The Real Reason They’re Called Cover Songs
We've all heard a song performed by someone who wasn't the original someone who performed the song. Sometimes those "covers" are better than the original. Sometimes, they are simply bad ideas that should have never been attempted. Still, the history of the cover song is a story that's less about artistic interpretation and more about money.
First things first, what's the difference between a cover song and a remake? Well, most people agree that a remake is just that. It's a new performance of a previously recorded song that stays very true to the original style and intent of the original performance.
A cover song is usually a reimagined version of a previously recorded tune. Maybe the tempo or texture of the song is different from the original or perhaps the gender of the performer brings a new context to the performance.
Still, why do we call them cover songs?
It actually has to do with the interpretation of copyright laws regarding music about the time the record business became a big deal. In many cases when a song became a hit, others seeking to capitalize on the popularity of the song would record their own version. They would then take their record and place it on top of the original hit in the record store bin. Literally covering the original song and hiding it from perspective music buyers.
Another dark side of the cover song is racial in nature. This was the case in the 50's and 60's when white artists would remake songs made popular by black artists. Because of record industry politics, this usually left the African American performer out in the cold with little or no return on their intellectual property.
Love them or hate them cover songs and remakes are always going to be a part of the musical landscape. At least now you know a little more about the history behind the terminology.