Cover version

Cover version

In popular music, a cover version or cover song, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording of a contemporary or previously recorded, commercially released song or popular song. It can sometimes have a pejorative meaning implying that the original recording should be regarded as the definitive or "authentic" version, and all others merely lesser competitors, alternatives or tributes (no matter how popular). Originally, Billboard and other magazines which track the popularity of the musical artists and hit tunes measured the sales success of the published tune, not just recordings of it. Later, they tracked the airplay that songs achieved, for which some cover versions are the more successful recording(s) of the particular song(s).[1] Cover versions of well known, well liked, tunes are often recorded by new artists to achieve initial success when their unfamiliar original material would be less likely to be successful. Prior to the onset of Rock 'n' Roll in the 1950s, songs were published and several records of a song might be brought out by singers of the day, each giving it their individual treatment. Any singer who appeared to be copying an already successful version of the song would be viewed with disfavour. The trend, however, became for records to be produced, usually with particular background noises, and no other group would attempt a version.

On occasion a cover becomes more popular and well-known than the original. One such example is Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," which is strongly identified with the interpretation Jimi Hendrix recorded.[2] The Hendrix version, released six months after Dylan's original, became a Top 10 single in 1968 and was ranked 48th in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.



The term "cover" goes back decades when cover version originally described a rival version of a tune recorded to compete with the recently released (original) version. The Chicago Tribune described the term in 1952 this way: "trade jargon meaning to record a tune that looks like a potential hit on someone else's label."[3] Examples of records being covered include Paul Williams' 1949 hit tune "The Hucklebuck" and Hank Williams' 1952[4] song "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)." Both crossed over to the popular Hit Parade and had numerous hit versions. Prior to the mid-20th century the notion of an original version of a popular tune would, of course, have seemed slightly odd — the production of musical entertainment being seen essentially as a live event, even if one that was reproduced at home via a copy of the sheet music, learned by heart, or captured on a shellac recording disc.

In previous generations, some artists made very successful careers out of presenting revivals or reworkings of once popular tunes, even out of doing contemporary cover versions of current hits. Musicians now play what they call "cover versions" (e.g. the reworking, updating or interpretation) of songs as a tribute to the original performer or group. Using familiar material (e.g. evergreen hits, standard tunes or classic recordings) is an important method in learning various styles of music. Most albums, or long playing records, up until the mid-1960s usually contained a large number of evergreens or standards to present a fuller range of the artist's abilities and style. (See, for example, Please Please Me) Artists might also perform interpretations ("covers") of a favorite artist's hit tunes[5] for the simple pleasure of playing a familiar song or collection of tunes.[6] A cover band plays such "cover versions" exclusively.

Today there are broadly three types of entertainers who depend upon cover versions for their principal repertoire:

Tribute acts or bands are performers who make a living by recreating the music of one particular artist. Bands such as Björn Again, Dread Zeppelin, The Fab Faux, The Australian Pink Floyd Show and Iron Median are dedicated to playing the music of ABBA, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Iron Maiden respectively. There are also tribute acts that salute the Who, The Rolling Stones and many other classic rock acts. Most tribute bands attempt to recreate another band's music, but there are some such bands who introduce a twist. Dread Zeppelin's performs reggae versions of the Zeppelin catalog, and Beatallica creates heavy metal fusions of songs by the Beatles and Metallica.

Cover acts or bands are entertainers who perform a broad variety of crowd-pleasing material for audiences who enjoy the familiarity of hit songs. Such bands draw from Top 40 hits of different decades to provide a pleasurable nostalgic entertainment in bars, on cruise ships and at events such as weddings, family celebrations and corporate functions.

Revivalist artists or bands are performers who are inspired by an entire genre of music and who are dedicated to curating and recreating that genre and introducing it to younger audiences who have not experienced that music first hand. Unlike tribute bands and cover bands who rely primarily on audiences seeking a nostalgic experience, revivalist bands usually seek new young audiences for whom the music is fresh and has no nostalgic value. For example: Sha Na Na started in 1969 as a celebration of the doo-wop music of the 1950s, a genre of music that was not initially fashionable during the hippie counter-culture era. The Blues Brothers started in 1978 as a living salute to the blues, soul and R&B music of the 1950s and 1960s that was not in vogue by the late 70s. The Blues Brothers' creed was that they were "on a mission from God" as evangelists for blues and soul music. The Black Crowes formed in 1984, initially dedicated to reviving 1970s style blues-rock. They subsequently started writing their own material in the same vein.

