Covered Songs: What Do You Think? | Coursera Community

Covered Songs: What Do You Think?

  • 13 January 2020
  • 20 replies

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A covered song is a song is a song that is performed by someone other than the original performer. The top most covered song is “Yesterday” by The Beatles. There have been 7 million covers!

Sometimes the covered version of a song becomes more popular than the original. I always wonder if the original artist is more pleased and flattered by this or angered that he or she couldn’t get the recognition and financial rewards which went to someone else.

What do you think?

How do you feel about covered songs?

Do you have an examples to share with us?

20 replies

Indeed, I think it varies by performer how they feel about covers. Some seem to take it in stride and others are probably, as you say, dismayed that their version never got the attention.

I should point out that the original performer is not always the writer of the song themselves. Some people do nothing but write songs for others, some feel a song is somehow “not right” for their style or image (or their management does), there are lots of reasons why even the original performance is a cover.

One cover that turned up in the last few years is, of course, Disturbed’s cover of Paul Simon’s Sound of Silence. I am sure most of you have heard it by now, but I will post a link to both it and the original, just in case

Another song, That I strongly identify with Arlo Guthrie is City of New Orleans, although it was written and originally performed by Steve Goodman

Another of my favorite covers is the Cowboy Junkies version of  Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane. It has proved to be one of their most requested songs.


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Another example of a song in which the cover got more famous is Tears for fears - Mad World


ost people will probably know this song as the piano version by Gary Jules:



for the financial aspect of a cover song, the original copyright owner should always be credited. For an official cover, you need a license, which is a starter fee + royalties


since in that way the original writer gets credited for their work, and apparantly the work itself was good, maybe they don’t feel bad. Nowadays, there are many more people and ways to discover music. A song with a popular cover may indicate the timing of the original just wasn’t perfect


A song with a popular cover may indicate the timing of the original just wasn’t perfect

That is a good way of putting it.

One thing I like when people do covers is that they make the song their own and don’t just copy what the original artist did, however I know that is something some people do not like.

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Hello Judith,

 “Yesterday” by The Beatles with 7 million covers!  Is there a reggae cover in this number.  Would love to listen to it please.

“Let her go” by Passenger has a lovers rock reggae cover by Christopher Martin. I’m loving it…….

@daarey  What an unusual request! I just searched to see if that exists and found one!


It has the rhythm that you would imagine. Do you like this version?

@Halla , it’s so true. People  usually prefer the original song. From a musician’s point of view this often becomes a challenge. The crowd wants the exact song, not an interpretation. The musician wants to express it in his or her own’s way. At parties, many people prefer DJs because then they can get the exact music they want whereas a band might not deliver the kind of music they hoped for.

I hadn’t heard that cover of “Sound of Silence”. It was so powerful and made me realize that good music can be enjoyed by new generations and interpreted to reflect the current times.

@EraDiscordia that was an amazing cover of “Tears for Fears”! Looking down from the top of the building at people arranging themselves in varying patterns, was more emotional than the original.

These are fabulous examples. Anyone have any more to share?

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Yes.  Thanks.

Sometimes the cover does not get close as popular as the original, for me Maroon 5 three little birds will not become more popular than the original because every time the music plays everyone around remembers the great Marley. However I do not think Marley’s family and colleague like Bunny Wailer will be angered, Bob gets all respect…..
Cover versions are great. I enjoy listening to them. 

I would like to share
- Maroon 5 cover of Bob Marley Three little birds
- Boy George cover of Ken Booth Everything I own
-Conkarah and Rosie Delmah cover of Ed Sheeran Perfect







As a songwriter myself, I would be pleased if someone else covers my song...only if I am correctly credited. I believe that is the case for most songwriters, who should be in my opinion embracing of the fact that their work is a culmination of the influence from past musical pioneers to begin with.

I share with you the original version of “I will always love you”, of which most of us know the cover version sung by Whitney Houston for the movie Bodyguard.

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@Judith , As far as cover songs go, I think it really varies whether the original artist is flattered or angered depending on whether songwriting credits are given to them properly and also whether the rendition really strikes the chord with the original songwriter. And in terms of popularity again, it really depends. I remember Led Zeppelin getting sued by different artists for allegedly borrowing the lyrics or blues structures but not properly crediting them. But a song like Dazed and Confused is more associated with them than with Jake Holmes anyway, so there is the question of popularity again.

