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We’ve Got It Covered

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Since the very first recordings and phonograph records were in their infancy the ‘cover version’ has become a staple of the music business. Initially it was rival record labels releasing their version of a song that had been ‘sold’ to them by a music publisher, publisher’s eager to earn royalties for their songwriter. Inevitably someone had to record a song first and even as late as the 1950s there could be as many as a dozen competing versions of the same song; sometimes more than one version made the best seller list.

From the 1960s onwards it became normal for there to have been just one version of a song issued and it then took its chances as to whether or not the public liked it well enough to make it a hit. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t and in some cases the songs on our list were covered in the years following the original recordings release, after it had not become a hit and these ‘covers’ are the the ones we best remember – Lulu’s ‘Shout’ is the perfect example, few people today remember the Isley Brothers’ original.

The Walker Brothers version of ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’ is another example. Written by Bacharach and David this was originally recorded by Jerry Butler and made #20 on the Billboard chart and sold virtually nothing in the UK when it was released in 1962. Three years later the Walker Brothers took it to the top of the UK charts and went 4 places better than Jerry Butler on the American charts; today the Walker Brothers version is the one that is played and best remembered.

Little Red RoosterA similar case in point is The Rolling Stones’ version of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Little Red Rooster’, that was in fact written by Willie Dixon. Barely anyone in Britain had heard of Wolf when the Stones topped the UK singles chart in December 1964. Wolf’s version had come out on Chess Records in late 1961 and apart from selling well in Chicago and some other cities, and the Southern States, where black record buyers bought it, the sales were mediocre. Inexplicably London Records in America failed to issue the Stones version as a single, but ‘Little Red Rooster’ has the honour of being the first, and one of the only, blues records to top the charts.

Why do artists cover records? Well, because they think a song may have hit potential is the obvious answer. But in many instances it s because an artist loves a particular songwriter or another performer. Brian Wilson idolised Phil Spector’s productions and so he and The Beach Boys covered the Crystals, ‘Then He Kissed Me’. The all girl group had already had a big hit with it and the Beach Boys failed to beat their success, but it is a classic homage.

In many cases the cover has become so well known that the original is barely remembered. The Four Tops ‘Walk Away Renee’ (originally done by the Left Banke), ‘Go Now’ by The Moody Blues (originally Bessie Banks), ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ from the Brothers Johnson (Shuggie Otis), ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ by Thin Lizzy (The Dubliners), ‘Superstar’ from the Carpenters (Delaney & Bonnie) and Jimi Hendrix version of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’.

The Beatles are one of the most covered artists in the world and we have selected a few gems for you. Siouxsie and the Banshee’s brilliant take on ‘Dear Prudence’, Wilson Pickett’s ‘Hey Jude’ and a brilliant version of ‘And your Bird Can Sing’ from the Jam. Perhaps most interesting of all is Fats Domino’s recording of ‘Lady Madonna’, because originally Paul McCartney wrote it in homage to the New Orleans piano man.

While some covers ape the original recordings others take them to a new and in some cases virtually unrecognizable place. Take Isaac Hayes’s version of Jimmy Webb’s song that was originally a hit for Glen Campbell; ‘By The Time I Get to Phoenix’ is a whole new deal. It’s the same with Cream’s ‘Crossroads’ (Robert Johnson originally), The extended version of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ by Diana Ross (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell), Deep Purple, ‘Hush’ (Joe South) and The Nice’s frenzied attack on Leonard Bernstein’s ‘America’ from West Side Story.

There are other songs that have two lives as hit records; Barry White’s ‘Just The Way You Are’ was a massive hit for its writer Billy Joel. UB40 and Chrissie Hynde’s take on Sonny and Cher’s ‘I’ve Got You Babe’, and Grand Funk Railroad’s very different look at Little Eva’s ‘The Loco-motion’; it’s one of those rarities where both versions topped the charts.

Anyway, there you have it, our list of 100 of the greatest cover versions ever. What do you think we’ve missed…and just as importantly why do you think your song should be on the list?

