cover version

In popular music, a cover version, or simply cover, is a new rendition (performance or recording) of a previously recorded song. In its current use, it can sometime have a pejorative meaning - implying that the original recording should be regarded as the definitive version, usually in the sense of an authentic rendition, and all others are merely lesser competitors, alternatives or tributes (no matter how popular). However, Billboard - and other magazines recording the popularity of the musical artists and hit tunes - originally measured the sales success of the published tune not just recordings of it, or later the airplay that it also managed to achieve. In that context - the greater the number of cover versions- the more successful the song.

The present view of popular music starts with the recording artists and their material, not the published tune (in search of a popular artist to record it, e.g. from Tin Pan Alley in New York or Denmark Street in London). It is, then, in the light of an earlier, autonomous, poetic minstrel tradition that late twentieth / early twenty-first century singer-songwriter fixations may best be viewed. And with this, the prevailing distaste for artists who perform another's material as cover versions or compositions for produced artists in the Brill Building style (which produced very many tunes that were - and are still - widely covered by many artists in a variety of styles).

The term cover version originally implied a rival version of a tune recorded by an artist subsequent to an original version, e.g. Paul Williams's 1949 hit tune The Hucklebuck or Hank Williams' 1952 [2] smash 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 shallac recording disc. Popular musicians (and especially modern listeners) have now begun to use the word "cover" to refer to any remake of a previously recorded tune.

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 Artists might also perform interpretations ("covers") of a favorite artist's hit tunes [3] for the simple pleasure of playing a familiar song or collection of tunes A cover band plays such "cover versions" exclusively.

In the contemporary world, there are broadly three types of entertainers who depend upon on cover versions for their principle repertoire:

Tribute acts or bands are performers who make a living by recreating the music of one particular artist. Bands such as Bjorn Again, Dread Zeppelin and the Fab Faux are dedicated to playing the music of Abba, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles respectively. There are also "tribute acts" that salute the Who, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and many other classic rock acts. Most tribute bands are content to perform copycat versions of the original repertoire. Some tribute bands introduce a twist - eg Dread Zeppelin’s reggae takes on the Zeppelin catalog or Beatallica’s 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.

Early cover versions and the origin of the term

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,[4], 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.[5] 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, they 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 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.

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: [6] this was a 1956 record Hit Parade instrumental tune, Moritat, for the Dick Hyman Trio, also recorded by Richard Hayman & Jan August,[7] but a hit also for Louis Armstrong 1956/1959, Bobby Darin, 1959, [8] and Ella Fitzgerald, 1960,[9] 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.

Even to this day, authors and publishers are paid royalty by broadcasters and artists are not, 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 musicians were re-recorded in a more popular vein by other artists with a more toned-down style. 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. 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."[10] 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 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 sometimes called a cross cover version. 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.

Reworking non-English language tunes 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.

Etymological speculation

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While it is now all but impossible to trace the actual history of the term cover version, it was used from the late 1940s to indicate rival versions of a tune competing for placement on the popular Hit Parade charts. One possible origin of the term is that it relates to the record company "covering a bet" by placing a bet on a song someone else has already bet on, hoping to ride the coattails of their good luck. Another commonly-suggested origin, also apocryphal, is that a new recording by a white artist was intended to "cover up the blackness" of the original and make it acceptable to white listeners. Also rumoured is that the term originated in record companies' board rooms: when a song by a rival company began to look like a hit, executives would ask if their A & R men (the forerunners of today's record producers) had any recordings of the song that could be released; the correct response would have been, "We've got that covered." A fourth suggestion is that the term "cover" may have its origins in an attempt by the artist who recorded the newer version of the song to have his/her version literally "cover" the original version in the sales racks. Woolworth, a discount chain store, even had its own label (Embassy) specializing in low-price copies of popular tunes. But seminal U. S. rock-and-roll disc jockey Dick Clark makes the strongest case, however, for the term cover actually being used (once again, quite literally) as a "covering" of one record on a (radio station's) turntable by another record; for example, a black group's recording being "covered" by a white group's rendition, thereby preventing radio play for the original (since only the record "on top" could be played on a broadcast turntable).

