Prince Claims When Someone Covers Your Song, The Original No Longer Exists

from the prince-world dept

Ah, Prince. The artist, who is notoriously controlling concerning his own music, has apparently decided that the latest evil in the world is cover songs and the compulsory licenses that make them possible. As you may or may not know, it’s legal to do cover songs, because of compulsory licensing laws that say as long as you pay a set fee, you can cover any song (why such laws don’t apply to samples is weird, and leads to the bizarre situation in which it’s legal to cover an entire song, but do just a second of the song and you may be in legal trouble). Either way, Prince is not a fan. In an appearance on the George Lopez show (embedded below), Prince comes out against the entire idea of cover songs because, apparently, it destroys the original:


Prince: I don’t mind fans singing the songs… My problem is when the industry “covers” the music. See covering the music means that your version doesn’t exist anymore. A lot of times, people think that I’m doing Sinead O’Connor’s song and Chaka Khan’s song when in fact I wrote those songs. And it’s okay when my friends ask to do them, but there’s this thing called the compulsory license law, which allows artists, through the record companies, to take your music, at will, without your permission. And that doesn’t exist in any other artform, be it books, movies — there’s only one version of “Law and Order’ (crowd laughs). There are several versions of “Kiss” and “Purple Rain.”

George Lopez: There should be only one version of music.

Prince (sarcastically): You would think… (crowd laughs)

Hmm. Well. So, apparently Prince’s version of “Purple Rain” no longer exists. I had no idea. As for Prince’s final point, why would you think that? Why is there a problem of anyone doing a cover? Rather than the original no longer existing, it actually exists more, in that more people are aware of and interested in the original.

Of course, all this made me curious. Surely, Prince has covered others songs before. And, in fact, he has. Many, many, many times. Some folks on the Prince fan boards have made a nice list of all the many songs that Prince has apparently “destroyed” of other artists by covering them either for albums or live shows. Of course, perhaps he did this out of spite for those other artists. In fact, Prince has been accused of covering the Foo Fighters during his Superbowl performance to “get revenge” on the Foo Fighters for covering one of his songs. Some revenge. “Destroying” their original song like that in front of the largest TV audience around. Must suck.



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Comments on “Prince Claims When Someone Covers Your Song, The Original No Longer Exists”

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71 Comments
weneedhelpsays:

Good riddance

Example: Land of confusion – MUCH MUCH better by disturbed.

Pince and the nebbadution. I spent a rushed hour and a half building platforms off the Tower stage for this fruit to be “closer to his people” and he never used them. Egotistical asshole. I guess he didnt really want to get closer to “his people.”

Gwizsays:

Re: Re: Good riddance

Example: Land of confusion – MUCH MUCH better by disturbed.

Old school rocker myself and I disagree. I think the Genesis version is by far the better version. Just like I think original Don Henley version of “The Boys of Summer” is miles better than The Ataris’ version. (hehe – maybe I’ll call my next garage band “The Pongs” or “The ColecoVisions”)

But hey, that’s just my own personal opinion and I don’t feel that the covers have taken anything away from the originals.

Anonymoussays:

Most of the covers I’ve heard suck.

There are very few that seem able to have the singer with the vocal range, the musicians with the instrumental skill and ability, and they always leave me feeling like they didn’t have enough songwriting skills to pull off their own material.

Another stereotype that always hits me is that they are looking to try and get a bit of fame off some well known tune because they don’t possess it themselves and figure that getting some one to listen to them can only be done at that point in their career by doing something everyone knows. It’s like they are looking for a short cut to fame without having to pay the dues to learn the skills.

Prince should shut his mouth as he apparently doesn’t realize that those covers are so poorly done it drives the listener to the original.

cradesays:

Re: Re:

“Most of the covers I’ve heard suck”
You obviously need to get you you some Joe Cocker.

It’s only the good covers that Prince is complaining about. The kind that become the definitive version. Like when Whitney covered “I will always love you” and no one though of poor, poor Dolly Parton who became obscure and destitute afterwords.

aldestrawksays:

Re: Re:

Expand your horizons.