Besides the tracks already mentioned we’ve included:

Derek & the Dominos – Little Wing

CCR – I Heard it Through the Grapevine

Brian Ferry – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

The Who – Summertime Blues

The Sex Pistols – Substitute

Rod Stewart – Handbags & Gladrags

Sandy Denny – Candle In The Wind

The Mamas & the Papas – Twist and Shout

Robert Palmer – Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You

The Cure & James McCartney – Hello, Goodbye

Mike Oldfield – Arrival

Diana Krall – The Look of Love

Eric Clapton – I shot the Sheriff

Louis Armstrong – Ain’t Misbehavin’

The Allman Brothers – Statesboro’ Blues

Fairport Convention – Si Tu Dois Partir

Sinnaed O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U

Graham Parker & the Rumour – Hold Back the Night

Dusty Springfield – I Just don’t Know What to Do with Myself

Counting Crowes – Return of the Grievous Angel

P.P. Arnold – Angel of the Morning

5 Seconds of Summer – American Idiot

Lenny Kravitz – American Woman

Madonna – American Pie

Johnny Cash – Personal Jesus

Robert Wyatt – I’m a Believer

Devo – Satisfaction

The Sepcials – A Message to Rudy

Soft Cell – Tainted Love

The Clash – Police & Thieves

Elvis Presley – Snowbird

Mongo Santamaria – Watermelon Man

Joss Stone – Alfie

Manfred Man’s Earthband – Blinded By the Light

Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World

Nat King Cole – The Very Thought of You

Ella Fitzgerald – Nature Boy

Bat for Lashes – I’m On Fire

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help from My Friends

Sheryl Crow – The First Cut Is The Deepest

Patti Smith – Because The Night

Guns ‘N Roses – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Elmore James – Dust My Broom

Scissor Sisters – Comfortably Numb

Gregory Porter – The In Crowd

Elvis Costello – She

Patsy Cline – Crazy

Muddy Waters – Good Morning little School Girl

The Band – I Shall Be Released

Etta James – At Last

Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender

Stevie Wonder – Blowin’ In The Wind

Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Higher Ground

Metallica – Turn The Page

The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody

Jamie Cullum – Everlasting Love

Tom Jones & The Stereophonics – Mama Told Me Not To Come

Talking Heads – Take Me to The River

Alison Krauss – Baby Now That I’ve Found You

Amy Winehouse – ‘Round Midnight

Astrud Gilberto – The Shadow of Your Smile

Al Green – How Can You Mend A Broken Heart

Herbie Hancock – Edith and The Kingpin

Jackson 5 – Doctor My Eyes

Gary Moore – Need Your Love So Bad

FGTH – Born To Run

U2 – Paint It Black

Otis Redding – My Girl

Willie Nelson – All the Things You Are

Gary Jules – Mad World

Larry Carlton – Sleepwalk

Ryan Adams – Wonderwall

Neil Diamond – He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother

Colin Blunstone – What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

Donny Hathaway – Young Gifted and Black

Spencer Davis Group – Keep On Running



  1. Richard Beres

    September 18, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Santana-black magic woman

  2. Stewart Morroll

    September 18, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Two versions of the same song .The Byrds and Dusty Springfield with Carole Kings Goin Back

  3. Frank E. LaPorta

    September 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    OMG, how could you leave out the greatest cover ever !
    Highway 61 Revisited by Johnny Winter !

  4. Gabriel

    September 18, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    I think these are great covers too:

    Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – Elton John
    Get Back – Rod Stewart
    Help! – Henry Gross
    Michelle – Ricardo Cocciante
    If Not For You – George Harrison
    Roll Over Beethoven – E.L.O
    Let’s Spend the Night Together – David Bowie
    (They Long To Be) Close To You – Carpenters
    Till There Was You – The Beatles
    Love Is Here to Stay – Brian Wilson
    Stormy Weather – Jeff Lynne
    Angel Baby – John Lennon

  5. antonio salazar

    September 18, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    David Bowie-see emily plays
    Puff Daddy-Come with me(kashmire)
    Tom Jones-Kiss
    Joe cocker-the letter
    jimmy hendrix-star spangled banner
    Puff Daddy-I´ll be missing you(Every breath you take)

  6. Andy Bradley

    September 18, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Tank -Crazy Horses ( Osmonds)
    John Norum -Sunshine of your love ( Cream)
    Thunder-Play that funky music(Average white band)
    Thunder – Gimme Shelter ( Rolling Stones)
    Anthrax – God save the queen (sex pistols)
    The Almighty – Aint seen nothing yet ( Bachman Turner Overdrive)
    Ace Frehley -The Joker (Steve Miller Band)

    • Jim Crowley

      September 22, 2014 at 12:32 am

      Play that funky music was Wild Cherry.

