Do you attribute it to whomever wrote the lyrics, or to who actually sings/speaks them? Or it is simpler/more correct to just use the name of the band/group?

What about a cover song? Can you quote the covering singer/group if you prefer them (for whatever reason), or must it always go back to the original singer/writer/group?

The context is irrelevant (to me); whether I want to use a quoted lyric as something to relate to my personality (yearbook quote, online profile, etc.), or if I needed to include it in something formal (research, presentation, etc.).

  • 2
    I think this is better asked over on Writing, who are more focused on questions which are covered by style guides than the nuts and bolts of the English language. In re: the cover band, no. You must quote the originator; it's not fair to give credit to a parrot who echoes some profound statement he heard.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 25 '16 at 15:33
  • @DanBron: Apologies, wasn't aware of Writes (nor did I read the Help page :( ). Can a mod migrate it there?
    – istrasci
    Jul 25 '16 at 15:59
  • 1
    You can always flag for moderator attention if you'd like a question migrated.
    – Catija
    Jul 25 '16 at 16:00
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    It's on topic on Writers, but please edit in something about the context. Are you using some lyrics in a work of fiction, or quoting them in the context of an academic study of some sort, or what? Thanks. Jul 25 '16 at 16:18
  • I'm happy to migrate this if you make the changes that Monica suggested.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 29 '16 at 16:21

The context does actually matter. For something informal, such as an amusing poster, you would put the group or singer. For example, "When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me ..." you would attribute to The Beatles. However, in other contexts you would want to attribute it to the writer, Paul McCartney.

Putting the name of a cover performer is quite acceptable in informal contexts, particularly if the cover version is more famous than the original.

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