Best Cover Songs: 60 Definitive Cover Versions You Need To Hear

There are many great cover songs, but only a few stand out as landmarks.

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The best cover versions can truly reinvent a song – sometimes so much so that they become the definitive recordings. For our list of the best cover songs, we’re not just looking at non-original songs penned for artists to sing (like, say, much of Frank Sinatra’s work), but a song that already existed as a hit or a notable recorded version for someone else. So, you won’t find great records like Mott The Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” or Linda Ronstadt And The Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” here, since they were the first artists to record those songs, written by David Bowie and Michael Nesmith, respectively. To our ears, the best cover songs go beyond an artist performing a faithful rendition of someone’s else’s work to make the song their own with a complete re-imagining.

Have we missed any of your favorite cover versions? Let us know in the comments section, below.

While you’re reading, listen to our Best Cover Songs playlist here.

60: Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band: Trapped (Jimmy Cliff)

You could make an extensive box set out of Bruce Springsteen’s live cover songs, but this Jimmy Cliff cover was special, The Boss turning it into an arena anthem without losing the desperation. It remains far and away the musical highlight of the splashy We Are The World benefit album.

59: The White Stripes: Jolene (Dolly Parton)

There have been numerous covers of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” over the years, but few have been singled out for praise by Parton herself. (Parton had kind words for Jack White in a 2016 interview with The Guardian.) It’s one of the most “rock” cover versions you’ll hear, of course, but for those looking for other types of takes on the song, you could check out Cake, Ray LaMontagne, Strawberry Switchblade, Olivia Newton-John, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Lingua Ignota, and many more.

58: Elvis Presley: Tomorrow Is A Long Time (Bob Dylan)

Just when nobody was looking, Elvis snuck two triumphs on the otherwise forgettable soundtrack album for the 1966 film Spinout. First, The Coasters’ rollicking “Down In The Alley”, and then this Bob Dylan cover, performed with great tenderness. What if post-army Elvis had stuck to covering songs worthy of his talents? For five minutes, we had the answer.

57: Bonnie Raitt: Angel from Montgomery (John Prine)

“I think ‘Angel from Montgomery’ probably has meant more to my fans and my body of work than any other song,” Bonnie Raitt once said, so it might come as a surprise to learn that Raitt did not compose it. Raitt was one of many artists who enjoyed more commercial success by covering John Prine than Prine ever did singing his own songs, but that’s to take nothing away from his original recording of “Angel from Montgomery,” which ranks as one of his very best compositions.

56: Quiet Riot: Cum on Feel the Noize (Slade)

Slade were glam-rock godheads in their native England, but they struggled to replicate their success across the Atlantic. It wasn’t until the mid-80s that they finally found a foothold in the American market thanks to Quiet Riot’s faithful cover version (right down to the unusual spelling) of “Cum on Feel the Noize,” which helped usher in the trend of hair metal. (And one year later, Quiet Riot would score another hit with another Slade cover song, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now.”)

55: Aerosmith: Big Ten Inch Record (Bull Moose Jackson)

“Big Ten Inch Record” was not a hit for Bull Moose Jackson when it was released as a single in 1952, with most radio stations (understandably) hesitant to play such a risqué song. Its bluesy shuffle and suggestive humor made it a natural fit for Aerosmith, who covered it on their 1975 album Toys in the Attic. But it was the Flashcats, a Pennsylvania bar band, whose raucous live performances of “Big Ten Inch Record” convinced Jackson to resume his musical career in the 80s after a two-decade hiatus.

Aerosmith - Big Ten Inch Record (Audio)

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54: Muse: Feeling Good (Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse)

“Feeling Good”’s most famous rendition is, of course, by Nina Simone. But the original song was written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for a musical a year before Simone made it famous on her album I Put a Spell On You. Muse have an incredible ear for a great pop melody, so it’s no surprise that they took the song and made it their own in 2001 on Origin of Symmetry.

