Last week I was assembling the index for A Philosophy of Cover Songs. No release date yet, but soon.
I’ve previously posted a bit of the introduction and the epilogue. Last month, in a moment of perversity, I also wrote a summary of each chapter in haiku. I had entirely forgotten doing that until I saw the file yesterday. It’s in a directory of things written for the blog, so clearly it should be posted here.
The final draft of my book A Philosophy of Cover Songs has been sent off to the publisher, so I’m waiting on feedback from the proofreader. Over on Twitter, Pete Vickers asks for the take-home message of the book in one sentence. The one-sentence version would be a grammatically dubious monstrosity, so here instead is the epilogue in which I try to sum it all up:
Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken And many times confused.
Willie Nelson, covering Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’ (1993)
So where does this wide-ranging discussion of covers leave us?
I just found out today that my book on the philosophy of cover songs has been accepted for publication! Both referees said that the manuscript could be published as is, but of course went on for pages with comments about how it might be improved.
I’m not a big fan of reaction videos as a genre, but Glamour‘s second-order reaction video series You Sang My Song is an exception. A star watches YouTube1 covers of their hits, and then the people who made each cover watch the reaction video of the star watching their cover. The stars sometimes get genuinely excited. The YouTubers are often genuinely verklempt.2
One thing about cover songs is that there are a lot of weird edge cases. And so people ask What does your account say about… some oddity that they have in mind. For example: What does your account say about Tom McGovern’s video where he plays John Melloncamp’s “Jack and Diane” but replaces the usual lyrics with permutations of the phrase “suckin’ on a chili dog”?
In a remembrance of his friend Rob Aldridge, Rick Beato recounts being in a band with him. They were playing Christmas songs in a bar. The proprietor interrupted their set and said that he thought they were going to play covers.
Aldridge replied, “What are you talking about? We didn’t write these songs!”
Unamused, the proprietor paid them for the gig on the condition that they stop playing immediately.
I’ve mentioned in passing a few times that I’m writing a book on the philosophy of cover songs. I now have a complete draft, which moves it to the rock tumbler stage in which I roll around the prose to remove rough edges and add polish.
Andrew Kania poses what he calls the striking cover paradox. The idea is that there could be a series of covers, each making small changes to the one before it, so that the final product sounds nothing at all like the original.
Last month on Twitter, Helen De Cruz asked what the motivation is to work up an idea into a paper or book, rather than letting them remain as musings, scribbled notes, or blog posts.
My initial answer, “Whim.” I added, “Not in a fleeting sense, though. There are some papers that I just find myself writing, and I guess those are the ones.”
The thing I currently find myself writing is a book on the philosophy of cover songs, tentatively titled Philosophy of Cover Songs. Although there’s a path that got me to this point, there is no real deliberation in it. The alternatives would be either to struggle to write something else (and so get less written) or to wander off to some other activity (and so write nothing).