The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

Covering the Cover Song

Artist Ray Padgett
Other tags Cover Songs

Sounds like a very interesting read...Ronstadt is probably the one artists that you could likely write an entire book devoted to this subject about, as she was essentially a cover artist exclusively, a singer, and a damned good singer.  Having said that, and having purchased an number of her records, I don't prefer any of her versions of well known songs that she covered..."Blue Bayou" is nicely done but still not preferable to the original...the Elvis Costello covers lack the edge and bite of the originals...songs that she probably made famous, like "Desperado" and "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me"...her versions are pale imitations of the originals, particularly Zevon...her pitch perfect well enunciated version completely misses the irony of the lyric...even the songs she did by Karla Bonoff and JD Souther that weren't known before...her versions are nicely done, but the original versions are bettter readings from an emotional standpoint...maybe Jimmy Webb's "Adios" is one where her version is the best I've heard, but I've never been sure if that was her or Brian Wilson's incredible tracked backing vocals...yet she's a really important artist, and there's lots of great songwriters who genuinely benefitted from her covering their songs, and most people probably know her versions only ...many fine songs would not be nearly as well known were it not for the cover song, and the artist who does it, is an important part of the musical landscape...particularly with Dylan, if it hadn't been for cover artists, I'd have never gone deep enough in there to realize his genius...his voice and phrasing is something I had to listen to a lot before I could tolerate it...I'd not have kept going back to listen to him if it hadn't been for the Byrds, Hendrix, and later Jimmy LaFave..

I agree with you Henry...I do not completely understand why people would go see a tribute band who does faithful knock offs of original songs, but my favorite live venue now frequently hosts Yacht Rock Revue, and routinely books evenings of tribute shows...they have one coming soon that is Billy Joel/Elton John, and another that is Led Zeppelin, and they've had Pink Floyd, Eagles, Black Sabbath...obviously, it sells tickets...Jack 11.0 recently noted that he saw a show where some of Chicago's best musicians performed "The Last Waltz"...that I might be interested in...Michael McDermott does an October Halloweensteen show every year where he does all Springsteen...I'd probably do that too...and I did see a Beatles tribute once and it was pretty well executed...I wouldn't go back, but did enjoy myself...and I did see "Million Dollar Quartet" in NYC several years ago..on some level, I suppose that's a similar I'd not put people down if they are into that sort of thing...I guarantee you it costs a lot less to see the Eagles tribute band than it does to see the Eagles these days, and Henley is the only original guy left...Vince Gill is in the Eagles now for heavens sake...

That's funny about the Eagles and so true.    The power is in the name.   I think you and I could go out as the Coasters these days Jim and it seems Henley feels the same way about the Eagles.        

Covers are a difficult thing.   If it is too close the orginal - what's the point? - but if it is too out there some people will feel betrayed.   I'd personally rather hear an artist try something new.   Sort of like how Dylan always covers himself in concert.      

I think one that straddles both lines and does it real well is Patti Smith's version of Gloria.   Who can deny she made that her own?   

To me, Tom Russell is as good as any songwriter we have today.  So it was a surprise when I realized Joe Ely had not written Gallo de Cielo and Tom had.  It sounded like something Joe would write, it fit in so well on Letter To Laredo, that Joe could make one of Tom's great songs his own was remarkable to me.  Who out-Tom's Tom? Same deal with The Road Goes On Forever, one would assume Joe had written it and not Robert Earl Keen. Dave Alvin plays Blue Wing in concert and has introduced it saying he's surprised that people mistakenly think he wrote it.  I've heard Tom Russell, who did write Blue Wing, introduce the song in concert saying people of told him they thought Dave Alvin had written it.  I guess a cover in the right hands can be magic, and in the wrong hands not so much.

Cover songs in the Wrong hands...Mel Tormé doing “Sunshine Superman”... Dennis, that’s a real thing...Shatner does the Beatles...

Golden Throats? I guess TV stars felt they had an “entitlement” to record these covers but it sure wasn’t “evidence-based”.  The “diversity” of these “vulnerable” actors isn’t that diverse - neither “transgender” artists, nor a “fetus” to be seen or heard.  Their ability is clearly ego driven rather than “science based” and it would have been a whole lot easier to write a comment describing these abominations using George Carlin’s seven words rather than those in Trump’s gag order of the CDC.

Yes, George would no doubt have a field day with such a gag order...and entire new comedy skit...

As for the actors involved in such abominations, I believe someone likely convinced them it was a good idea...nevertheless, to have gone along may have suggested "entitlement"...

Could a "fetus" earn and receive royalty payments?  Are they of the same legal status as a recording artist, "transgender" or otherwise...would such a ruling be "evidence-based" or "science-based"...


Interesting question. I guess the ruling on royalty payments and  an unborn or unhatched offspring in the process of development is something SCROTUS (sick) may have to rule on!