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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Music covers QUESTION

There was a 90-minute discussion on the Coverville podcast, episode 450, about cover music. Brian, the host, posed several questions of the panel of fellow podcasters of cover music. I listened to it some weeks ago, so not all the particulars are fresh in my mind. Still, here are a couple questions inspired by that podcast.

1. What IS a cover version? For instance (and this was on the show), is Eric Clapton doing Layla considered a cover of the Derek and the Dominoes version? The panel thought not.

2. How about when a songwriter writes the song, gives it to another artist, THEN records it? I believe Gene Pitney's Hello Mary Lou, recorded by Ricky Nelson before Pitney recorded it, would qualify. Which one is the cover? I don't know.

3. Or what if Ronnie Spector took a Ronettes song such as Be My Baby and sang background vocals on a more contemporary artist? I think that WOULD be a cover?

4. What makes a good cover song? Sometimes, but not always, a different point of view - a female singing what had been a song previously performed by a male - will help. It cannot be a slavish imitation of the original; what's the point? Often the remake features faster or slower tempos, unusual instrumentation or other qualities.

5. What is the first cover song that you really enjoyed that you recognized as a cover? Motown folks were always covering each other, but mine was We Can Work It Out, Stevie Wonder's cover of the Beatles' tune.



EM said...

Good questions, Rog. I guess I think of "versions" rather than "covers." But I spend a lot of time listening to genres of music where artists are recording songs that are so old they pre-date the recording industry or they write songs for each other. There's a trend in folk music right now of artists recording albums of songs by artists or songwriters that inspired them to go into music.

Maybe I'm just more flexible because two of my favorite artists built large parts of their careers by making careful selections of songs that were written (and in some cases recorded) by other artists.

Oh, and here are two more questions to add to your list, should you care to ponder them:

1. Is it any slight to the original artist when someone else's version of a song becomes the definitive one? Even if the original artist wrote it?

2. What do you think about cases where a cover is actually quite inferior to the original, yet is wildly more successful?

Anonymous said...

On Santana’s 1990 Spirits Dancing In The Flesh, there are two covers: Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman” and The Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady”.

Interesting note: the singer is Alex Ligertwood, formerly of Average White Band. Click the link below for the Amazon samples.