The term “cover song” thrown around, it can mean a variety of things depending on who has uttered the term. Some people may associate it with a “cover band” and think about a group that is playing songs they want to hear. Another person may associate that term with a “cover band” and picture of a collective of unoriginal musicians not able to write great material of their own. If you are Don McLean, per the Introduction of Cover Me: The Stories Behind The Greatest Cover Songs Of All Time, you likely associate a “cover” with the race records of the 1950s and 1960s. If you are Prince, also per the book’s Introduction, you think of a new recording that is meant to replace an original composition.
For me, personally, musically-speaking, there are few things more than a cover song done well. Many of the biggest hits of all time were covers. The aforementioned Prince had some of his songs recorded by other artists, like “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor and “Manic Monday” by The Bangles. “I Will Always Love You,” although associated with Whitney Houston, was a Dolly Parton song. A lot of the early recordings by The Beatles were covers. Jeff Buckley may be associated with “Hallelujah,” but Leonard Cohen performed it originally. “Respect” is often thought of as a woman’s empowerment anthem, thanks to Aretha Franklin, but Otis Redding was its original performer. A few of Joan Jett’s early hits were covers. Phish plays covers at just about every show, as do Guns N’ Roses. The list goes on and on when it comes to classic artists wanting to pay homage to songs they enjoy…
Check out Otis Redding performing “Respect” on December 9, 1967
In Cover Me, author Ray Padgett — also a well-respected publicist for Shore Fire Media known for the Cover Me blog — takes a lot of some of the most interesting cover songs in the history of popular music. Not just a bunch of opinions, Padgett has compiled new interviews with many of these artists, including The Talking Heads‘ David Byrne, The Who‘s Roger Daltrey, Devo‘s Mark Mothersbaugh, The Righteous Brothers, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. In the case of Yankovic, Padgett gets him to open up about the difference between a parody and a cover. Among the other subjects profiled are recordings by Adele, The Fugees, Johnny Cash, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Patti Smith; further to its credit, Cover Me reflects a variety of eras, genres and political viewpoints.
If you enjoy reading about the history of popular music, this is an undeniable 10 out of 10. Not only is the content great and full of anecdotes you probably have never heard before, but the layout is well-done and rife with colorful photos you probably have never seen before. This is the sort of book that you will buy as a gift for a friend or family member that is a music collector, yet struggle to actually give away.
Written by: Ray Padgett
Publisher: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. (October 3, 2017)
Format/Length: Hardcover, 231 pages
Check out “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Polka Face”