“Cover” Versions

ON THE INCORRECT USE OF THE TERM “COVER”

The word “cover” is now used by music writers and music fans incorrectly. They use it to describe any attempt by an artist to perform old songs or previously recorded material. The use of this term gives them a bit of authority since it makes them sound like they are in the music business. They are in fact ignorant of what a cover version of a song really is.

Back in the days of black radio stations and white radio stations (i.e. segregation), if a black act had a hot record the white kids would find out and want to hear it on “their” radio station. This would prompt the record company to bring a white act into the recording studio and cut an exact, but white, version of the song to give to the white radio stations to play and thus keep the black act where it belonged, on black radio. A “cover” version of a song is a racist tool. Many examples can be found from “Sha Boom” to “Good Lovin’” It is NOT a term intended to be used to describe a valid interpretation of an old song. In that case every pop singer is nothing more than a cover artist (a derogatory description if ever there was one). I am not a “cover” artist and I do not do “covers”. The Crewcuts were cover artists.

The term has morphed into its present misuse and I suppose I’ll not see this change anytime soon but I do hope the readers of this website and fans who are kind enough to write concert reviews will not use this term.

Madonna did not “cover” American Pie, she just sang an old song, and made an old songwriter mighty happy.

Thanks,

DON McLEAN

August 26th, 2004.

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  1. You are totally correct Don. I also feel people that think the only true artist is a singer/songwriter is too full of themselves. They use it to demean great singers who do a wonderful interpretation of a song with their voice and instrument. Lastly if it were a true word to be used in the entire music genre which gives it true credibility, why aren’t symphony conductors saying today they’re doing 3 covers of Brahms, Mozart and Copland?

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