Modern "cover" versions

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Cover versions of many popular songs have been recorded, sometimes with a radically different style, sometimes virtually indistinguishable from the original. For example, Jose Feliciano's version of "Light My Fire" (recorded after the original had disappeared from sales charts) was distinct from The Doors' version, but Carl Carlton's 1974 cover (seven years after the fact) of Robert Knight's 1967 hit single "Everlasting Love" sounded almost identical to the original. Another one of the most recent songs to be covered is the 2007 song "Umbrella" by Rihanna. People such as Scott Simons, Marie Digby, Mandy Moore, and others have covered it in different styles.

Cover versions can also still cross language barriers. 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, 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.

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.

Organized crime, or unscrupulous labels, have been known to release original recordings in other markets, without payment of royalties to the writers or artists; these unauthorized releases could not be properly termed "cover" recordings.

Contemporising 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,[11] 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 'n' Roll version is the only one that might currently get widespread airplay on most media - due, no doubt, to the still prevailing prejudice against non-beat music artists or styles.

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, 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.

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. 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 soulful reworking of The Beatles' originally-jaunty "With a Little Help from My Friends," and the band Devo's radical reconstruction of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". Many musicians have other goals, such as to create publicity as in Sid Vicious' notorious rendition of "My Way," or to personalize a song, such as Johnny Cash reworking Nine Inch Nails's "Hurt" to a devastating acoustic version that reflected upon his ill state.

Tributes, tribute albums and cover albums

Established artists often pay homage to artists or songs that inspired them before they started their careers by recording cover versions, or performing unrecorded cover versions in their 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" and thus become legitimate cover versions.

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. This trend was spawned by Hal Willner's Amarcord Nino Rota in 1981. 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. Among the artists to receive this form of recognition are Joy Division, Guns N' Roses, New Order, Rush, Faith No More, Tom Waits, Oingo Boingo, The Bee Gees, ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, Cher, Shania Twain, Kate Bush, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Rammstein, The Carpenters, Dolly Parton, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Leonard Cohen, U2, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Duran Duran, Carole King, Led Zeppelin, Sick Of It All, Metallica, the Ramones, Queen, Sublime, Velvet Revolver, Weezer, the Finn brothers, Bruce Cockburn, Donovan, Harry Chapin and Gordon Lightfoot.

The soundtrack to the film I Am Sam is an example of this: it consisted of Beatles songs redone by various modern 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 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 2 disc Garage Inc., which among other things included covers of Black Sabbath, Bob Seger, Blue Öyster Cult, Mercyful Fate, 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's album Strange Little Girls features covers of songs originally performed by male artists sung from the perspective of thirteen female characters she created. Awaken's double album Party In Lyceum's Toilets has a whole CD dedicated to covers of various artists. 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. and the MGs' album McLemore Avenue which was a cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road, or Russ Pay's tribute to Madchester 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 perform tracks by The Beatles in the style of Metallica.

In that same category, the Blues Brothers have made only covers in their 3 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 sound provided by MGs band members Steve Cropper and Donald Dunn, and the New York City sound from the horn section (Alan Rubin and Lou Marini, for example). The outcome gave sometimes 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 and Dave. The same can be said of She Caught The Katy (originally created by Taj Mahal) 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.

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, New Order/Joy Division, the Cure, Muse, the Beatles, and even Coldplay among others.

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 cover to radically remake the original in a new genre is the 2001 Rebuild the wall, where Luther Wright & the Wrongs covered the entire double-album The Wall by Pink Floyd as a country/bluegrass opus. A daring undertaking blessed by members of Pink Floyd, it is faithful to both the story line, concept, and feel of the original and the musical depth possible within the new genre.

British pop group No Way Sis, released a single in 1996 which heavily borrowed from the Oasis hit Shakermaker. The song was often referred to as No Way Sis plagiarizing Oasis, plagiarizing The New Seekers, plagiarizing The Beatles.

Most covered songs

There are several songs that have been said to have the most cover versions, but for various reasons it is difficult to accurately determine what song has the most cover versions. Databases attempting to do so may be incomplete or flawed with regard to songs from the developing world. In addition to that older songs may have cover versions that are no longer well documented.

Certain songs are largely known for having a large number of cover versions and are called "standards." In musical forms like blues or particularly jazz it is not uncommon for musicians to have albums or CDs made up primarily of standards. For more on this see Blues standard, Jazz standard, and the Great American Songbook.

