Music Essay

About cover songs: In popular music, when a song popularized by one artist, then performed or re-recorded by another artist, the new version is called a “cover.” We’ve discussed several originals and their covers in this course: Elvis Presley covered Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right” in his debut Sun Records release, and Peter, Paul, and Mary had a hit with their cover or Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Under Syd Nathan at King, covers were used to market country songs to the R&B market and vice versa. In the R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll era, covers often put a white face on a song originally written or popularized by a black artist, as we saw with Georgia Gibbs’s cover of LaVern Baker’s “Tweedle Dee.” Motivations needn’t be strictly commercial: artists often cover songs they happen to like, as the Beatles did with the Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout” or as Jimi Hendrix did with the Troggs’ “Wild Thing.” Covers sometimes transform the original from one genre into another, as Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young did covering Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”

About your second essay: In your second essay, you’ll compare ONE of the original/cover song pairs available on BeachBoard in a well-organized essay. Be sure to address the following questions as you listen and write: what do you think is the overall meaning, message, mood, or narrative of the original? To what extent is the original version’s message retained in the cover? In other words, do the two versions of the song seem to be about the same thing or to say the same thing? What sonic and lyrical properties are similar or different between the two versions? Are the words, instruments, voices, tempos, underlying beats, etc. the same or different in each?) If it seems relevant, use terminology from class to describe what you hear. How do these properties contribute to any changes in overall meaning between original and cover? (N.B. Organize your essay in a way that makes sense for your listening observations. Do not just slavishly answer the questions above in the order asked.)  

Background research for your second essay: Some of the artists in the list below will be familiar to you from class, others are new. If you would like to do a bit of background research on these artists and songwriters, use the database Oxford Music Online. (A couple of artists do not have their own encyclopedia entries. That’s okay!) This is available to you through the University Library. (As demonstrated in class, go to the CSULB Library homepage, click on “Databases,” then use the alphabetical list to navigate to the page). If you find information that you’d like to incorporate into your paper here, you should summarize and paraphrase it (no quotations from encyclopedias). Unlike Wikipedia, OMO is written, vetted, and edited by reputable scholars, making it a more reliable source of information. Other than searching OMO, no other research is needed for this paper. We are most interested in your original analysis and interpretation of the songs.

Specifications: 3-4 pages, double-spaced (no additional spaces between paragraphs), 12 point Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins. Include page numbers.


Due date: Essays MUST be printed and stapled at the beginning of class on November 15 to be considered on time. (If you turn in a paper that is not stapled, Dr. Lindau will stop reading after the first sheet of paper.) Please upload your paper to Dropbox no later than 12:30 on November 15. Papers will not be accepted as e-mail attachments under any circumstances. For each weekday a paper is late, its grade falls by one third of letter (i.e., from a B to a B-).

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