U.S. copyright law

Since the Copyright Act of 1909, in the United States there has been a right to record a version of someone else's tune, whether of music alone or of music and lyrics.[7] A license can be specifically negotiated between representatives of the interpreting artist and the copyright holder, or recording of published tunes can fall under a mechanical license whereby the recording artist pays a standard royalty to the original author/copyright holder through an organization such as the Harry Fox Agency, and is safe under copyright law even if they do not have any permission from the original author. Other agents can also help facilitate clearance including Limelight, the online mechanical licensing utility powered by RightsFlow. The mechanical license was introduced by Congress in order to head off an attempt by the Aeolian Company to monopolize the piano roll market.[8]

While a composer cannot deny anyone a mechanical license for a new recorded version, he or she has the right to decide who will release the first recording of a song; Bob Dylan took advantage of this right when he refused his own record company the right to release a live recording of "Mr. Tambourine Man".[7]

Live performances of copyrighted songs are typically arranged through performing rights organizations such as ASCAP or BMI.

Origin of the term

Multiple versions in various formats or locations

From early in the 20th century it was common practice among phonograph record labels, if any company had a record that was a significant commercial success, that other record companies would have singers or musicians "cover" the "hit" tune by recording a version for their own label in hopes of cashing in on the tune's success. For example, Ain't She Sweet, was first popularized in 1927 by Eddie Cantor (on stage) and by Ben Bernie and Gene Austin (on record), was repopularized through popular recordings by Mr. Goon Bones & Mr. Ford and Pearl Bailey in 1949, and later still revived as 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records by the Beatles in 1964.[9] Since there was little promotion or advertising involved in the earlier days of record production, other than at the local music hall or music store, when the average record buyer went out to purchase a new record, he usually asked for the tune, not the artist. In addition, distribution of records was highly localized in many cases. So, a quickly-recorded version of a hit song from another area by a locally popular artist could reach an audience before the version by the artist(s) who first introduced the tune in a particular format—the "original", "introductory" or "popularizing" artist—was widely available, and the highly competitive record companies were quick to take advantage of these facts.

Rival outlets and popularized recordings

This began to change in the later 1930s, when the average age of the now greatly increased record-buying public began to expand to include a younger age group. During the Swing era, when a bobby soxer went looking for a recorded tune, say "In the Mood", typically she wanted the version popularized by her favourite artist(s), e.g. the Glenn Miller version (on RCA Victor's cheaper Bluebird label), not someone else's (sometimes presented on a more expensive record company's label). This trend was marked closely by the charting of record sales by the different artists, not just hit tunes, on the music industry's Hit Parades. However, for sound commercial reasons, record companies still continued to record different versions of tunes that sold well. Most audiences until the mid-1950s still heard their favorite artists playing live music on stage or via the radio. And since radio shows were for the most part aimed at local audiences, it was still rare for an artist in one area to reach a mass audience. Also radio stations tended to cater to broad audience markets, so an artist in one vein might not get broadcast on other stations geared to a set audience. So popular versions of Jazz, Country and Western or Rhythm and Blues tunes, and vice versa, were frequent. Consider Mack the Knife (Die Moritat vom Mackie Messer): this was originally from Bertholt Brecht's 1928 Die Dreigroschenoper. It was popularised by a 1956 record Hit Parade instrumental tune, Moritat, for the Dick Hyman Trio, also recorded by Richard Hayman & Jan August,[10] but a hit also for Louis Armstrong 1956/1959, Bobby Darin, 1959,[11] and Ella Fitzgerald, 1960,[12] as vocal versions of Mack The Knife.

Europe's Radio Luxembourg, like many commercial stations, also sold "air time"; so record companies and others bought air time to promote their own artists or products, thus increasing the number of recorded versions of any tune then available. Add to this the fact that many radio stations were limited in their permitted "needle time" (the amount of recorded music they were allowed to play), or were regulated on the amount of local talent they had to promote in live broadcasts, as with most national stations like the BBC in the UK.

