastafarian from the ghettos of Jamaica. ... Portrait photograph of Bob Dylan taken by Daniel Kramer Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman May 24, 1941, Duluth, Minnesota, USA) is widely regarded as one of Americas greatest popular songwriters. ... Leonard Cohen Leonard Norman Cohen (born September 21, 1934 in Montreal, Quebec) is a Canadian poet and novelist, and a well-known singer/songwriter. ... December 5 is the 339th day (340th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 2004 is a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Cover albums

Many popular bands have a tribute album, consisting entirely of covers of their songs performed by various other bands, often quite different from the original. The soundtrack to the film I Am Sam was a particularly popular example of this; it consisted of Beatles songs redone by various modern artists. This was done because of the refusal of the Beatles to license their songs to soundtracks. See above for an explanation of compulsory licensing and copyright relating to covers. Another notable example is Conception: The Interpretation of Stevie Wonder Songs, which is an album consisting of covers of songs originally recorded by Stevie Wonder and an original song by Stevie Wonder's mentee India.Arie, singing about Stevie Wonder. There are also bands who create entire albums out of covers, but unlike Tin Pan Alley-style traditional pop singers, they often perform the songs in a genre completely unlike the original songs. Examples include the Moog Cookbook (alternative and classic rock songs done on Moog synthesizers), Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine (top 40, including punk, heavy metal, teen pop and indie rock performed in a Vegas lounge lizard style), and Hayseed Dixie (a play on the name AC/DC, they started covering AC/DC songs and progressed to other classic rock, playing them as bluegrass songs, similar to The Gourds' version of "Gin and Juice.") I Am Sam is a 2001 film which tells the story of a mentally challenged man who fights to keep custody of his daughter. ... Stevie Wonder is a legend in rock and pop music history. ... India. ... Tin Pan Alley was the name given to the collection of New York City-centered music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States of America in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. ... mainstream pop music Traditional pop music is a genre of music which encompasses music that succeeded big band music and preceded rock and roll as the most popular kind of music in the United States, most of Europe, and some other parts of the world. ... Moog Cookbook is the name of an electronica band made up of Brian Kehew and Roger Manning (under the aliases Meco Eno and Uli Nomi). ... Bob Moog Dr Robert A. Moog (born May 23, 1934) is the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. ... Categories: Music stubs | American musical groups ... Top 40 is a radio format based on frequent repetition of songs from a constantly-updated list of the forty best-selling singles. ... Punk rock is an anti-establishment music movement beginning around 1976 (although precursors can be found several years earlier), exemplified and popularised by The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. ... Heavy metal is a form of music characterised by aggressive, driving rhythms and highly amplified distorted guitars, generally with grandiose lyrics and virtuosic instrumentation. ... Teen pop is a form of pop music that is light and dancey, made for and often by teens. ... Indie rock is a subgenre of rock music often used to refer to bands that are on small independent record labels or that arent on labels at all. ... This article is about the city of Las Vegas in Nevada. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... From left to right: Singer Brian Johnson, Rhythm Guitarist Malcolm Young, Bass Guitarist Cliff Williams, Lead Guitarist Angus Young, Drummer Phil Rudd. ... Bluegrass music is considered a form of American roots music with its own roots in the English, Irish traditional music and Scottish traditional music of immigrants from the British Isles (particularly the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia), as well as the music of rural African-Americans, jazz, and blues. ...

History of the term "cover version"

The term "cover version" is in wide use today, among musicians and record collectors; however, there is little agreement on exactly what it means.

In the first few decades of the recording industry, it was common practice for record companies to record all the songs they expected to become "hits." When a new song was released, it was the job of the "song plugger" to convince the record companies, as well as performers, that the song would become a big seller. As a result, many—in some cases, most—record companies issued versions of those songs successfully promoted, sometimes even by the same artist. When the average record buyer went out to purchase a new record, he/she usually asked for the song, not the artist, although there were a few exceptions, such as artists like Al Jolson or John McCormack.

This began to change in the later 1930's, when the average age of the record-buying public began to drop. During the "Swing Era," when the bobby-soxer went looking for "In the Mood," she wanted the popular Glenn Miller version, not someone else's. However, record companies still continued to record different versions of songs that sold well.

After the pop music doldrums of 1946-54, rock'n'roll began to emerge, and with it a new way of thinking among record buyers. When a teen went out to buy "Rock Around the Clock," he/she wanted the same recording they heard on the radio. Since this was before the emergence of artist/songwriters, anyone could have recorded the tune, and some did, but their records simply didn't sell.

However, a new trend began to emerge. When a recording became popular in a specialty field—such as country & western, rhythm & blues (a euphemism for Black music) or even ethnic music—"name" artists often did "cover versions" of the songs in a more staid style. Several of Hank Williams' c&w hits were so treated, as well as a number of Black artists' discs. The term, as used today, is usually applied to the latter records.

While it is all but impossible to trace the actual history of the term "cover version," it is likely the term began to be used by record collectors once the early rock'n'roll records had become collectible. For example, many of Pat Boone's hits were copies of popular records by Black artists, as well as some by Rick(y) Nelson, and these are usually dismissed as "cover versions."

Today, the term even applies to live music: a band who performs mostly hits in their chosen genre is known as a "cover band," since their performances "cover" older hit performances. This is distinguished from a "tribute band," a band which tries to perform the hits of a well-known band in the same style and as closely mimicked as possible.

The actual term "cover" may have its origins in the fact that the artist who recorded the newer version of the song would have his records literally "cover" the original version... if, indeed, it was available in most record stores.


Bob Marley Robert Nesta Marley (February 6, 1945 - May 11, 1981), better known as Bob Marley, was a singer, guitarist, and songwriter from Saint Ann, Jamaica. ... Redemption Song was the last track on Bob Marleys final album, Uprising. ...

See also

Due to the size of this page, the main listing has been split into two sections: List of notable cover versions A-M List of notable cover versions N-Z Cover albums Artists that have released albums consisting entirely of cover songs include: A-Teens - ABBA Genernation (2000) The Afghan... A cover band (or covers band) is a band that plays only covers, which may be from a single band or artist (a tribute band) or from many different sources. ... In general, a sample is a part of the total, such as one individual or a set of individuals from a population (of people or things), a small piece or amount of something larger, a number of function values of a function, or part of a song. ... A tribute band (sometimes tribute group) is a musical group created in order to specifically play the music of a well-known band, often one which has disbanded or ceased touring. ...

External links

  • A Straight Dope column on cover versions (http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_324b.html)
  • They Did it Their Way (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml;sessionid=0YYI3EIM55XSLQFIQMGCM54AVCBQUJVC?xml=/arts/2004/11/20/bmcovercont20.xml&sSheet=/arts/2004/11/20/ixtop.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=35206), the 50 greatest cover songs of all time, as selected by The Telegraph (November 23, 2004)
  • The Covers Project (http://www.coversproject.com), an online database of cover versions, searchable by artist.
  • Music Copyright Laws: Using cover song versions legally (http://www.cleverjoe.com/articles/music_copyright_law.html)
  • Article analysing the institution of the punk cover through the Jam's song 'Batman Theme' (http://www.biggerthanjesus.co.uk/punkcovers.html)

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