About Ray Padgett


ray padgett
Credit: Lesley Stephen. Click for hi-res.

Ray Padgett is the founder of Cover Me, the largest blog devoted to cover songs on the web, and author of Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time (2017), the 33 1/3 book I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (2020), and Pledging My Time: Conversations with Bob Dylan Band Members (2023). His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, SPIN, The AV Club, Vice, and MOJO, and he’s been interviewed as an expert on cover songs by NPR, The Wall Street Journal, SiriusXM, and dozens more. He also runs the email newsletter Flagging Down the Double E’s, essays inspired by live Bob Dylan shows from yesteryear. He lives in Burlington, Vermont and works as a publicist for Shore Fire Media.

Pledging My Time: Conversations with Bob Dylan Band Members
Release Date: June 27, 2023
EWP Press

Purchase: Amazon [paperback/ebook] | Lulu [hardcover] | Many other places

“Ray Padgett is the ideal interviewer—he really knows his stuff, so he can draw the best out of every musician he talks to. This is a tremendous collection of acute, revealing, often funny stories from those who’ve played on stage with Bob Dylan.”
Michael Gray, author of Song and Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan

“There already is an endless supply of books about Bob Dylan in the world. What could possibly be written now that seems fresh, much less indispensable? Enter Ray Padgett, one of the great modern Dylanologists, who has done the Lord’s work of tracking down Bob’s many collaborators over the years and getting the inside story. The result is insightful, fascinating, hilarious, illuminating, and, yes, indispensable.”
Steven Hyden, author of six books including Long Road and Twilight Of The Gods, and the co-host of the Bob Dylan podcast Never Ending Stories

“These talks open up like running streams. There seems to be no guile, no self-promotion, no agendas: maybe because Ray Padgett doesn’t either. There’s less I Was There than ‘and then I wasn’t’—and more fine stories than you can count. I love Louis Kemp on negotiating with Walter Yetnikoff—even if he does have a 13-year-old Bob Dylan singing Jerry Lee Lewis and Chubby Checker in 1954.”
Greil Marcus, author of Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs

“Ray Padgett’s Dylan scholarship combines obvious enthusiasm, deep knowledge, broad understanding, and an abiding need to get things right. This is essential work both now and for the future.”
Caryn Rose, author of Why Patti Smith Matters

“This book is special. After countless books devoted to Dylan’s lyrics, this one aims to unlock the magic of his performances by going straight to the source and talking to the musicians that helped create those moments onstage. Ray asks all the right questions, and the answers are interesting, entertaining, and often illuminating. An indispensable read!”
Laura Tenschert, host of the Definitely Dylan podcast

“If you’re like me, you’ve waited your entire adult life for this book. Padgett digs deep and shines a spotlight on the people standing (and sitting) behind the man behind the shades.”
Jon Wurster, writer/performer/drummer (Mountain Goats, Bob Mould, Superchunk)

Collecting over 40 original, in-depth interviews, Pledging My Time: Conversations with Bob Dylan Band Members is the first look at Bob Dylan’s career entirely from the perspective of the musicians standing a few feet away from him on stage – from his earliest days in the ‘60s all the way through the 21st century Never Ending Tour. With a few exceptions, these artists are not household names, but they have in many cases spent years making music with one of the most revered and mysterious artists in the world.

The world of Dylan’s bands and his road life has seemed fairly impenetrable for decades now. Many people in this book have never spoken before about their time with Dylan, or certainly not in as much depth. Interviewees span every era of Dylan’s career, from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Martin Carthy talking about the early folk scene up through Benmont Tench and Alan Pasqua talking about recording Rough and Rowdy Ways. This guest list guiding the backstage tour also includes one-off sit-ins, behind- the-scenes touring personnel, and even a notable Grammy Awards stage-crasher.

If Dylan is, as he famously put it back in 1965, a “song and dance man,” these are the people who have sung and danced alongside him.