There are a lot of talented musicians who do covers, in concert, if not recorded. Varied examples:

The Rolling Stones -You Can’t catch me (Chuck Berry)
The Rolling Stones -Suzie Q (Dale Hawkins, Stan Lewis, Eleanor Broadwater)
Credence Clearwater Revival -Suzie Q (Dale Hawkins, Stan Lewis, Eleanor Broadwater)
The Rolling Stones -Love in Vain (Robert Johnson)
The Rolling Stones -Shake Your hips (Slim Harpo)
The Rolling Stones -You Gotta Move (Fred McDowell/Gary Davis)
Devo -I can’t get no Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young -Woodstock (Joni Mitchell)
Smashing Pumpkins -Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Tori Amos -Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Tori Amos -Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Patti Smith -Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Nirvana -The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie)
The Byrds -Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan)
Jimi Hendrix -All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
Jimi Hendrix -Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
Patti Smith -Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
Patti Smith -So You Want to Be (A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star) (The Byrds)

Aretha Franklin -Respect (Otis Redding)
Otis Redding -Stand by Me (Ben E King)

The Beatles -Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry)
Joe Cocker -With a Little Help from My Friends (Beatles)
Richie Havens -With a Little Help from My Friends (Beatles)
Richie Havens -Here COmes the Sun (Beatles)
William Shatner -Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Beatles)
801 (Phil Manzanera Brian Eno etc.) -Tomorrow Never Knows
The Grateful Dead -Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles)
The Grateful Dead -Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly)
Led Zeppelin -You Shook Me (Willie Dixon, J. B. Lenoir)
Led Zeppelin -Babe I’m Gonna to Leave You (Anne Bredon)
The Who -Eyesight to the Blind (Sonny Boy Williamson II)
The Who -Summertime Blues (Jerry Capehart, Eddie Cochran)
Santana -Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
Santana -Evil Ways (Clarence Henry)
Elvis Presley -Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins)
Cream -Born Under a Bad Sign (Booker T. Jones, William Bell)
Cream -Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
Ten Years After -Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
Jimi Hendrix -Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
Steve Miller Band -Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
Eric Clapton -Cocaine (J. J. Cale)
The Animals -Don’t let Me be Misunderstood (Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, Gloria Caldwell)
Joe Cocker -Don’t let Me be Misunderstood (Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, Gloria Caldwell)
Joe Cocker -Feelin’ Alright (Dave Mason)
Joe Cocker -Just Like a Woman (Bob Dylan)
Joe Cocker -Something (George Harrison)
Joe Cocker -Delta Lady (Leon Russell)
Leon Russel -Beware of Darkness (George Harrison)
Johnny Cash -Ghost Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones)
Mary McCaslin -Ghost Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones)
The Tubes -Ghost Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones)
The Clash -I Fought the Law (Sonny Curtis)
The Doors -Back Door Man (Willie Dixon)
The Kingsmen -Louie Louie (Chuck Berry)
Iggy Pop -Louie Louie (Chuck Berry)
George Thorogood -Move It On Over (Hank Williams Sr.)
Janis Joplin -Me And Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson, Fred Foster)
Janis Joplin -Ball and Chain (Big Mama Thornton)
Talking Heads -Take Me to the River (Al Green, Teenie Hodges)
The Byrds -Turn, Turn, Turn (Pete Seeger)

Well, there are many others and such info can be looked up.

E. Zachary Knightsays:

Prince is an Idiot, but...

I understand what he is trying to formulate here.

When I was a teen and just getting into the music scene, I really liked Aerosmith’s “Come Together” and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Tax Man” It wasn’t until years later that I learned those songs and many other songs I liked were really covers of Beetles songs.

Now, what I don’t agree with The Artist Formally Known as the Artist Formally Known as Prince is that my love of these songs from SRV and Aerosmith brought my attention to the Beetles and I gained a new appreciation of their music.

MrWilsonsays:

Re: Re: Prince is an Idiot, but...

What you bring up, however, is that the audience, not the artist, is who determines the value of a work.

You happen to prefer the Beatles’ version of Come Together, but I still prefer Aerosmith’s. I like the Beatles’ Instant Karma, but some bands have done it better. It’s up to the individual listener whether the original version “ceases to exist.”

I like NIN’s Hurt, but Johnny Cash did an awesome cover.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Purple Rain, Purple Rain...

Prince: But why is my music dying, then?

Chaka Khan: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.

Prince: What is the Nothing?

Chaka Khan: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.

Prince: But why?

Chaka Khan: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control… has the power!

Anonymoussays:

It seems clear in context that he’s not saying the original actually, physically stops existing in copies or cannot be heard anymore.

Rather, he seems to be saying that people often don’t understand which version is the original and which is the cover. This is, of course, true.

But that by itself doesn’t seem to be a good argument for doing away with compulsory licenses.

Lylesays:

It sounds like the real problem he has with covers is the lack of attribution for the artist who wrote the original song. I actually agree with him there. How many times has somebody heard a cover and not realize that band didn’t write it? I personally came to that realization with lots of songs covered in the 90’s, because I was generally nieve of anything that came before that era.

