To Cristyn, Christy, and Ron.

Their influence runs through the whole book.

Even though the words are mine, we found many of the ideas together.


In the late 20th century: With the resource of Napster, my brother Warren put together two dozen versions of the song ‘Stardust.’ Inspired by this, I assembled several similar compilations— 29 versions of ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’, 12 versions of ‘Solitude’, and 8 versions of the theme from Shaft. I had great fun listening to different covers, exploring the potential of each song.

About a decade ago: My friend Christy Mag Uidhir reached out to me, said that he had some ideas about covers, and suggested that we should coauthor something. We worked at it but disagreed on some fundamental issues. My wife Cristyn and I had long conversations in which it became clear that neither Christy nor I had staked out the right position. Distinctions needed to be made. That collaboration led to a paper by the three of us (Magnus et al. 2013). When responding to that paper, Andrew Kania refers to the three of us as ‘the Mags’— he says, ‘to save some space!’ (2020: 238)

More recently: Christy suggested that it was time to say more about covers. Sure, I replied, but what should we say? He didn’t know. I brainstormed lots of possibilities. The three of us soon had a draft of a new paper. I was having weekly lunch with Ron McClamrock, who used to play in cover bands. He brought a different perspective to the project and ultimately joined us as a coauthor (Magnus et al. 2022). It remains to be seen how this collaboration will be abbreviated— perhaps ‘4M’ or ‘the Mags feat. Ron McM.’

In the course of this collaboration, I came up with more ideas than would fit and wrote things which were cut for space. I had sabbatical coming up, giving me time to think about the bigger picture. The broader ideas and stray drafts formed the basis of this book.

Thanks to the Department of Philosophy at the University at Albany for making this book possible— for the semester of sabbatical in Fall 2021 which gave me a chance to focus on the project, but also for the willingness to tolerate my dilettantism.

The account I give here is built on the one I developed with my coauthors, and it would not have been possible without them. For feedback on drafts of the book, thanks to Christy Mag Uidhir, Ron McClamrock, Evan Malone, and Warren Magnus. Thanks also to Oz McClamrock, whose secondhand input about musical practice was useful at many stages of the project.

 P.D. Magnus

 Albany, 2022

‘Now you’re telling me you’re not nostalgic.
Then give me another word for it.
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague.’
— Joan Baez, ‘Diamonds and Rust’ (1975)

‘Now you’re telling me you’re not nostalgic.
Then give me another word for it.
You who’s so good with words
And at keeping things vague.’
— Judas Priest, covering Joan Baez (1977)

‘Now you’re telling me you’re not nostalgic.
Well, then give me another word for it.
You were so good with words
And at keeping things vague.’
— Great White, as a tribute to Judas Priest (2008)



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