  7. Fernando

    September 19, 2014 at 3:37 am

    Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” is better than the original record!

  8. Pete Brady

    September 19, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Santana- She’s not there (lve)
    Atlantic Rhythm Section- Spooky
    Allman Brothers- Slip Away
    Roy Buchanan- Change My Mind
    Phoebe Snow- At Last
    Lowell George- Easy Money

  9. wagaitwaters

    September 19, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Any of the Holly Cole covers of Tom Waits songs

  10. Hamid sharif

    September 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Job Marley – I Shot the Sheriff

  11. uDiscover

    September 19, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Some great choices from you all so far. It looks like we may have to extend this to 200!

    • Kim Persons

      January 13, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Try to find “Help” (Beatles) by the Michael Stanley Band. Also, did anyone mention John Denver’s version of “Mother Nature’s Son?”

  12. Marco Hoiting

    September 19, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower. I know you’ve mentioned it, but this one is in my humble opinion the best cover of all times!

  13. mojo

    September 19, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Umm Because the Night is not a cover. Patti Smith and Springsteen are co-authors.

  14. mikeb

    September 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Superstar was not Delaney & Bonnie’s… they covered Leon Russell.

  15. Jefferson Smith

    September 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    uh, the greatest cover of all time is probably Aretha Franklin’s cover of Respect. I can’t believe you missed that one. And where’s Jimi Hendrix’s cover off All along the watchtower? Bob Dylan plays his version in concert. U2’s version of Helter Skelter is a better cover than their version of Paint it Black, Ella Fitzgerald’s cover of sunshine of your love is absolutely brilliant, jeff beck’s cover of a day in the life, and john legends version of u2’s pride are also worth noting, and that’s just off the top of my head.

  16. joão carlos

    September 19, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Deep Purple – Help

  17. ralph jr andejeski

    September 19, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    honorable mention…”The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More,” The Walker Brothers, originally recorded by Frankie Valli…

  18. Michael Bulgrin

    September 19, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    The Residents – This Is A Man’s World
    Revolting Cocks – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy
    Einstürzende Neubauten – Sand
    Johnny Cash – Solitary Man
    Killdozer – I Am … I Said
    Melvins with Leif Garrett – Smells Like Teen Spirit

    These are all outstanding and very inspirational versions of the originals.

  19. martinezzz

    September 19, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    there are tons of other good covers. The first that comes to my mind is “Whiskey in the jar” by Metallica, then other stuff like:
    No Doubt – It´s my life (Talk Talk)
    Petshop Boys – Go West (VIllage People)
    Will Smith – Miami (Thw Whispers – And the beat goes on)
    E.L.O. – Roll Over Beethoven
    Israel Kamakawiwo´ole – Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a wonderful World (Judy Garland/Louis Armstrong)
    Sixpence None the Richer – Don´t Dream it s over (Crowded House)
    Far Corporation – Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
    Manic Street Preachers – Suicide is Painless (MASH Theme)

    then some harder covers:

    Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)
    Guano Apes – Big in Japan (Alphaville)
    Manowar – Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath)

    and some dancing stuff”

    Bananarama – Venus (Shocking Blue)
    Sandra – Everlasting love (Robert Knight)
    Unique II – Break my Stride (Matthew Wilder)

  20. phil murray

    September 19, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    great topic….but how the hell can anyone not consider Kris Kristoffersons’ ”me and bobby mcgee” by Janis Joplin ?and for those who have not heard these….how about…Freddie kings’ version of dylans’ ”meet me in the morning”….phil manzanera/enos’ version of beatles’ ”tomorrow never knows”…frank zappas’ version of ”stairway to heaven” with the horn section jamming pages’ solo……government mule/w/peter framptons’ version of ”born under a bad sign”……. and please give credit to Mr. Robert Zimmerman….as the greatest songwriter of all-time….just look at the vast amount of folks who choose to cover him.

