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. –  Don McLean

Suddenly, you can’t escape hearing the term “cover song.” It’s on youtube, it’s on The Voice, it’s in music classes used by students and professors alike, it’s everywhere. Wondering why I’m now hearing this term when I didn’t recall hearing it before, I started searching on the internet.

There are a couple of different definitions of what cover song or covering a song means but here’s what Don McLean has to say on his web site.

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.

Thank you, Don!