53: Lenny Kravitz: American Woman (The Guess Who)

One of the biggest hits for the Canadian group The Guess Who was a song that seemingly warned against getting involved with American women. But the songwriter Burton Cummings has since said, in a 2013 interview, that it was simply a way of saying that he preferred Canadian girls. Whatever the meaning, Lenny Kravitz tapped into the song’s magnetism and room for guitar theatrics in his 1999 cover that has since become a cover version that stands alongside the original.

52: Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse: Valerie (The Zutons)

Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse were struggling to come up with ideas for Ronson’s second album, Version – a collection of Motown-inspired covers of contemporary pop and rock tunes – when Winehouse suggested that they have a go at “Valerie,” a recent single from a British indie rock band the Zutons that she was obsessed with. Ronson and Winehouse’s rendition is a marvel, offering a perfect union of his punchy production and her cracked, smoky vocals. But the Zutons’ original is a fizzy, addictive shot of guitar pop that’s lots of fun in its own right.

Valerie (Live Jo Whiley, BBC Live Lounge Session / 2007)

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51: Bananarama: Venus (Shocking Blue)

“Venus” is one of only a handful of songs that multiple artists have taken to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. You’re probably familiar with Bananarama’s slick dance-pop cover version from 1986, but it was first a hit for Dutch rock band Shocking Blue back in 1969. (Fun fact: Nirvana’s debut single was a cover of a different Shocking Blue song, “Love Buzz.”)

50: Linda Ronstadt: You’re No Good (Dee Dee Warwick)

“You’re No Good” was several years old by the time Linda Ronstadt began performing it in concert. It was first recorded by Dee Dee Warwick in 1963, and though her version wasn’t a hit, the tune got around, being covered by several artists until Ronstadt – always a skilled interpreter of other people’s songs – added it to her live repertoire. Ronstadt finally recorded it in 1974 as the lead single to Heart Like a Wheel, the album that catapulted her to a tier of rock iconography that few other women reached.

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49: Charles Bradley: Changes (Black Sabbath)

One of the greatest modern-day soul ballads, as written by… Black Sabbath? Sure enough, the Ozzy ballad proved the perfect vehicle for the soul singer Charles Bradley to eulogize his mother and generally pour his heart out. It would later be used to convey a different kind of change, on the animated TV series about puberty, Big Mouth.

48: Pretenders: Stop Your Sobbing (The Kinks)

For their 1980 self-titled debut album, Chrissie Hynde and producer Nick Lowe give a great Kinks obscurity the Spector-type treatment it deserved in the first place. Plenty of people fell in love with both the cover and Hynde herself, including Ray Davies.

47: Gregg Allman: These Days (Jackson Browne)

Nobody gave more soul to this oft-recorded Jackson Browne tune than Gregg Allman on his 1973 solo debut album, Laid Back. In turn, Browne gave Allman all the world-weariness he ever needed from a lyric. Nico’s early cover is a gem as well, just ask Wes Anderson.

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46: Harry Nilsson: Without You (Badfinger)

… On the other hand, Harry Nilsson’s cover stands as one of pop’s greatest solo vocal performances, wringing every bit of passion from the 1970 Badfinger tune. It’s ironic that master songwriter Nilsson had his two biggest hits (this and “Everybody’s Talkin’”) with cover versions. And for those who came of age during the 90s diva heyday, Mariah Carey’s take didn’t do too shabby on the charts either.

45: Todd Rundgren: Happenings Ten Years Time Ago (The Yardbirds)

Unlike most of the soundalike cover songs on his 1976 Faithful album, Todd Rundgren performs the lead track in his own voice, absolutely blazing through The Yardbirds’ proto-metal tune. In the context of the album, it meant, “Before we take this trip, here’s what it’s all about.”

44: Humble Pie: I Don’t Need No Doctor (Ray Charles)

The rave-up that closes Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore is among one of the greatest hard-rock cover songs of an R&B tune (in this case, a Ray Charles original) and certainly one of the most fun. Got to love Steve Marriott’s little vocal improv: “I sho’ feel good… therefore, therefore, I don’t need no doctor!”