Incentives to make duplicate recorded versions of a song

In the USA, but not in most other countries, authors and publishers are paid royalty by broadcasters and artists are not, so there is an incentive to record numerous versions of a song, particularly in different genres. For example, King Records frequently cut both rhythm and blues and country and western versions of novelty songs like "Good Morning, Judge" and "Don't Roll those Bloodshot Eyes at Me". This tradition was expanded when rhythm and blues songs began showing up on pop music charts.

In the early days of rock and roll, many tunes originally recorded by R&B and Country musicians were still being re-recorded in a more popular vein by other artists with a more toned-down style or professional polish.[13] Given the reluctance of radio stations to play formats outside their own target audience group's taste, this was inevitable. By far the most popular style of music in the mid-1950s / mid-1960s was still the professional light orchestral unit, so that was the format sought by popular recording artists.[14] For many purists these popular versions lacked both the raw, often amateurish, earthiness of the original introducing artists. But mostly they did not have the added kudos craved by many rebellious teenagers, the social stigma - or street credibility - of rock and roll music; as most of these were performed by the type of black artists not heard on the popular mass entertainment markets, some having also been written by them. The bowdlerized popular cover versions were considered by most audiences at the time to be more palatable for the mass audience of both parents and children as a group audience. Therefore the artists targeting the white-majority family audience were more acceptable to programmers at most radio and TV stations. For this reason singer-songwriter Don McLean has called the cover version a "racist tool."[15] Many parents in the 1950s - 60s, whether intentionally racists or not, felt deeply threatened by the rapid pace of social change. After all they had for the most part shared entertainments with their parents in ways that their own children had become reluctant to do. The jukebox and the personal record disc player were still relatively expensive pieces of machinery - and the portable radio a great novelty, allowing truculent teenagers to shut themselves off. Tunes by introducing or "original" niche market artists which were then successful on the mass audience Hit Parade charts are called crossovers as they "crossed over" from the targeted Country, Jazz or Rhythm audience. Also, many songs originally recorded by male artists were rerecorded by female artists, and vice versa. Such a cover version is also sometimes called a cross cover version, male cover, or female cover. Incidentally, up to the mid-1930s male vocalists often sang the female lyrics to popular songs, though this faded rapidly after it was deemed decadent in Nazi Germany. Some songs like "If Only for One Night" were originally recorded by female artists but covered by mostly male artists.

Reworking non-English language tunes and lyrics for the Anglo-Saxon markets was once a popular part of the music business. For example, the 1954 worldwide hit The Happy Wanderer was originally Der fröhliche Wanderer, to this must be added Hymne a l`amour, Mutterlein, Volare, Seeman, "Quando, Quando, Quando", L'amour est bleu, etc.

Modern cover versions

Cover versions of many popular songs have been recorded, sometimes with a radically different style, sometimes virtually indistinguishable from the original. For example, José Feliciano's version of "Light My Fire" (recorded after the original had disappeared from sales charts) was distinct from The Doors' version. Some producers or recording artists may also enlist the services of a sample replay company such as Scorccio, in order to replicate an original recording with precision detail and accuracy.

A song may be covered into another language. For example, in the 1930s, a recording of Isle of Capri in Spanish, by Osvaldo Fresedo and singer Roberto Ray, is known. Falco's 1982 German-language hit "Der Kommissar" was covered in English by After the Fire, 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. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" evolved over several decades and versions from a 1939 Zulu a cappella song. Many of singer Laura Branigan's 1980s hits were English-language remakes of songs already successful in Europe, for the American record market. Numerable English-language covers exist of "99 Luftballons" by German singer Nena (notably one by punk band Goldfinger), one having been recorded by Nena herself following the success of her original German version. "Popcorn", a song which was originally completely instrumental, has had lyrics added in at least six different languages in various covers. During the heyday of Cantopop in Hong Kong in the late 1970s to early 1990s, many hits were covers of English and Japanese titles that have gained international fame but with localised lyrics (sometimes multiple sets of lyrics sung to the same tune), and critics often chide the music industry of shorting the tune-composing process.

Although modern cover versions are often produced for artistic reasons, some aspects of the disingenuous spirit of early cover versions remain. In the album-buying heyday of the 1970s, albums of sound-alike covers were created, commonly released to fill bargain bins in the music section of supermarkets and even specialized music stores, where uninformed customers might easily confuse them with original recordings. The packaging of such discs was often intentionally confusing, combining the name of the original artist in large letters with a tiny disclaimer like as originally sung by or as made popular by. More recently, albums such as the Kidz Bop series of compact discs, featuring versions of contemporary songs sung by children, have sold successfully.

