Cover Songs and Standards
Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Pop All Have Standards
Great jazz and blues musicians share a common ground of songs, standards that fans and players know and love. The songs comprise a range of styles and moods but all have one thing in common: they're great music. But modern rock cover songs are tackling these jazz standards and making new songs part of everyone's music vocabulary. So why should you learn about jazz and blues standards? Here you will find reasons for musicians, music aficionados, and simple fans alike.
You'll also find links to dozens of pages about jazz, blues, rock, and even bossa nova cover songs and standards. I've also included a section for holiday songs that have become as familiar as Santa's beard and Christmas trees. Each of these pages includes a little song history, a lot of music videos, lyrics, some guitar tabs or sheet music, and a place to sample dozens of versions of the best cover songs out there. If you're looking for information about a particular jazz or blues standard or just great cover songs, please let me know. I'm always building more pages. For a somewhat different take on making old songs new again, try mashups that combine tried-and-true favorites with unexpected songs to make something wholly unexpected!
Every piano, horn, and clarinet player should at least familiarize themselves with blues and jazz standards, if not necessarily know how to play them all. Standards are the bread and butter of professional jazz musicians, the songs that all of the greats played because the tunes themselves are great. Who doesn't know how to finish the sentence "It don't mean a thing..."?
While innovation makes the music world go 'round, a musician still has to eat and you may well find yourself filling in with a band playing jaz standards in a swanky lounge between opportunities to make your own brand of wonderful music or getting low-down with blues standards to which your audience can relate. Standards also provide a sort of inside joke amongst musicians, a common language you can sneak into your own compositions and a framework on which to build a vocabulary of your own while remaining accessible to other musicians and fans alike.
Even if you don't play an instrument jazz and blues standards form a foundation on which so much wonderful music has been built. Knowing and enjoying these songs offers you a wider appreciation for the roots of much of the popular music of today, whether blues, jazz, country, or even hip hop. You can recognize influences, melodies, and riffs from many standards that clue you in to the influences of your favorite musicians. And just think how smart you'll sound when you identify that sample in the background of a pop song as having been lifted from a version of Apache! If you're interested in more talk about jazz and cover songs, try this National Public Radio story about jazz musicians turning hard rock into standards.
Now, you may believe all of that to be so much blather and see no real benefit to yourself. But I've saved the best for last: standards make great listening. Regardless of the fact that you don't want to impress your friends with the depth of your musical knowledge or wish to play Wednesday nights with a sweet jazz combo at the Holiday Inn, these songs stand out as the classical music of the past century.
Whether it's the mournful and lovely Stormy Weather or the wildly varying takes on Summertime, the loving I've Got a Crush on You or the defiant The Lady Is a Tramp, standards became such by offering enough complexity or beauty or simple emotion to capture the imagination of dozens of musicians.
Every performance of I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm is new and different while it remains familiar. Cover songs offer endless variation on common themes and musicians like Ella Fitzgerald are renowned for taking a few elements from a jazz standard and creating entirely new structures on that base. This offers listeners a landscape of new and different music, standards from a hundred perspectives.
Standards are great cover songs. Whether it's a Count Basie and the Rat Pack crooning I've Got You under My Skin, Duke and Ella swinging Mack the Knife, Bing bubbling through Blue Skies or Buble burbling I'm Beginning to See the Light, or even a guy with a guitar at the open mic night at your local pub, jazz standards became popular because they speak to so many.
The odds are pretty good that your favorite musician has played a jazz or blues standard or two in his or her day and perhaps even recorded one (if not an entire album, as Willie Nelson, Robbie Williams, and Rod Stewart have all done recently). You'll even get an extra smile the next time you catch someone sneaking The Girl from Ipanema into an elevator scene in a movie.
Can't Wait? Sample the Best Cover Songs Right Here! - Jazz and Blues Standards Plus Modern Cover Songs
You can sample dozens of versions of these great cover songs and jazz standards on their individual pages, but I've included a few (well, about 40) here to whet your appetite for the rest.
Other Places to Read about Standards - Blues and Jazz Standards Lists
When I started making these lenses, I looked for lists of standards in the blues and jazz genres (as well as popular swing songs) and found that many of my favorites were on those lists. I've included here two of my favorite sites listing blues and jazz standards, respectively, and a few more great places to find lists of cover songs and standards. All of these web sites offer a lot more than simple lists of songs and I recommend them highly if you enjoy these types of music. If you know of a great place listing the rock cover songs most often recorded please let me know!
- Basic Blues Standards and How to Play the Blues
This is only a portion of a terrific site dedicated to the blues.
- Jazz Standards
Lists, history, and much more fill this useful resource.
- The 100 Greatest Jazz Vocal Standards
While I don't understand the order in which this list is posted, many, many greats appear on it.
- List of Blues Standards
This list includes a number of performers for each standard as well. It's a great blues tutorial.
- Ultimate Cover Song List
They aren't kidding with the title. The list includes nearly 2,000 cover songs.
- What Is a Standard: Jazz and Blues Standards
An exploration of what constitutes a jazz or blues standard.
- What Is a Standard: Rock Cover Songs, Folk, and Mashups
Consideration of whether rock cover songs and folk music are standards and how sampling and mashups fit into the idea of musical standards.
You may never blow a solo for Take the "A" Train on your horn, but blues and jazz standards offer more than a chance for musicians to show off their skills and knowledge. They help you recognize from where so much that is popular in music came and remind you that, regardless of changing fads, people have always shared hopes and dreams, felt love and loss, in much the same ways they do now. Jazz standards and the best cover songs cross generation gaps and bring people together on a firm foundation of music. That's why you should want to learn more. The links in this article will give you a good start in building your own love of standards.
I've got a place for folks to disagree about the cover song question, actually, because I know that purists are out there. If you'd like to tell me exactly how wrong I am, try my debate lens, Cover Songs Rock!, and cut loose. You can also swing by and share your favorite song. Otherwise, drop a note here and let me know what you think. This list is always under development, so songs requested will get quick attention. Thank you!