43: Rod Stewart: I Don’t Want to Talk About It (Crazy Horse)

Rod Stewart possesses one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most distinctive voices – an inimitable rasp that lends gravity to even the most simple material. But even his take on “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” can’t quite convey the weariness that Danny Whitten, Neil Young’s doomed collaborator, brings to Crazy Horse’s original, which can go toe-to-toe with Young’s most affecting songs.

42: The Tourists: I Only Want to Be With You (Dusty Springfield)

The Tourists’ 1979 cover accomplishes the near-impossible task of making the Dusty Springfield hit more joyful and wide-eyed than it already was. It was also the first indication that singer Annie Lennox was going to be something special. Their version also managed to match the No.4 peak of the 1963 Springfield original.

41: The Continental Drifters: Some Of Shelly’s Blues (Linda Ronstadt And The Stone Poneys)

From The Nitty Gritty Dirty Band to Linda Ronstadt, a roomful of first-class singers has recorded this terrific, largely-unsung roots-pop cut. But it’s The Bangles’ Vicki Peterson doing the honors on this perfect New Orleans-meets-Laurel Canyon version of the Michael Nesmith-penned gem.

40: Van Halen: You Really Got Me (The Kinks)

The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” has a killer riff, so it only made sense that guitar genius Eddie Van Halen would take the tune and make a whoscase for his brand of guitar pyrotechnics. Singer David Lee Roth, meanwhile, is the perfect conduit to lay bare each and every emotion that may have been buried beneath a previous generation’s propriety.

39: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Woodstock (Joni Mitchell)

Depending on whose version you’re listening to, “Woodstock” doesn’t just sound different, but feels different. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their rendition in March 1970, but the song was written by Joni Mitchell, whose take wouldn’t be heard for another month. Mitchell’s is slower and more wistful, tapping into a bittersweetness that gets lost in CSNY’s more rollicking spin.

38: Michael Andrews & Gary Jules: Mad World (Tears For Fears)

When Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly asked Michael Andrews to compose the film’s score, Andrews roped in his longtime friend Gary Jules to sing a stripped-down cover version of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.” If you’re only familiar with Andrews and Jules’s version, it can be hard to believe that it was first recorded by the same group that made “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” but Tears for Fears’ original sounds much gloomier than you might expect it to, almost as much goth-pop as it is synth-pop.

37: Pearl Jam: Last Kiss (J Frank Wilson And The Cavaliers)

They may have meant it as a goof, but Pearl Jam made a solid rock ballad out of J Frank Wilson And The Cavaliers’ early-60s teen weeper “Last Kiss.” After Eddie Vedder got the band on board, the group recorded it on the cheap and offered it to their fan club members as a Christmas gift. Still, it does boggle the mind that this remains the biggest chart hit of their career, and one of the best-known cover songs of all time.

36: Johnny Cash: Solitary Man (Neil Diamond)

While Johnny Cash’s cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt” gets all the press, this Neil Diamond tune is just as good. The 1966 Diamond version was about young-adult heartbreak, while Cash’s rendition is about going through life and never getting over it. It remains not only one of Cash’s best cover songs, but one of his finest moments on the American Recordings albums.

35: Bob Marley And the Wailers: Sugar Sugar (The Archies)

Yes, it’s true: One of the many Jamaican singles the early Bob Marley and The Wailers released was a cover of the 60s novelty bubble-gum hit “Sugar Sugar,” by the fictional band The Archies. The sheer unlikelihood makes it hilarious, but The Wailers actually make a pretty great groove out of it.

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34: Glen Campbell: Hold On Hope (Guided By Voices)

This surprising cover of the indie power-pop heroes’ “Hold On Hope” was one of the many powerful moments on Glen Campbell’s 2011 album, Ghost On The Canvas. While it was intended to be the country icon’s “farewell album”, he was able to release his 64th and final album, Adiós, in 2017. Who better to sing “There rides the cowboy…” than the Rhinestone Cowboy himself?