In 2009 the American musical comedy-drama television series Glee debuted, featuring several musical performances per episode. The series featured solely cover songs until near the end of its second season with the episode "Original Song". The series still primarily uses cover songs of both chart hits and show tunes, occasionally as mashups or distinct variations. The show's musical performances have been a commercial success, with over twenty-one million copies of Glee cast single releases purchased digitally, and over nine million albums purchased worldwide.[16]

Updating older songs

Cover versions (as the term is now used) are often contemporary versions of familiar songs. For example "Singin' in the Rain" was originally introduced in the film The 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 Singin' in the Rain. 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 of taking well known songs and recording them in the disco style. More recently "Singin' In the Rain" has been covered and remixed by British act Mint Royale for a television commercial for Volkswagen. Another example of this, from a different angle, is the tune "Blueberry Hill", many mistakenly believe the Fats Domino 1956 release to be the original recording and artist. In fact, it was originally introduced on film by Gene Autry and popularised on the record Hit Parade of 1940 by Glenn Miller. The Fats Domino rock and roll version is the only one that might currently get widespread airplay on most media. Similarly, "Unchained Melody" was originally performed by Todd Duncan, featured in the 1955 film Unchained (based on the non-fiction story Prisoners are People by Kenyon J. Scudder); Al Hibbler having the biggest number of worldwide record sales for the vocal version with Jimmy Young's cover version rival outdoing this in the UK,[17] Les Baxter's Orchestra gaining the big instrumentalist sales, reaching the US Hit Parade number one spot in May 1955,[18] but The Righteous Brothers' later version (top five on the US Hit Parade of September 1965[19] stalling at number 14 in the UK in August) is by far the wider known version, and especially so following its appearance in the 1990 film Ghost.

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" occur in Strictly Ballroom, Candi Staton's "Young Hearts Run Free" appear in Romeo + Juliet, and adaptations of artists such as Nat King Cole, Nirvana, Kiss, Elton John, Thelma Houston, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, T. Rex, David Bowie, Queen and The Police are used in Moulin Rouge! The covers are carefully designed to fit into the structure of each film and suit the taste of the intended audience.

Other artists release new versions of their own previous songs, like German singer Nena who recorded an entire album with great success, with new versions of older hits. British singer Kim Wilde also re-recorded some old songs and returned to the top 20 with a remake off her big 1988 hit "You came", in a 2006 version called "You came 2006".

Introduction of new artists

New artists are often introduced to the record buying public with performances of well known, "safe" songs as evidenced in American Idol and its counterparts in other countries. It is also a means by which the public can more easily concentrate upon the new performer without the need to judge the quality of the songwriting skills.

However, some new artists have chosen to radically rework a popular song to exemplify their approach and philosophy to music. Prime examples include Joe Cocker's soul reworking of The Beatles' originally-jaunty "With a Little Help from My Friends", the band Devo's radical reconstruction of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", or Marilyn Manson's version of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)". Many musicians have other goals, such as to create publicity as in Sid Vicious' notorious version of "My Way".

Tributes, tribute albums and cover albums

Established artists often pay homage to artists or songs that inspired them before they started their careers or musicians who in some way helped them enter show business by recording their own versions of tunes associated with that artist (See, for example, I Remember Tommy) or performing tunes associated with their favourite influential musician(s) in their own live performances for variety. For example U2 has 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".

Since the late twentieth century, unrelated contemporary artists have contributed individual reworkings of tunes to tribute albums for well established artists who are considered to be influential and inspiring. This trend was spawned by Hal Willner's Amarcord Nino Rota in 1981.[citation needed] Typically, each project has resulted in a collection of the particular artist's best recognised or most highly regarded songs reworked by more current performers.

The soundtracks to the films I Am Sam and Across the Universe are examples of this: they consisted of Beatles songs redone by various contemporary artists. Some more notable examples are Conception: The Interpretation of Stevie Wonder Songs; Common Thread an album of contemporary country artists performing hit singles by the Eagles; the Rhythm, Country and Blues album where a country artist duets with a rhythm and blues artist on a standard of either genre. Two notable tribute albums to the Grateful Dead are Wake the Dead, with Celtic-style covers, and Might As Well, by The Persuasions.

