There are few things more controversial in the music industry than cover songs. Some people love 'em, some people hate 'em. Some bands do the songs justice, others butcher them, some come out with intriguing interpretations of the songs that make fans think.
Whatever your personal stance is on cover songs, I maintain that they have a very important place in the music industry for one big reason... they make you aware.
Aware that a song you may not have been familiar with exists.
Aware that a band is out there that you may just like if you give them a chance.
Aware that a whole genre of music exists that you've never heard.
My own musical tastes, for example, are heavily influenced by the existence of cover songs.
My early years of music listening revolved around what my parents listened to in the car or at home. When I did start to branch out and listen to my own music, it was the result of checking out bands that kids at the local junior high listened to. Bon Jovi, Europe, Run D.M.C., etc. From there, I discovered a bunch of stuff based on covers.
One of Run D.M.C.'s earliest crossover hits was their cover (or "duet," if you prefer) of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." A brilliant song, no doubt. But it also made me look into who this Aerosmith band was. This led to me finding other 70s and 80s rock bands and performers.
From this, I latched onto Van Halen. Listening to early VH work included catching covers of music by The Kinks ("You Really Got Me" and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone"), Roy Orbison ("Oh, Pretty Woman"), and Martha and the Vendellas ("Dancing in the Street"), among others. Van Halen fandom really opened my eyes to a lot of other bands.
As my love of rock got deeper and heavier and I became a fan of speed metal bands like Anthrax, I invariably discovered the politically charged rap of Public Enemy through (what else?) the collaboration of the two bands on a cover of the latter's "Bring Tha Noize."
Right around that same time, I was introduced to The Red Hot Chili Peppers via their breakthrough hit "Higher Ground" that I later found out was a cover of a Stevie Wonder classic. I quickly became an avowed Stevie Wonder fan, a love that lasts to this day.
So, sure, you might not like it when a band covers a song by another band. It may seem cheap or rehashed or a cop-out from having to write a new song of your own. But cover songs really do play an important role in the legacy of music, whether you like it or not.
Think about your favorite music. Was your love inspired in any way by covers? Please share!