33: The Dickies: Nights In White Satin (The Moody Blues)

It started purely as a joke, with L.A. punk pranksters The Dickies thrashing through the least appropriate cover songs there were (up to and including “Silent Night”). Only trouble is, The Moody Blues’ hit worked great as a punk-pop number delivered in a Buzzcocks style. Even the Moodies’ frontman Justin Hayward gave it a thumbs-up.

32: James Taylor: You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King)

We should all hope to have a friend as supportive as Carole King, who wrote “You’ve Got a Friend” after James Taylor sang “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend” on his own “Fire and Rain.” Though King intended to keep the song for herself and her landmark album Tapestry, she allowed Taylor to cover it, and his version became the biggest hit of his career.

31: Nirvana: The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie)

Nirvana’s take on “The Man Who Sold the World” became so closely associated with the band that, for years afterward, younger fans would compliment David Bowie for “doing a Nirvana song” whenever he sang it in concert. Bowie was not yet a household name when he wrote “The Man Who Sold the World,” and his recording, while playfully sinister, feels like it’s sung from the perspective of an outsider. Kurt Cobain, on the other hand, seemed to embody the titular character by the time Nirvana performed it on their MTV Unplugged special, and his eventual fate makes their version that much more haunting.

30: Bryan Ferry: The ‘In’ Crowd (Dobie Gray)

Whether solo or with Roxy Music, this is one of the few Bryan Ferry tracks that cracks a wide smile, sending up his jet-set image while celebrating it at the same time. Originally recorded by soul singer Dobie Gray, “The “In” Crowd” often gets confused for a Motown number, thanks to the label’s arranger Gene Page, who gave the single the Motown touch. Before Ferry tackled the tune, Ramsey Lewis Trio recorded a live instrumental version in 1964; later, Cheap Trick performed a cover of Ferry’s cover.

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29: The Brothers Johnson: Strawberry Letter 23 (Shuggie Otis)

If life were fair, “Strawberry Letter 23” would have been a breakout moment for teenage guitar prodigy Shuggie Otis. His bluesy licks and psychedelic arrangements caught the attention of B.B. King and Sly Stone, but their praise never translated to mainstream recognition for Otis. It wasn’t until 1977 – three years after Otis’ final major-label album – that the Brothers Johnson put their thumbprint on “Strawberry Letter 23,” taking the track to No.5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

28: Talking Heads: Take Me to the River (Al Green)

What makes Al Green so unique as a soul singer is that he’s not a belter – he sings like he’s holding something back, like he’s trying to get you to come in closer. That’s a key component of his most seductive songs, like “Let’s Stay Together” and “Take Me to the River,” the latter of which became a hit for David Byrne and the Talking Heads. Smartly, the Talking Heads’ cover keeps the original’s light touch, paring away anything that could get in the way of the song’s slinky groove.

27: The Mamas And The Papas: Dedicated To The One I Love (The Shirelles)

We’re willing to nominate this cover for the most gorgeous harmonies ever on a pop single, turning an already-fine Shirelles hit into the very essence of romance. When The Mamas And The Papas deliver that line “… And it’s something that everybody needs,” it still brings shivers… A perfect song for any wedding dance floor.

The Mamas & The Papas - Dedicated to the One I Love (The Ed Sullivan Show)

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26: Metallica: Whiskey in a Jar (Thin Lizzy)

Thin Lizzy’s version of “Whiskey in a Jar” is actually a cover itself. It’s just that the Dublin rock band has been so identified with the traditional Irish drinking song that most people don’t realize. Either way, Metallica took the hard-rocking version and took things to 11 with their cover on Garage, Inc.. It’s since become one of their biggest songs, but it still gets a particularly large reaction whenever the group plays in Ireland.