The Beatles' "Yesterday" is often called the most covered song in popular music history; some allege there are over three thousand different versions, although no evidence has been provided. An online cover song database lists a little over a hundred covers for the song,[12] but places Eleanor Rigby as being more covered than it.[13] The Beatles' "Come Together" has also been covered numerous times. George Gershwin's "Summertime" (from Porgy and Bess) is considered a standard (see jazz standard) so has been performed in enough versions that an accurate number might be difficult to ascertain. Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (from the film Holiday Inn) is well known for having been covered, and what is more a popular hit record, numerous times. According to one estimate "Cry Me a River", written by Arthur Hamilton, had 115 cover versions.[14]

Other songs which have been released many times as cover versions include "Popcorn" by Gershon Kingsley (which has been covered over 200 times,[15]) "Rock Around the Clock",[16], , "Eres tu" by Mocedades, "Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, "Over the Rainbow" by Judy Garland, "Blue Monday" (New Order), "White Christmas" (Bing Crosby), "Louie Louie" (Richard Berry), "Sunny" (Bobby Hebb), "Fever" (Otis Blackwell),"Across the Universe" (The Beatles), "Baby It's You" (The Shirelles), "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (Jimmy Webb), "Helter Skelter" (The Beatles), "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan), "Twist and Shout" (Isley Brothers), "We Will Rock You" (Queen), "Besame Mucho" (Consuelo Velázquez), "Free Bird" (Lynyrd Skynyrd), "When I Fall In Love" (Doris Day), "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division), "Stardust" (Bing Crosby), "Garota de Ipanema" (Tom Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes), "Feelings" (Morris Albert), "No Woman No Cry" (Bob Marley & the Wailers), "Dirty Old Town" (Ewan MacColl), "I Fought the Law" (Sonny Curtis), "Axel F" (Harold Faltermeyer), "Roll Over Beethoven" (Chuck Berry), "How Deep Is Your Love" (The Bee Gees), "Something" (The Beatles), "Soul Man" (Sam & Dave) and many of the less recent works of Bob Dylan (such as "Knocking on Heaven's Door" and "All Along the Watchtower") "Paranoid" (Black Sabbath) and Leonard Cohen (as of December 5 2004, there were at least 940 published cover versions of Cohen songs.[18]) The Australian television program The Money or the Gun featured for every episode a new cover of Stairway to Heaven, played in versions ranging from a Wagnerian opera to a Beatles melody.

Covers in particular genres


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. Metallica, Napalm Death, Entombed, Iced Earth and Slayer have released entire albums of covers, and Disturbed has also covered two songs; Land of Confusion which was origanally recorded by Genesis and Shout originally recorded by Tears for Fears. Korn has also released a couple of cover songs that include a rendition of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and "Word Up", the classic disco song from Cameo, which can be found on the greatest hits album. 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 Encyclopedia 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 WK's "She is Beautiful."


In recent years, artists have begun covering hip hop songs, most frequently in concert. A notable such cover recorded in a studio and released commercially is bluegrass version of "Gin and Juice" by Snoop Doggy Dogg, as performed by The Gourds. Ben Folds, Tori Amos, Nina Gordon, Jonathan Coulton, Luka Bloom, Ben Kweller, Dynamite Hack, and Keller Williams have also recorded covers of hip-hop songs.

Many of these tracks rely on the incongruity of a white artist performing music normally thought of as "black" for comic effect or shock value, though some (such as Luka Bloom's acoustic version of LL Cool J's "I Need Love" and Tori Amos's harrowing remake of Eminem's "'97 Bonnie and Clyde") are played entirely "straight." The 2000 compilation Take a Bite Outta Rhyme consists entirely of covers of this type, performed by various artists to various degrees of seriousness.

Run-D.M.C.'s 1986 cover of Aerosmith's Walk This Way, which featured the original band, is a notable example of a hip-hop group remaking a popular song from another genre; most of what passes for "cover" versions in the new millennium should indeed be termed "remakes" in this respect.

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 original part of their cover is the lyrics.

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, , was a collection of songs originally created and sung by Enya.


As heard on the television series, The O.C., independent artists 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 did a cover for Alphaville with the song Forever Young.

Singer-songwriter Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) is known for covering other musicians' songs in her own, unique style.

Best cover versions

In 2007, British newspaper The Observer ran a poll to find the best ever cover versions.[1]


  • Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" contains samples of numerous covers. Covers and remakes, however, shouldn't be confused with the practice of sampling.