In some cases this proves to be popular enough to spawn a series of cover albums being released for a band, either under a consistent branding such as the two Black Sabbath Nativity in Black cover albums and the industrial themed "Blackest Album" cover albums of Metallica songs, or in the form of releases from a number of different companies cashing in on the trend such as the many Metallica cover albums released in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Metallica itself is known for doing covers; their original album, Kill 'Em All, included a couple of covers (Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?" and Blitzkrieg's "Blitzkrieg"), the original The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited was a collection of covers paying homage to a number of mostly obscure bands, which were later combined with additional new covers on the double album Garage Inc., which among other things included covers of Black Sabbath ("Sabbra Cadabra"), Bob Seger ("Turn the Page"), Blue Öyster Cult ("Astronomy"), Mercyful Fate (a medley of different songs of the band), and numerous Motörhead tracks. In an interesting turn around there were even a couple of releases of The Metallic-era CDs collecting tracks from bands that Metallica had covered, both the original versions of the covered songs, and some additional songs by the same artist.

A different type of all-covers album occurs when one artist creates a release of covers of songs originally by many other artists, as a way to recognize their influences or simply as a change of pace or direction. An early example of this was David Bowie's album Pin Ups, featuring songs from groups with which he had shared venues in the 1960s. Since these bands included The Who and The Kinks many of the tracks would have been at least familiar to his audience. Other more recent examples of this type of album include Renegades by Rage Against the Machine featuring covers of songs originally performed by diverse artists including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Afrikaa Bambaataa, and Erik B and Rakim, as well as the EP Feedback by Canadian rock band Rush. Tori Amos' album Strange Little Girls features covers of songs originally performed by male artists sung from the perspective of thirteen female characters she created (including a rather unexpected version of Slayer's "Raining Blood"). Manfred Mann did albums with more covers than original songs, following the mould of Vanilla Fudge. More rarely, bands will do an entire album of cover songs originally by a particular artist, such as The The's Hanky Panky, which consists entirely of Hank Williams songs, or Booker T. & the M.G.'s' album McLemore Avenue which was a cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road, or Russ Pay's tribute to Manchester legends Joy Division.

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".) Also notable are Dread Zeppelin, who take Led Zeppelin songs and cover them in a reggae fashion with the added twist of an Elvis Presley impersonation on the lead vocal; Nine Inch Elvis, who take Elvis Presley songs and rework them in an industrial fashion similar to Nine Inch Nails; and Beatallica, who "mix up" songs from The Beatles and Metallica into Metallica-sounding songs with humorous lyrics referring to both bands' works.

In that same category, The Blues Brothers have recorded only covers on their three most famous albums, Briefcase Full of Blues, Made in America and the motion picture soundtrack The Blues Brothers. They covered blues, R&B, soul, country and rock'n'roll songs, but with their own particular, fresh and raw style of interpretation, a successful blend of the Memphis Stax [disambiguation needed ] sound provided by MGs band members Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn, and the New York City sound from the horn section (Alan Rubin and Lou Marini, for example). The outcome sometimes gave a new life to songs. Some became even more popular after The Blues Brothers had played them, than before. The best example is "Soul Man", more remembered as a hit by The Blues Brothers rather than by the original singers, Sam & Dave. The same can be said of "She Caught the Katy" (originally written by Taj Mahal and Yank Rachell) and "Jailhouse Rock" (sung by Elvis Presley) or "Sweet Home Chicago" (Robert Johnson), acknowledging the fact that covers can become even more famous than original performances.

Recent years have seen well-established artists (especially those mostly active in the 1980s) release cover albums, such as Poison (Poison'd!), Tesla (Real to Reel), Queensrÿche (Take Cover), and Def Leppard (Yeah!), revealing a wide range of musical influences.

Some cover albums take the unusual tack of doing classical versions of rock and metal songs. The unusual band Apocalyptica which comprises four classical cellists started out performing classical arrangements of Metallica songs. In a similar vein, there have also been many string quartet tributes to popular rock and metal bands, most notably Tool, Black Sabbath, Breaking Benjamin, New Order/Joy Division, the Cure, Muse, the Beatles, and even Slayer.

