Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Plasketes, George. “Like a Version: Cover Songs and their Tribute Trend in Popular Music.” Studies in Popular Culture 15, no. 2 (1992): 1-18.

American popular music in the 1980s and 1990s underwent a critical redefinition of what it meant to be original and creative, as cover songs and tribute albums flooded the market. Quotation, homage, apprenticeship, parody, allusion, and other forms of appropriationist techniques characterize this repertoire and give us a way to examine how culture and history are expressed and passed on. Cover songs grew from a shared cultural repertoire of secular and sacred tunes to the business of songwriting pairs such as Carole King and Gerry Goffin to tribute projects across different genres such as rock and avant-garde bands. Cover songs can be seen as a manifestation of cultural excess that prioritizes the reworking and repetition of existing songs over innovation. We can trace genealogies of performers and songwriters through a series of re-recordings, turning cover songs into living artifacts. This new wave of covers and tribute albums at the end of the twentieth century created a new standard for American popular music, supplanting the older generation of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin with Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Paul Simon, and Elton John, among others.

Works: DNA: Oh Suzanne (8); Dread Zeppelin: Un-Led Ed, 5,000,000 (9); Tom Petty: I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (10); Roger McGuinn: American Girl (10).

Sources: Suzanne Vega: Solitude Standing (8-9); Byrds (performers): I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (10); Tom Petty: American Girl (10).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Sarah Kirkman

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