See also


1. ^ The OMM top 50 covers The Observer accessed 11 August 2007

External links

Popular music is music belonging to any of a number of musical styles that are accessible to the general public and are disseminated by one or more of the mass media. It stands in contrast to art music[1]
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performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which one group of people (the performer or performers) behave in a particular way for another group of people (the audience).
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Recording is a process of capturing data or translating information to a format stored on a storage medium often referred to as a record.

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Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the collection of New York City-centered music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
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Denmark Street is a short narrow road in central London, notable for its connections with British popular music, and is known as the British Tin Pan Alley. The road connects Charing Cross Road at its western end with St Giles High Street at its eastern end.
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minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories about distant places or about (real or imaginary) historical events. Though minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others.
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Singer-songwriter is a term that refers to performers who write, compose, and sing their own material including lyrics, melodies, often providing the sole accompaniment to an entire composition or song.
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Brill Building (built 1930) is an office building located at 1619 Broadway in New York City, just north of Times Square. The Brill Building (named after the Brill Brothers, who owned a clothing store on the street level and who later bought the entire building from its developer, A.
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Paul Williams is the name of several musicians:
  • Paul Williams (The Temptations) (1939–1973), one of the lead singers of the popular Motown act The Temptations

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Hiram "Hank" King Williams (September 17, 1923–January 1, 1953) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter who has also become an icon of country music and rock 'n' roll, and was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.
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Released May 9, 1973
Recorded 1973
Genre Country
Length 3:42
Label A&M Records
Writer(s) Hank Williams
Producer(s) Richard and Karen Carpenter

Now & Then track listing
(3) "
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Music hall is a form of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to
  1. A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts.

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Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of musical notation; like its analogs -- books, pamphlets, etc. -- the medium of sheet music typically is paper (or, in earlier times, parchment), although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on
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gramophone record (also phonograph record, or simply record) is an analogue sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed modulated spiral groove starting near the periphery and ending near the center of the disc.
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A cover band (or covers band) is a band that plays only cover songs. Most wedding bands can be considered cover bands. Another term is party band.


Cover bands typically play a mix of songs from different decades and different styles.
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A tribute act is a music group, singer, or musician who specifically plays the music of a well-known music act, often one which has disbanded or ceased touring. Probably the largest class of tributes acts are Elvis impersonators, individual performers who mimic the songs and style
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Björn Again is an ABBA tribute band, taking their name from Björn Ulvaeus, a member of ABBA, and a pun on the phrase "born again".

This tribute band has become so successful that as of 2007 there are five Björn Agains performing in various parts of the world.
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Dread Zeppelin is an American band best known for covering the songs of Led Zeppelin in a reggae style sung by an Elvis Presley impersonator named Tortelvis, though their act now encompasses many other songs and other styles of music.
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The Fab Faux is a musical tribute band performing the works of The Beatles. The group features Will Lee, bassist for Late Show with David Letterman, and Jimmy Vivino, guitarist for Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
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Led Zeppelin were an English rock band that formed in September 1968. Led Zeppelin consisted of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. With their heavy, guitar-driven sound, Led Zeppelin are regarded as one of the first heavy metal bands.
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The Beatles were an English musical group from Liverpool whose members were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They are one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed bands in the history of popular music.
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The Who are an English rock band that first formed in 1964, and grew to be considered one of the greatest[1] and most influential[2] bands in the world.
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Pink Floyd are an English rock band that initially earned recognition for their psychedelic rock music, and, as they evolved, for their progressive rock music. They are known for philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative cover art, and elaborate live shows.
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Classic rock was originally conceived as a radio station programming format which evolved from the album oriented rock (AOR) format in the early-1980s.
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A cover band (or covers band) is a band that plays only cover songs. Most wedding bands can be considered cover bands. Another term is party band.


Cover bands typically play a mix of songs from different decades and different styles.
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A revivalist artist or revivalist band is a musical group, singer, or musician dedicated to reviving interest in a musical genre from an earlier era.

Such performers are usually dedicated enthusiasts of a particular musical genre - often a style that is no longer in
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Sha Na Na is a rock and roll revivalist/comedy group from New York City, who perform covers of doo wop hits from the 1950s, simultaneously reviving and sending up the music, as well as 1950s New York street culture, in their performances.
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Doo-wop is a style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music, which was started in the black community and became popular in the mid-1950s to the early 1960s in the United States[1].
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