As we’ve noted already, 2017 marks Cover Me’s tenth birthday. We’ll have some more celebratory posts leading up to the actual date this fall, but I’m thrilled to announce one thing that’s on deck for October: the release of my first book, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time!
Ever since I started this site, friends and readers have suggested that I should write a book about cover songs (surprisingly, a comprehensive book doesn’t really exist). For years, I resisted. “That’s like saying ‘I’m going to write a book about original songs’,” I’d snarkily reply – i.e., that’s a stupid idea. Cover songs seemed too broad a category. There’s no grand unifying theory of cover songs to fit tidily between two book covers; it’s too big and messy and wonderful a tent for that.
After years of saying no, I finally came up with the solution. I wouldn’t write a book about cover songs – instead, I would write a book about twenty specific cover songs, and through those twenty covers, a broader narrative would emerge.
The story of covers as traced in Cover Me involves artistic triumphs and music-industry shenanigans. It touches on trends in record-making, music videos, and the internet’s impact on music (did you know the first viral song was a cover?). There are beautiful moments of unlikely artists coming together, and some uglier instances of exploitation and racism. Every major change in the music industry since the advent of rock and roll finds some expression in the world of cover songs.
To tell those stories, I interviewed dozens and dozens of people. Roger Daltrey explained why he thought “Summertime Blues” would work for the Who. David Byrne spoke about why Talking Heads stopped doing covers after the success of “Take Me to the River.” “Weird Al” Yankovic described why he still includes polka cover medleys on every album, even though he knows they’ll never be hits.
These artists have never spoken at such length about these songs. I mean, who talks to Devo and asks them only about their cover of “Satisfaction”? I did.
I also tracked down behind-the-scenes figures to get the untold stories. Jimi Hendrix’s ex-girlfriend describes drinking whiskey with him when they first heard Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Johnny Cash’s son remembers trying to talk his father out of covering “Hurt.” A recording studio owner recalls getting trapped in a truck with Kevin Costner the night Whitney Houston put “I Will Always Love You” on tape.
Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time is out on October 3rd, and it’s available for preorder now. I hope you’ll consider doing so! Oh, and if you do, hang to your digital receipt – I’m planning some special goodies for purchasers as we get closer to release.
Thanks for supporting Cover Me for all these years!
– Ray Padgett
Cover Me Founder
P.S. Still with me? To reward you for making it this far, here’s a taste of the book. Two early chapter drafts are up on this very website, investigating Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” and Patti Smith’s “Gloria”. Both have been rewritten and expanded in the book.