  21. Gloria Kelly

    September 19, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Doug Parkinson’s cover of the Beatle’s Dear Prudence is a classic.

  22. Aaron Carroll

    September 20, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Alien Ant Farm’s cover of Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson is a modern classic in my opinion. Metallica covered Deep Purples Blind Man admirably also. What about AC/DC doing Baby Please Don’t Go?

  23. Greg McLoughney

    September 20, 2014 at 4:58 am

    Eleanor Rigby by The Zoot.
    Stand By Me by John Lennon.
    Glad All Over by Hush.
    Turn The Page by Jon English.
    Fire & Rain by Marcia Hines.
    (All the above on my list accept John Lennon are Australian Artists)

  24. Bob Armstrong

    September 20, 2014 at 5:05 am

    Lots of good ones mentioned but here’s a few I think should be considered. Hendrix – (Bob Dylan’s) Like A Rolling Stone, Black Crowes – (Otis Redding’s) Hard To Handle, Springsteen – (Tom Waits’) Jersey Girl, Beatles – (Isley Bros’) Twist & Shout, Big Brother & The Holding Company aka Janis Joplin ( Erma Franklin’s) Piece Of My Heart, the best in my opinion is Johnny Cash doing NIN’s “Hurt” (already mentioned). ..and yes Patti Smith Co-Wrote “Because The Night” w/ Springsteen. Not really a cover.

  25. Jim

    September 20, 2014 at 6:02 am

    Judas Priest – Green Manalishi with The Two Pronged Crown (Fleetwood Mac)
    Judas Priest – Diamonds and Rust (Joan Baez)

  26. Greg

    September 20, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
    Brian Ferry – Jealous Guy
    Wide Spread Panic – Bowlegged Woman Knock Kneed Man

  27. Martin Begett

    September 21, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Chandeen-Apples and Oranges (Pink Floyd)

  28. Paul Matthews

    September 21, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Unless I have missed it one of the best covers ever must surely be Joe Cockers version of the Beatles,with a little help from my friends.also the Carpenters do a fine cover of Klattuu’s Calling occupants of interplanetary craft. On a less commercial note Deff Leapard do a great version of Thin Lizzys Don’t beleive a word.

  29. Micky McGrath

    September 21, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    What A Wonderful World – Joey Ramone. Feeling Good – Muse. Electioneering – Cold War Kids. Nobody Does It Better – Radiohead. Head On – Pixies. Not Fade Away – Rolling Stones. You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby – Kirsty MacColl. Wish You Were Here – Sparklehorse ft. Thom Yorke. Darling Nikki – Foo Fighters. Are ‘Friends’ Electric? – The Dead Weather. 96 Tears – The Stranglers. Alone Again Or – The Damned. Love Rollercoaster – Red Hot Chili Peppers. I Go To Sleep – The Pretenders. Femme Fatale – REM. Victoria – The Fall.

  30. Phil

    September 21, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    I Will Survive by Cake?

    Probably forgot that one, it was a huge success.

  31. Danny

    September 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix
    Heaven – Simply Red
    Piece of my heart – Janis Joplin
    To love somebody – Janis Joplin
    Jealous Guy – Roxy Music
    Hurt – Johnny Cash
    Jumping Jack Flash – Johnny Winter
    Every Little Thing – Yes

  32. Tony

    September 23, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Marrianne Faithfull cover of John Lennons Working class hero …. superb

  33. jimmy rooney

    September 23, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Ccr ….heard it thru the grapevine better than marvins …over 11 mins long classic had it on in car today

  34. Ton Loomans

    September 23, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    solitaire-The Carpenters

    please mr. postman-The Carpenters

    • Jim

      September 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      Miss the good music of Karen Carpenter. Left us too soon.

  35. PAUL

    September 24, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    NOT a Single song from Ben Folds Five?