The concept of attribution is alive and well on the internet already. If you quote an article, it’s common courtesy to link to the original. Same with using photography and art. Most artists don’t have a problem with the exposure so long as they are credited. Why can’t musical artists get the same courtesy?

Dave from Canadasays:

Attribution

@Lyle #15 “The concept of attribution is alive and well on the internet already. If you quote an article, it’s common courtesy to link to the original. Same with using photography and art. Most artists don’t have a problem with the exposure so long as they are credited. Why can’t musical artists get the same courtesy?”

When there were such things as CDs and Albums, song writers always got the courtesy. It always said, “Written by …” on the album notes. With MP3s and iTunes it’s a little harder (less room).

boogiegyrrlsays:

Re: Re:

Here’s the deal the artists don’t copyright their material, some were too naive to know what that meant when they started. The music industry copyrights it and owns the copyright. This gives the music industry the license to control how the music is reproduced etc. Any artist that signs up with a record deal is just a performer. The writers and record company make the real money and the record company copyrights the product thereby getting paid for it. If the artists would write their own words and get it copy written, they would have more control over their work, but I doubt the music industry would let them do that. There’s probably a clause or stipulation in their contract about that.

montgosssays:

Darling Nikki

From the article:
“We wanted to put it out here in the States, but Prince wouldn’t let us,” Hawkins said. “I heard that he didn’t like our version. Or maybe he just didn’t like us doing it.”

So that’s why I couldn’t buy that song! I seriously searched for like 10 minutes on Amazon. Of course, I could download it for free pretty easily elsewhere. So, Prince cost the Foo Fighter’s at least one sale. Which, sounds like he’d be pretty happy about that…

no fan of the whinerssays:

So I guess in Prince’s world a true artist is one who goes from the cradle right into writing and performing there own material.
You know the easiest way to solve this problem is to stop people from hearing the songs in the first place.
Than we can stop listening to this tired crap from people who think they are different than everyone else walking the planet.

Thomas Loydsays:

Speaking of Watchtowers...

Too bad he hasn’t done a version of “All Along the Watchtower” by Hendrix, no wait, Dylan, no wait….Jehovah’s Witnesses! I thought religions had copyright on their material anyway! Maybe his “eternal” soul is part of the 144,000 that are saved, or atleast with his songs of passe nature. I’m just waiting for the JWs to try and DMCA him (or anyone else) for that…..especially since he is (like Scientology) one of their more public faces. The Artist Formerly Unencumbered w/ Idiocy.

Thomas Loydsays:

Speaking of Watchtowers...

Too bad he hasn’t done a version of “All Along the Watchtower” by Hendrix, no wait, Dylan, no wait….Jehovah’s Witnesses! I thought religions had copyright on their material anyway! Maybe his “eternal” soul is part of the 144,000 that are saved, or atleast with his songs of passe nature. I’m just waiting for the JWs to try and DMCA him (or anyone else) for that…..especially since he is (like Scientology) one of their more public faces. The Artist Formerly Unencumbered w/ Idiocy.

charliebrownsays:

“Nothing Compares 2U” as recorded by Sinead O’Conner was the number 1 selling song of the year in Australia in 1990. Prince’s original version? He had never released it!

“Kiss” as recorded by Art Of Noise with vocals by Tom Jones? A prime example because, in my opinion, that version rocked and Prince’s original version sucked!

Prince: Great musician, great singer, great songwriting skills, worst attitude ever. Some of the drivel he says makes the RIAA seem like champions of copy-culture!

Samples and synchronization licenses...

Samples likely fall under the area of a synchronization license, which is not compulsory. What that means is that even though you can play a recorded version of a song without the artist’s permission (like a radio DJ or party DJ would do), you can’t take that recording and synchronize it with something else (like putting it in a movie or commercial).

For example, ever notice how Rush Limbaugh uses The Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone” and talks over it live on his show? There’s nothing the Pretenders can do about that as long as Rush ONLY uses the song as a music bed while he speaks live. However, notice that Rush never uses the song along with his own pre-recorded intro. If he did that, then he would be synchronizing the music with something else, and he would have to get The Pretenders’ permission. The same applies to samples.

mattsays:

i get where he's coming from but...

I’m a songwriter and I’ve had people cover my songs without my permission and it made me feel bothered, it’s hard to explain so I understand where Prince is coming from. I’ve also covered Paisley Park and posted it, people liked it and it was yanked but if I had known how Prince felt about covers, I would never have posted it to begin with. I credited it to him but it all boils down to having respect. If someone doesn’t want you doing their songs, have common decency not to do it.

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