25: Stevie Wonder: We Can Work It Out (The Beatles)

Motown was never shy about covering The Beatles; Berry Gordy already had The Supremes making an album called A Bit Of Liverpool a few months after the group spearheaded the British Invasion. Stevie Wonder’s cover, however, was the first to give the original a run for its money. When he recorded it in 1970, The Beatles’ hit was five years old, and Stevie was just coming off back-to-back masterpiece singles in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” and “Heaven Help Us All.”

So he had no reason to cover the Beatles unless he could make it something special – which he does by turning it funky, giving a classic vocal performance and changing the mood of the song. The first thing that grabs you in the intro is the then-novel sound of the clavinet, which Wonder would later use to spectacular effect on “Superstition.” Most of all, he gives the song an optimism it had lacked before. While Paul McCartney’s original vocal had a pleading tone, Stevie’s effectively says, “Don’t worry, we got this.”

24: Roberta Flack: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Peggy Seeger)

The British folk singer Ewan MacColl wrote “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” back in 1957 for Peggy Seeger, with whom he had fallen in love (and would eventually marry). A number of popular folk artists covered the song throughout the 60s, culminating in Roberta Flack’s simmering, soulful take, which became the biggest-selling single of 1972 after its appearance in Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut Play Misty for Me.

23: Led Zeppelin: Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (Anne Bredon)

“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” was written by Anne Bredon, but it was likely first heard by Led Zeppelin via Joan Baez. The impressive guitar work of Baez’s version obviously entranced Jimmy Page, while the vocals no doubt pricked Robert Plant’s ears. Their transformation of the song, heard on the rock group’s debut album in 1969, made it clear that the group was on to something big together.

22: Los Lobos: La Bamba (Ritchie Valens)

It was a real kick to hear Ritchie Valens’ hit “La Bamba” revived in the 80s for the biopic soundtrack starring Lou Diamond Phillips. Los Lobos gave it a personalized touch by adding the traditional Mexican flourish at the end. Nowadays they’re likely to do the acoustic version, if they play it live at all.

21: No Doubt: It’s My Life (Talk Talk)

Before they laid the groundwork for post-rock, Talk Talk was a synth-pop band, and scored a worldwide hit in 1984 with “It’s My Life.” Nineteen years later, it became a worldwide hit all over again thanks to No Doubt, who covered the song to promote their first greatest hits album. Maybe when they release another compilation, they can take a crack at “Life’s What You Make It.”

20: Donna Summer: MacArthur Park (Richard Harris)

Jimmy Webb is one of America’s finest living songwriters and composers, and “MacArthur Park” ranks among his most enduring compositions, for its campiness as much as its complexity. Donna Summer and producer Giorgio Moroder took the song to the top of the charts with their disco-ready version, but it was actor Richard Harris who first made “MacArthur Park” a hit a decade earlier, with Webb’s lush orchestration only heightening the tune’s sense of melodrama.

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19: Joan Jett And The Blackhearts: I Love Rock And Roll (The Arrows)

A great taste in cover songs has always been a trademark for Joan Jett, who has recorded everything from Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” to Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and The Rolling Stones“Let It Bleed”. Here she took a minor UK hit by The Arrows that most of her fans hadn’t heard, and turned it into her lifelong manifesto.

18: George Harrison: Got My Mind Set On You (James Ray)

George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set on You” was the last song by a Beatle to top the Billboard Hot 100, but the song itself wasn’t actually written by a Beatle. It was written by Rudy Clark in 1962, and it was James Ray’s jazzy version that Harrison encountered during a (pre-Beatlemania) visit to the US in 1963. More than two decades later, an off-the-cuff remark from “Dream Weaver” singer Gary Wright about “Got My Mind Set on You” recalled the older song to Harrison, who recorded a cover version of it for his comeback album Cloud Nine.

