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Music Rights

What Is A Cover Song?

Photograph of the blog post author, Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter


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Wondering what is a song cover? Cover songs are versions of existing songs that are performed by a different artist. They are often rearranged to give the song a different feel or style. Cover songs can be used to introduce a new artist to a wider audience, to pay tribute to the original artist, or to add a unique interpretation to a classic song. 

What Makes A Good Cover Song?

cover songs

A good cover song is one that pays homage to the original artist while also adding something new and unique to the song. This could be in the form of a different arrangement, different instrumentation, or a different vocal style. It should also be faithful to the original song in terms of lyrics and melody. A good cover song should also evoke the same emotions as the original song, while still allowing the artist to put their own stamp on it.

People will continue to make cover songs because it is a way to pay homage to their favourite artists, to make something unique out of an existing song, or to make a song more accessible to a wider audience. Cover songs can also help to boost an artist’s profile and gain attention from music fans off the back of the success and popularity of the original track. 

Some artists may choose to make a cover song in order to practice their craft and hone their skills. Finally, making a cover song can be a fun and creative way to express oneself.

How Do I Release a Cover Song?

Cover songs mix tape

If you are thinking about whether you need permission to cover a song, then we are here to tell you that is a definitive yes! Releasing a cover song requires you to obtain a mechanical license from the copyright holder of the song. A mechanical license grants you the right to reproduce and distribute a copyrighted song. You will need to contact the publisher or copyright holder of the song to obtain a mechanical license. 

The license will set out the terms of the agreement, including the number of royalties that you must pay to the copyright holder. Once you have the mechanical license, you can release the cover song commercially.

What Are Cover Songs Examples?

In terms of famous cover songs, we believe there are the best of all time, so let’s see who has made the list and will you agree with us? Let’s get started on some of the best cover songs of all time!

‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin

Did you know that this was a song originally sung by Otis Reading? Otis Redding released “Respect” in 1965 and was then re-released by Aretha in 1967. It has become a firm favourite in terms of feminist anthems. It was an iconic song from the Queen of Soul, but due credit must be paid towards Otis for creating the original tune. It is a classic that has become an anthem for the civil rights movement.

Her version of the song is a powerful statement that speaks to the need for everyone to be respected and treated equally. Her strong vocal performance and the soulful arrangement of the song give it a unique and timeless quality that has made it an enduring classic. The lyrics are also a powerful call to action for everyone to stand up for their rights, and the song has become an iconic symbol of the fight for justice and equality.

‘Proud Mary’ by Ike & Tina Turner

Proud Mary by Ike & Tina Turner is such a great cover song originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival because it is a classic rock and roll song that has been performed in various styles and interpretations over the years, but the Ike & Tina Turner version is the one that is most remembered and beloved. Their version brings a soulful, energetic, and passionate performance to the song, with Tina Turner’s powerful vocals and Ike Turner’s legendary guitar riffs. The song also has a great message of hope and resilience that resonates with listeners.

‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Jimi Hendrix

All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix originally Bob Dylan is widely considered one of the greatest cover songs of all time. Hendrix’s version is much more dynamic than Bob Dylan’s original, with a faster tempo and a heavier, more intense guitar sound. Hendrix also adds some of his own signature guitar licks and solos, making the song his own.

The song also has a more dramatic feel to it, with a dark, apocalyptic atmosphere. The song has become a classic, with countless artists covering it since its release in 1968. It has become one of Hendrix’s most beloved songs and is considered to be one of the best covers of all time.

‘I Will Always Love You’ by Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You”, originally sung by Dolly Parton, is a magnificent cover, with her powerful vocals and instrumentation creating a stunning, heartfelt rendition. It captures the emotion of the original song while adding her own unique spin, making it one of the most iconic covers of all time and a favourite of many. It is a great love cover song and one that I’m sure you have all heard. If you haven’t, then where have you been?  

‘Killing Me Softly with His Song’ by The Fugees

‘Killing Me Softly with His Song’ by The Fugees, originally by Roberta Flack, is a great cover song because it takes the classic, soulful track and puts a unique spin on it. The Fugees add their own style to the song, incorporating elements of hip-hop and reggae, while maintaining the original’s emotion and soul. The group’s vocal harmonies and Lauryn Hill’s powerful lead vocals give the song a distinct, modern feel that still pays homage to the original. The Fugees’ version of “Killing Me Softly with His Song” is a great example of how a classic song can be reimagined and given a new life.

‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley

‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley sung originally by Leonard Cohen is widely considered to be one of the greatest cover songs of all time. Buckley’s version is unique in that he stripped away the original’s instrumentation and vocal arrangement in favor of a more minimalistic, acoustic approach. This allowed Buckley to put his own spin on the song and to really bring out the emotion and beauty of the lyrics. His passionate, soulful vocal performance further adds to the song’s power and makes it stand out as an iconic cover.

‘Valerie’ by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse

‘Valerie’ by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse was originally by The Zutons, but this single has become synonymous with the early 2000s music. Valerie by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse is a great cover song because it takes an already classic song and puts a modern, soulful spin on it. The combination of Ronson’s production and Winehouse’s vocal style gives the song a unique energy and makes it sound fresh and exciting. The song also has a great groove and catchy chorus, making it perfect for dancing and singing along.

What Are Cover Songs – Closing Thoughts

Are these the best all-time cover songs? Do you agree with our list? I do understand that there are many more where they came from, so please go forth and find your own cover songs, as we have only just scratched the surface in this article. It is interesting that some of the songs on this list you may have thought to be original, but it isn’t the case. This must mean that they have created a strong, distinct and individual cover of an original song. But of course, they have stayed true to the earlier version of the song. 


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