COVER ME – Imitation vs Inspiration / by Bo Gerard


Magicians, like musicians, often perform material that has been previously released and made famous by another artist.  So, the question is, what kind of “cover artist” are you?  Do you re-create other magician’s effects, or do you use them as a leaping off point to create an effect that is so personal, so idiosyncratic, that no one else could copy it.


I am always intrigued when I see magicians looking down their noses at other magicians that use props like a Vernet Tip or an Egg Bag, tacitly implying that the harder a trick is to learn, the better the trick is.  But it might be a mistake equating “difficulty level” to “entertainment value”.  Maybe it’s not the move, or slight, or prop at all; maybe it’s what you do with it.  And how about why you use it?  From where inside your character does using a particular slight or prop come from.


A lot of bands have released cover tunes over the years, but the one’s that really resonate with me are the versions that reveal a very personal take the artist has on the song.  Like Bobby McFerrin’s cover of the Beatles “Blackbird”; and Joe Cocker’s “A Little Help From My Friends”; and my all-time favorite cover, Earth Wind and Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life”.  They didn’t just reproduce the original version, they were inspired by it and made it their own; and in an unforgettable way. (Coincidentally, all Beatles songs!)


My “magical moment”, when it comes to realizing how this related to magic, was back in 1979, when I saw a friend and fellow performer, R.J. Lewis, perform Fraidy Cat Rabbit.  I had seen the prop before and dismissed it as the type of trick only a beginner would perform.  But, when I saw R.J.  do it, I was bowled over!  He had that audience in his pocket, and by the time he got to the blow off, they were howling.  I learned a lot that day about making a trick so much a part of your character, that it seems you were actually the one who invented it.


And, by the way, if you think you can’t thoroughly entertain an adult audience with an egg bag, check out Jeff Hobson tearing it up with his version; done in his own inimitable style.  

The lesson here is: Inspiration always trumps Imitation.