  36. Helton

    September 24, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Eleanor Rigby – Esperanto
    Every Little Thing – Yes

  37. Nora

    September 25, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Ashes by Now Rodney Cowell
    She came in thru the bathroom window Joe Cocker

  38. franklin cerna

    September 25, 2014 at 3:47 am

    cindy louper ;a travez de la noche

  39. T.lau

    September 26, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Rush – the seeker (Who)
    Georgia Satelites – Don´t pass me by (the Beatles (ringo))
    Jeff Healy – Blue Jean Blies (ZZ Top)

  40. Rick kosak

    September 26, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Train kept a Rollin Aerosmith

  41. SueN

    October 2, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Otis Redding’s version of My Guy has always been my favourite

  42. markus o'reallyus

    December 11, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Just off the top of my head…

    SRV – Little Wing (Hendrix)
    Blue Cheer – Summertime Blues (Cochrane)
    Rush – Mr Soul (Buffalo Springfield)
    Roxy Music – Like a Hurricane (Young)
    CCR – I Put A Spell On You (Hawkins)
    Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You (Hawkins)
    K.D. Lang – Every Time We Say Goodbye (Porter), Hallelujah (Cohen)
    Led Zeppelin – Boogie With Stu (Valens)
    Sade – Still in Love With You (Thin Lizzy)

  43. Jim H

    December 11, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    The Animals – House of the Rising Sun, Bring It On Home to Me, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,
    The Yardbirds – I’m a Man
    Sandie Shaw – You’re Time is Gonna Come

  44. Connor

    July 1, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Hey, if you’re going to put a few up by Bob Dylan, you can’t leave out Rage Against the Machine’s cover of Maggie’s Farm. Much, much better than the original. And hey, while you have the Stones up there, might want to add Grand Funk Railroad’s covers of Gimme Shelter or another of their covers, Feelin’ Alright by Traffic.

  45. Dave

    July 14, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Only just discovered this list so how about:
    Nazareth – Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
    Andy Kim – Lover Hurts (again) a slightly rocked up version
    Def Leppard – Action (Sweet)
    Quiet Riot – Cum on feel the noize (Slade)
    Deep Purple – River Deep Mountain High (Tina Turner)
    Kiss – God Gave Rock and Roll to you (Argent)
    Santana – She’s Not There (Zombies)

    • http://www.wisspurrs.com/

      May 1, 2016 at 2:15 am

      Uploading videos for 25 foot screens. Partners such as myself can upload 20 gb videos.Remove the 10 minute time limit that the little guy has. It does not prevent copyright infringement. People just upload videos in multiple parts.You are punishing the innocent while the copyright pirates still get away with it.

    • http://www./

      October 23, 2016 at 5:06 am

      If time is money you’ve made me a wealthier woman.

  46. Timothy

    July 24, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Luther Vandross is missing from this list. “A House Is Not A Home” should have graced this list.

  47. Sken

    November 20, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Elvis Presley – Hound dog originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton

  48. Francis

    January 14, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity….The Wheel’s On Fire (Bob Dylan)
    Ray Charles….Georgia….Hoagy Carmichael
    Nat King Cole…Stardust…..Hoagy Carmichael
    Spooky Tooth…I am The Walrus….The Beatles
    Bette Midler….In My Life….The Beatles

  49. Francis

    January 14, 2016 at 12:13 am


  50. joseph kirley

    March 4, 2016 at 12:31 am

    “Gimme Shelter”, Grand Funk Railroad, yes GRAND FUNK RAILROAD!!!

  51. Gayle O

    March 4, 2016 at 5:45 am

    Don’t forget Last Kiss covered by Pearl Jam.

  52. mary

    March 25, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    CSNY — Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” <3

  53. David

    September 5, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Gimme Shelter – Grand Funk

  54. Rcadxn

    November 28, 2016 at 12:18 am

    One More Cup of Coffee (Bob Dylan) – Calexico & Roger McGuinn

  55. Rob

    September 3, 2017 at 10:05 am

    The Faces, Maybe I’m Amazed (McCartney)

  56. Arthur

    January 13, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    KD Lang After the gold rush, The Beatles Twist & Shout, Status Quo Everytime when you walk in the room & All around my hat, Jethro Tull A Christmas song & Cats squirrel , The Byrds Turn turn turn, Roy Buchanon Sweet Dreams ,Mike Oldfield Wonderful land, The Zoot Eleanor Rigby, Lou Gramm Tin Soldier, Melanie Safke Ruby Tuesday. John Legend & Pink Don’t give up

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