Welcome to The Covers Project
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We're building the web's best database of cover songs ! Even better, we're following the path of their influence by building cover chains (a set of songs in which each song is a cover of a song by the artist who covered the preceding song). The Covers Project is powered by YOU, so help us out by adding new songs.
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What are cover songs?
A cover song—also known as a remake or cover version—is a new release of a song originally recorded or released by a different artist. For instance, The Rolling Stones released "Satisfaction" in 1965 and Otis Redding and Devo later released their own versions of this classic song, putting their own musical spin on the well-known hit.
Some record labels originally used cover songs as a way to cash in on the popularity of a song released on a rival label. Songwriters and publishing companies welcomed cover versions as a way to earn more income for the same material via different artists. Publishing sheet music encouraged many artists to perform and potentially record their own versions of songs, leading to more royalties for the publishing companies and original songwriters.
Covers: The Early Years
By the 1940s and 1950s, vinyl records became commonplace. Recording artists often forged their careers by re-recording popular songs of the era. Many artists did not author their own material, much the way a cover band or wedding band plays songs that are already well known to delight their audiences. Some artists included a wide variety of cover songs their albums to show off their versatility and vocal range while encouraging sales to fans of both the singer and other renditions of each song.
In some cases, a cover version of a song far surpasses the popularity of the original, such as "Hound Dog," originally written by songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for blues artist Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. Thornton's version, released on Peacock Records in 1953, became her biggest hit. In April 1956, Elvis Presley heard a band performing the song in Las Vegas and the song's peculiar lyrics made him laugh. He returned to watch the band perform each night he was in town, and eventually performed the song himself on the Steve Allen Show that July. The next day, Elvis recorded his own rendition, which become one of his biggest hits, as well as a staple of his concert performances.
Numerous other artists recorded "Hound Dog" between Thornton's and Presley's versions, although none of their versions reached the same level of notoriety as either Thornton's or Presley's recordings.
How Covers Happen
Cover songs generally happen several ways today. Typically, a recording artist will release a song already released by another artist. Notable examples include Jimi Hendrix's rendition of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" and Prince covering Sheryl Crow's "Everyday is a Winding Road."
A cover band plays or records songs released by other artists almost exclusively. Bar bands, wedding bands and all-occasion bands play in this way, covering a vast array of artists and styles of music.
A tribute band, like a cover band, only plays music originally recorded and released by other artists. Unlike a cover band, a tribute band pays homage to one particular artist, such as Zoso, which emulates both the look and lifestyle of Led Zeppelin as they perform the band's songs. Live Wire, an AC/DC tribute band, is so well-known among AC/DC fans that they've been featured on the official AC/DC website and Facebook page. The Iron Maidens—a girls-only group—pays homage to Iron Maiden. Some tribute bands earn enough from live performances to make it their full-time work, touring the world or playing long-running shows in places such as Las Vegas.
Some artists set their sights on reviving a particular style, genre or era of music no longer popular with mainstream music listeners, such as The Blues Brothers, a group that covered blues, soul and R&B music from the 1950s and 1960s. The Stray Cats brought a rockabilly sound into the 1980s, while Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Squirrel Nut Zippers and several other acts helped usher a swing music revival in the mid-1990s. In the 2010s, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings revisited early 1960s and 1970s soul.
Artists that wish to record songs previously released by other artists must obtain a compulsory license before releasing or selling the new version. This license is obtained by working through an agency such as the Harry Fox Agency or by sending notice to the original songwriters or publishing company. If a cover song is released and sold without permission, legal action may ensue.
Even if a new song sounds too much like a previously released recording, the songwriter or publisher of the original song may sue the artist or writer of the new tune. Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker, Jr over allegations that his "Ghostbusters" theme song sounded too much like Lewis' "I Want a New Drug." The parties settled out of court. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were sued by Marvin Gaye's family over Thicke's recording of the song "Blurred Lines," which the Gaye family felt sounded too much like Marvin Gaye's hit song, "Got to Give It Up." Gaye's family was awarded $4 million in copyright damages, plus some of the royalties from "Blurred Lines."
Just as music has played a key role in nearly every culture and in society itself, cover versions propel many songs and entire music genres through entire generations of human history.
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