One more type of cover album is when a cover of the entire album is done, rather than a collection of songs. A notable band to earn acclaim this way are the Easy Star All-Stars, who covered The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd in their album Dub Side of the Moon and OK Computer by Radiohead in their album Radiodread. Both albums were radical departures from the original albums, being redone in reggae/dub. Another album which radically remade an original album in a new genre is the 2001 Rebuild the Wall, in which Luther Wright and the Wrongs covered the entire double-album The Wall by Pink Floyd as a country/bluegrass piece. Camper Van Beethoven covered Fleetwood Mac's Tusk album in its entirety. Beck's Record Club project has covered The Velvet Underground and Nico, Songs of Leonard Cohen, Oar, Kick, and Yannii Live at the Acropolis by The Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, Skip Spence, INXS, and Yanni, respectively.

By genre


Many up and coming bands in the metal genre cover songs by their predecessors to gain public interest, although more established bands have also recorded covers. HammerFall, Metallica, Napalm Death, Entombed, Iced Earth, Between the Buried and Me, Overkill, Slayer, Marilyn Manson, Fozzy, and Def Leppard have released entire albums of covers, for example. In specific subgenres of metal, covers generally reflect the genre the band is in. The Norwegian black metal band Mayhem have recorded several Venom covers, while Mayhem themselves have been covered many times: their song "Deathcrush" has been covered around 140 times, according to Encyclopaedia Metallum.

Another approach taken by several metal bands, including Children of Bodom, is to cover songs generally not listened to by metal fans, such as pop, punk, or classic rock songs. Children of Bodom's cover of Britney Spears' "Oops! I Did It Again" was originally recorded as an in-joke amongst the band members but ended up being released as a bonus track on one of their EPs, as well as Andrew W.K.'s "She Is Beautiful". Blind Guardian has covered surf-rock hit "Surfin' USA" as well as 50's hit "Mr. Sandman" and oldies rock and roll staples "Barbara Ann" and "Long Tall Sally". Yngwie J. Malmsteen covered ABBA's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" renamed "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Love After Midnight)" the song features the same lyrics, with minor edits, and the same music with a more powerful metal feel. Thrash metal band Megadeth covered Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin' on their 1985 debut album Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!, but is more often recognized as a parody rather than a true cover, and is considered controversial because song writer Lee Hazelwood deemed Megadeth's version to be "a perversion of the original". Also, nu metal band Korn have covered Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" for the xXx: State of the Union soundtrack; and Cameo's "Word Up!" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" for their Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 compilation album.


In recent years, artists have begun covering hip-hop songs, most frequently in concert and typically in a style radically different to the originals. Snoop Dogg, XV, Busy Signal, Kanye West Rock City have all recorded covers of hip-hop songs.

The band Mindless Self Indulgence recorded a cover of the song "Bring the Pain" by Method Man in which they completely change the entire rhythm and sound of the song. The only part of the original song retained in their cover is the lyrics.


In R&B, remakes are common, often seen as tributes to the original artist. R&B artists such as Mary J. Blige have recorded several covers of legendary R&B artists like Aretha Franklin "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", Chaka Khan (Sweet Thing), and Rose Royce "I'm Going Down". In 1995 D'Angelo remade "Cruisin'" originally recorded by Smokey Robinson. K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci recorded a remake of "If You Think You're Lonely Now" by Bobby Womack. Lionel Richie and various contemporary artists recorded and released a remake of "We Are The World" for Haiti in February 2010. In 1994 Aaliyah recorded a cover of The Isley Brothers classic "At Your Best (You Are Love)" on her debut album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number. In 2001, Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Pink and Lil Kim recorded a remake of "Lady Marmalade", originally recorded by Labelle, for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack.

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.

New Age

The Taliesin Orchestra specializes in remaking famous songs into orchestra-style melodies. Their debut album, Orinoco Flow: The Music of Enya, was a collection of songs originally created and sung by Enya.


Independent artists sometimes create covers for songs done by other independent artists. Petra Haden has done several song covers, most notably, the song "Yellow" by Coldplay. Youth Group recorded a cover of the Alphaville song "Forever Young". Singer-songwriter Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) is known for covering other musicians' songs in her own, unique style. Canadian indie artist Feist covered "Inside and Out" (originally by the Bee Gees) for her album Let It Die. Archangel have recently done a cover version of "Do It Again" by Steely Dan, and have released it as a single.