George Harrison - Got My Mind Set On You (Version II)

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17: Elvis Costello: (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding (Nick Lowe)

Adding a few shots of righteous anger to this song (originally a country-rock tune by Nick Lowe with Brinsley Schwarz) proved the perfect tonic. In Elvis Costello’s hands (and Lowe’s again, since he produced it) it became a song for the ages.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding

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16: Eric Clapton: I Shot The Sheriff (Bob Marley and the Wailers)

Eric Clapton wasn’t much of a fan of reggae, but his backing guitarist George Terry was, and Terry convinced Clapton that he would have a hit on his hands if he covered Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “I Shot the Sheriff.” (Sure enough, it became Clapton’s first – and only – American chart-topper.) Still, Marley’s is the genuine article, with its skanky groove looser and spikier.

15: Cyndi Lauper: Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Robert Hazard)

You can quickly tell why Cyndi Lauper found such success with “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” when listening to the Robert Hazard original. The elements are all there, even if they’re a little bit more raw. After receiving an 80s pop sheen, the song became Lauper’s mega-hit introduction to the world, and transformed the original into a female empowerment anthem.

14: Janis Joplin: Me and Bobby McGee (Roger Miller)

Kris Kristofferson wrote “Me and Bobby McGee” in 1969, but he was neither the first singer to record the song – Roger Miller, Kenny Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot, and Charley Pride all preceded him – nor was his version the most famous. It was Janis Joplin’s cover, which she finished just three days before her death, that turned it into a standard. Her take on “Me and Bobby McGee” is spirited and upbeat, whereas Kristofferson and his fellow countrymen tended to sing it in a simpler, more somber (but no less affecting) manner.

13: Run-DMC: Walk This Way (Aerosmith)

“Walk This Way” is one of the most groundbreaking party records ever. With the first major rap cover of an arena-rock standard (with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler making a cameo, and the unforgettable use Joe Perry’s iconic guitar riff, Run-DMC brought those two camps together, just as radio and MTV were trying to get segregated.

12: Jeff Buckley: Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)

Jeff Buckley’s searing rendition ‘Hallelujah’ rendered 25 years of further covers of the same song unnecessary. Buckley’s great performance has all the dark beauty and sensuality that composer Leonard Cohen intended (and it followed a great, if less accessible version by John Cale). As one of the most ubiquitous cover songs of all time, most people mistake Buckley’s version for the original.

11: Joe Cocker: With A Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles)

The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” is a jaunty, little tune with its sadness clearly embedded in the lyrics. Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” is a searing epic that takes that melancholy and turns it into absolute despair. What’s perhaps forgotten, though, when listening to Cocker’s incredible vocal performance is just how much the arrangement is transformed as well. The songs sound almost completely different when you play them back-to-back.

10: Gladys Knight And The Pips, Marvin Gaye: I Heard It Through The Grapevine (Smokey Robinson)

Hard to say which was the original and which the cover of ”I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, since Gladys Knight’s barnstorming version topped the charts a year before Marvin Gaye’s slow-groove take, yet the latter was actually recorded first. And both versions were technically cover songs, since the first recording was an overlooked Miracles album track.

09: The Beatles: Twist and Shout (The Top Notes)

As John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and the rest of the Beatles got their start, they did plenty of covers, not least this Top Notes tune made famous by The Isley Brothers in 1962. The Isley Brothers’ version has an almost ramshackle live feel in places, while The Beatles tightened things up for their cover. Both would prove to be hits.

08: Harry Nilsson: Everybody’s Talkin’ (Fred Neil)

Harry Nilsson won a Grammy Award for his cover version of “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which was used as the theme song in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy. Nilsson’s version no doubt helped the song become a standard, but Fred Neil’s original still feels like the definitive version – not least because, like the song’s narrator, Neil would eventually leave behind the hustle and bustle of celebrity in favor of a quiet life in Florida.

07: Jimi Hendrix Experience: All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)

Bob Dylan was so impressed by Jimi Hendrix’s reimagining of “All Along the Watchtower” that whenever he performed the song thereafter, he did so in an arrangement more similar to Hendrix’s than his own. Dylan’s late-60s material exists in the shadow of his incredible trilogy of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde, and it would be easy to imagine newcomers to Dylan’s catalog glossing over an album like John Wesley Harding if not for Hendrix’s cover version of “All Along the Watchtower.” Which would’ve been a shame – “All Along the Watchtower” stands as one of Dylan’s most unsettling tunes.