But interestingly, many of the major music artists really began their career by covering others - like Beatles, Rolling Stones, Byrds etc. and quite a few of them continued to cover till their late career.

The Beatles covered a wide range of artists in their early period till Rubber Soul, from where whatever was put on their album was theirs. Artists ranged from rock n rollers to Motown artists. Here are some of their interesting covers and the originals:






And an interesting rendition by The Carpenters as well:




And there are a lot more covers by the Beatles of Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard and so on! They were really such fans of American music covering such wide range of artists. And also, as we know, The Beatles were widely covered as well. Interestingly in their early period, they also had given many of their songs to other budding Merseybeat artists. This is a fantastic video which I came across some years ago. You should definitely check it out:


Also, John Denver had done very good recordings of popular songs which he used to gift to his friends:





And of course, we also have Bob Dylan’s songs covered by The Byrds and both their versions are classics. Mr Tambourine Man is certainly the most well known but there have been so many more wonderful covers by them:





They also covered Carole King’s Goin’ Back before Sweetheart of the Rodeo album...they were covering songs till their late career!


And of course, we have Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower which flattered Dylan so much that he pretty much considers it Jimi’s song:


And on the blues side, we had fantastic covers of blues classics from artists like The Rolling Stones, The Animals & CCR such as these:





I think all these artists show that sometimes covers can also be more enjoyable than originals!


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This is quite interesting. I put a spell on you by The Animals, is it the same song covered by Lee Scratch Perry?


@Adithya , your examples are incredible! 
The video about the songs the Beatles wrote and didn’t sing really was amazing. @Paul would appreciate this one since he was a mentor for the Beatles course for years.

I agree that coves can often be more interesting than the originals. It takes a certain kind of creativity to take a song and showcase it differently. But I think we should always remember who really wrote it and performed it first too.

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@daarey , I couldn’t find a version of I Put A Spell On You by Lee Scratch Perry, so I’m not sure whether it is a similar version. Also, I Put A Spell On You was originally done by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956. The Animals recorded their cover in 1966 and CCR covered it in 1968.

About cover songs, I think it all depends on which you hear first. So you keep listening and listening and listening to it. Maybe after sometime you figure out “oh that was a cover let’s hear the original then” and it really won’t meet your expectations and vice versa. I always thought covering songs showed how less creative the player could be, but when I figured that was actually the thing (covering songs) back in the 50s then somehow I tried to change that idea. Though I can’t help to think that the original idea is more valuable than the copy version.

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i think covering songs is not that big deal that the original artist get mad or sad!

music is about sharing feelings.covering musics are some thing like that and we love to hear that.

but covering the songs are good until they have not been stolen. . .i mean covering is not stealing.

i hope i said my point clearly


Also, about the song “Yesterday”, The Rolling Stones wrote a song called “As Tears Go By” and played it as an answer to The Beatles’ Yesterday. Song had been written before Paul wrote Yesterday but they released it sorta being influenced by the use of strings in Yesterday’s music after The Beatles had released it.

@Amin1995  Why do you say a cover is less valuable that an original? Why should a good (or great) song fade into obscurity because the original artist is no longer performing or popular any more?

Understand that in asking these questions, I come from a classical guitar/jazz guitar background where it it the norm to take a piece of music decades or centuries old and put your own performance spin on it. Autumn Leaves. I Got Rhythm, Stella By Starlight, One Note Samba; all of these I have played, none of them did I write. As can be said of may of the Jazz greats.

Other examples are when artists from a different genre like and choose to record a song made famous by another person in a completely alien genre. An example would be the Reggae cover of the Beatles Yesterday that is posted above. Or the following, UB40’s cover of Neil  Diamond’s Red, Red wine (both below). I grew up on the Diamond version, but I love what UB40 did with it.


Another amazing cover of a Paul Simon song. I am glad that I am not the only one who feels his songs are timeless!


@Halla , beautiful, thank you.

I especially like the guitar work, that was not easy converting the piano to guitar, but he did a good job.

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There’s a lot of  videos out there, titled “famous songs that you didn’t know were covers” ;

But you should also spend some time and look amatorial covers --people playing Pachelbel’s Canon in the rock version with drums and guitars. By the way, all the Classics happen to be covers, isn’t it? I spend hours looking for the best arrangement!

I can’t post Type O Negative’s cover of “Black Sabbath” twice in a row, so I’d post one, which happens to be one among many, of a famous song: