In popular music, a cover version or cover song, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording of a previously recorded, commercially released song by someone other than the original artist or composer.
Originally, ''Billboard'' and other magazines that track the popularity of 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, some cover versions being more successful recording(s) than the original song(s). Cover versions of well-known, well-liked tunes are often recorded by new or up-and-coming artists to achieve initial success when their unfamiliar original material would be less likely to be successful. Before 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. Cover versions could also be released as an effort to revive the song's popularity among younger generations of listeners after the popularity of the original version has long since declined over the years.
On occasion, a cover can become more popular and well known than the original, such as Elvis Presley's version of Carl Perkins' original version of "Blue Suede Shoes", Santana's version in 1970 of Peter Green's and Fleetwood Mac's 1968 song "Black Magic Woman", or Jimi Hendrix's version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". The Hendrix version, released six months after Dylan's original, became a Top 10 single in the UK in 1968 (US number 20) and was ranked 48th in ''Rolling Stone'' magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Another famous example is the Beatles' cover of "Twist and Shout", originally by the Isley Brothers, and, to a lesser extent, their cover of the song, "Til There Was You", by Meredith Willson, among many others.
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: "trade jargon meaning to record a tune that looks like a potential hit on someone else's label."〔(ProQuest Login - ProQuest )〕 Examples of records covered include Paul Williams' 1949 hit tune "The Hucklebuck" and Hank Williams' 1952〔(Cash Box Top Singles 10/11/52 )〕 song "Jambalaya." Both crossed over to the popular Hit Parade and had numerous hit versions. Before the mid-20th century, the notion of an original version of a popular tune would have seemed slightly odd – the production of musical entertainment was seen as a live event, even if it was reproduced at home via a copy of the sheet music, learned by heart or captured on a gramophone record. In fact, one of the principal objects of publishing sheet music was to have a composition performed by as many artists as possible.
In previous generations, some artists made very successful careers 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" (the reworking, updating or interpretation) of songs as a tribute to the original performer or group. Using familiar material (such as evergreen hits, standard tunes or classic recordings) is an important method of learning music styles. Until the mid-1960s most albums, or long playing records, 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〔(Amazon.com: Meets the Crickets/I Remember: Bobby Vee: Music )〕 for the simple pleasure of playing a familiar song or collection of tunes.〔See, for example, ''Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook''〕 A cover band plays such "cover versions" exclusively.
Today three broad types of entertainers depend on cover versions for their principal repertoire:
Tribute acts or bands are performers who make a living by recreating the music of one particular artist or band. Bands such as Björn Again, Led Zepagain, The Fab Four, Australian Pink Floyd Show, The Iron Maidens and Glory Days are dedicated to playing the music of ABBA, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden and Bruce Springsteen respectively. Some tribute acts salute the Who, The Rolling Stones and many other classic rock acts. Many tribute acts target artists who remain popular but no longer perform, allowing an audience to experience the "next best thing" to the original act. The formation of tribute acts is roughly proportional to the enduring popularity of the original act; for example, dozens of Beatles tribute bands have formed and an entire subindustry has formed around Elvis impersonation. Many tribute bands attempt to recreate another band's music as faithfully as possible, but some such bands introduce a twist. Dread Zeppelin 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 cover songs for audiences who enjoy the familiarity of hit songs. Such bands draw from current Top 40 hits and/or those of previous decades to provide nostalgic entertainment in bars, on cruise ships and at such events as weddings, family celebrations and corporate functions. Since the advent of inexpensive computers, some cover bands use a computerized catalog of songs, so that the singer can have the lyrics to a song displayed on a computer screen. The use of a screen for lyrics as a memory aid can dramatically increase the number of songs a singer can perform.
Revivalist artists or bands are performers who are inspired by an entire genre of music and dedicate themselves to curating and recreating the 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 1970s. 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 started writing their own material in the same vein.
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