I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
Release Date: September 3, 2020
Bloomsbury Publishing “33 1/3” Series

Purchase: Bloomsbury | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Bookshop

Ray Padgett’s deeply-researched, passionately written book did what the very best tribute albums do: Recontextualized and deepened the source material. In the same way that John Cale made listeners hear “Hallelujah” anew, this book made me hear tribute albums like I’d never heard them before. 
David Marchese, Columnist, New York Times Magazine

A smart and lively look at a project that was oddly significant in Leonard Cohen’s career – but, beyond that, a long-overdue examination that (partly) redeems the much reviled format of the tribute album.
Alan Light, author of The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”

“I’m Your Fan” uses a specific tribute album to explore multiple aspects of music fandom and record culture—how artists channel their influences, how a song’s meaning can change over time, the way formats shape our understanding of music history. A marvelous entry in the 33 1/3 series, even for those who’ve never heard the album in question.
Mark Richardson, former Editor-in-Chief, Pitchfork

Using the famed Leonard Cohen covers collection as its jumping-off point, Ray Padgett’s I’m Your Fan digs into the weird, ever-expanding world of the tribute album. We get a detailed account of how I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen came together via revealing interviews with its curators and performers. We learn how the album kickstarted Cohen’s then somewhat-flailing career and—for better or worse—helped turn the then obscure “Hallelujah” into the ubiquitous standard it is today. We discover that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ version of “Tower of Song” originally clocked in at over a half-hour. It’s all great stuff. But even more interesting are the various side-trips Padgett takes the reader on: like a chat with the late/great tribute album pioneer Hal Willner (“It’s all my fault isn’t it?” he asks wearily); or a lengthy digression with Juliana Hatfield, a tribute album mainstay who doesn’t really like tribute albums. Like most of the 33 1/3 books, I’m Your Fan is a quick read, but you’ll want to savor this one.
Aquarium Drunkard

When I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen hit stores in 1991, Leonard Cohen’s career had plummeted from its revered 1960s high. Cohen’s record label had refused to release his 1984 album Various Positions–including the song “Hallelujah”–in the United States. Luckily, Velvet Underground founder John Cale was one of the few who did hear “Hallelujah,” and he covered it for I’m Your Fan, a collection of Cohen’s songs produced by a French fanzine. Jeff Buckley adored the tribute album and covered Cale’s cover in 1994, never having heard Cohen’s still-obscure original version.

In 2016, Stereogum labeled the tribute album “possibly the most universally derided format in pop music.” However, without a tribute album, you wouldn’t know the song “Hallelujah.” Through Buckley through Cale, “Hallelujah” is now one of the most often-performed songs in the world–and it wouldn’t be without this tribute album. I’m Your Fan thus offers a particularly notable example of a much broader truth: Despite all the eye-rolling they inspire, tribute albums matter. They can resuscitate legends’ fading careers, or expose obscure artists who never had much of a career to begin with.

Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs
of All Time

Release Date: October 3, 2017
Sterling Publishing

Purchase: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Bookshop

“One of the best multi-subject music books to come down the pike in years.” – Variety

“His research adds fresh context and intriguing background to many of these songs, even to those possessing well-tread origin stories, and his astute ruminations on evolving cultural perceptions of the cover’s place in the music canon is persuasive enough to move purists to softer and less reflexive cringes at such songs before hitting shuffle.” — AV Club

“A wonderful book with a lot of history and a lot of music” — Paste

“Padgett tells cracking good stories… Cover Me is a gift, for it encourages us to reflect on what cover songs mean to us” — No Depression

“A fascinating window into the craft, and business, of making music” — The Rumpus

From the creator of the popular website covermesongs.com comes the perfect book for music fans: the inside stories behind iconic cover songs and the artists who turned them into classics.

A great cover only makes a song stronger. Jimi Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” The Beatles rocking out with “Twist and Shout.” Aretha Franklin demanding “Respect.” Without covers, the world would have lost many unforgettable performances. This is the first book to explore the most iconic covers ever, from Elvis’s “Hound Dog” and Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” to the Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River” and Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love.” Written by the founder of the website covermesongs.com, each of the 19 chapters investigates the origins of a classic cover—and uses it as a framework to tell the larger story of how cover songs have evolved over the decades. Cover Me is packed with insight, photography, and music history.

Contact Ray Padgett: rfpadgett@gmail.com