Hundreds of songs have been covered by punk/pop punk bands, including the bands Rancid, Sex Pistols, Burning Heads, and hundreds of others. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is a punk band that only does cover songs. BYO Records has also BYO Split Series with bands such as NOFX, Anti-Flag, Rancid, Alkaline Trio, and The Bouncing Souls in which two bands on each disc cover each other's songs.

Since 2000, Fearless Records has released a series of CDs in which various rock bands perform covers of songs from other genres or time-periods. The deviations from this theme are Punk Goes Acoustic and Punk Goes Acoustic 2 (in which the featured bands recorded acoustic versions of their own songs); Punk Goes Pop 1, 2, 3 and 4; and Punk Goes Classic Rock.


Pet Shop Boys is one of the best example of covering other artists' song to becoming their own hits. They covered few songs and they became their hit, such as "Always on My Mind", "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes off You)", "Somewhere", "Go West", etc.

See also


  1. ^[dead link]
  2. ^ Bush, John. "All Along the Watchtower". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  3. ^ ProQuest Login - ProQuest
  4. ^ Cash Box Top Singles 10/11/52
  5. ^ Meets the Crickets/I Remember: Bobby Vee: Music
  6. ^ See, for example, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook
  7. ^ a b "Must you get permission to record someone else's song?". The Straight Dope. April 21, 1978. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  8. ^ Hull, Geoffrey P. (2004). The Recording Industry. Routledge. p. 46. ISBN 041596802X. Retrieved 2009-04-14. "As it became clear in 1908 that Congress was going to give music publishers the right to control mechanical reproduction of their songs, it was reported that the Aeolian Company had begun to enter into arrangements with many of the largest music publishers to be the exclusive manufacturer of piano rolls of their compositions. Fearing that they might create an Aeolian piano roll monopoly, Congress responded to pleas of the other piano roll manufacturers to make the mechanical right subject to a compulsory license." 
  9. ^ Retro Charts -
  10. ^ Cash Box Top Singles 3/03/56
  11. ^ Retro Charts -
  12. ^ Retro Charts -
  13. ^ See Dot Records
  14. ^ The Orchestral Sound2
  15. ^[dead link]
  16. ^ "Exclusive: Inside the Hot Business of 'Glee'". The Hollywood Reporter. Lori Burgess. January 25, 2011. p. 2. Retrieved January 26, 2011. 
  17. ^ Retro Charts -
  18. ^ Cash Box Top Singles 5/21/55
  19. ^ Cash Box Top 100 8/28/65

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  • cover version — cover versions N COUNT: oft N of n A cover version of a song is a version of it recorded by a singer or band who did not originally perform the song. ...a new album of Cole Porter cover versions. Syn: cover …   English dictionary

  • cover version — cover ,version noun count a COVER of a popular song …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • cover version — noun a recording of a song that was first recorded or made popular by somebody else they made a cover of a Beatles song • Syn: ↑cover, ↑cover song • Hypernyms: ↑recording * * * ˈcover version f56 [cover version …   Useful english dictionary

  • cover version — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms cover version : singular cover version plural cover versions music a cover of a popular song …   English dictionary

  • Cover version — Reprise Pour les articles homonymes, voir Reprise (homonymie). Une reprise est un morceau existant et qu’un autre interprète que son créateur rejoue, de façon similaire ou différente. Pour la musique classique, on parle d’interprétation et non… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cover-Version — Als Neueinspielung oder engl. Coverversion (kurz: Cover) wird ein Musikstück bezeichnet, das von jemand anderem als dem ursprünglichen Interpreten gespielt wird. Da erst in der Rock und Pop bzw. Unterhaltungsmusik der Interpret an die Autoren… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cover Version — Als Neueinspielung oder engl. Coverversion (kurz: Cover) wird ein Musikstück bezeichnet, das von jemand anderem als dem ursprünglichen Interpreten gespielt wird. Da erst in der Rock und Pop bzw. Unterhaltungsmusik der Interpret an die Autoren… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • cover version — a recording of a song by a singer, instrumentalist, or group other than the original performer or composer. Also called cover. [1965 70] * * * …   Universalium

  • ˈcover ˌversion — noun [C] a cover of a popular song …   Dictionary for writing and speaking English

  • cover version — noun A version of a song that is a rerecording of that song by a different artist. See Also: remake, enhanced remake …   Wiktionary

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