06: Ike & Tina Turner: Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

“We never, ever do nothing nice and easy. We always do it nice and rough,” Tina Turner purrs at the beginning of her first cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which she recorded with her then-husband Ike. You’re much more likely to associate “Proud Mary” with Tina Turner than John Fogerty – it’s become one of her signature songs, and was a staple of her live performances until her retirement.

05: Johnny Cash – Hurt (Nine Inch Nails)

It seems like an unlikely fit on paper, but once you hear the first few notes of Johnny Cash’s cover version of “Hurt,” it all makes sense. The utterly bleak Nine Inch Nails song was written when Trent Reznor hadn’t even turned 30 years old. Cash’s take, sung near the end of his life, took on new meaning, filled with personal history and a calm defiance. It’s one of the greatest cover songs recorded in the 21st century.

04: Soft Cell: Tainted Love (Gloria Jones)

“Tainted Love” was originally a minor UK hit for T.Rex member and Marc Bolan’s girlfriend Gloria Jones, but in Soft Cell’s cover, the minimal synth backing and Marc Almond’s obsessive vocal makes it both more disturbing and far sexier.

Soft Cell - Tainted Love (Official Music Video)

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03: Aretha Franklin: Respect (Otis Redding)

Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” is so definitive that it might make you think Otis Redding wrote the song specifically for her. (It was Franklin’s decision to add the climactic “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ Find out what it means to me” lines, and it’s hard to imagine the song without them.) Redding’s original version was sung by a man to his romantic partner, pleading for respect in exchange for his hard work. In changing the song’s perspective, Franklin transformed the song into a feminist anthem.

02: Sinead O’Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U (The Family)

“Nothing Compares 2 U” was one of several songs that Prince, for one reason or another, chose not to keep for himself. (His studio recording wasn’t released until 2018, though he included a live version on a 1993 greatest hits compilation.) It was recorded by the Family, one of the bands Prince assembled on his Paisley Park record label, but the group folded shortly after the release of their lone album, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” was quickly forgotten by all but the most faithful Prince fans. You’re almost certainly familiar with Sinead O’Connor’s cover, an unexpected smash hit that, all too briefly, turned her into the most magnetic singer in the world.

Sinéad O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U (Official Music Video) [HD]

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01: Whitney Houston: I Will Always Love You (Dolly Parton)

Whitney Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You” isn’t just one of the best covers of all time – it’s a purging kind of heartbreak, the kind of song that makes you want to throw open your windows and risk breaking your heart all over again for the chance of finding a lasting love. It’s a show-stopping performance, and a radical departure from Dolly Parton’s original, which is affecting in its plaintive intimacy. If Houston was singing it for the whole world, Parton seems to be singing it just for you, and yet both versions are equally perfect.

Looking for more? Discover the best Beatles covers with 20 essential versions of Fab Four classics.



  1. Richard Beres

    September 18, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Santana-black magic woman

    • Lanny Dante

      October 8, 2019 at 1:43 pm

      Beach boys need to be added to the list on their cover of CALIFORNIA DREAMIN.

  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. 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

  8. wagaitwaters

    September 19, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Any of the Holly Cole covers of Tom Waits songs

  9. 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!

  10. joão carlos

    September 19, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Deep Purple – Help

  11. 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…

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Gloria Kelly

    September 19, 2014 at 11:13 pm

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

  15. 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?

  16. 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)

  17. 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.

  18. 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)

  19. 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

  20. Martin Begett

    September 21, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Chandeen-Apples and Oranges (Pink Floyd)

  21. 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.

  22. Phil

    September 21, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    I Will Survive by Cake?

    Probably forgot that one, it was a huge success.

  23. 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

  24. Tony

    September 23, 2014 at 7:23 pm

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

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. PAUL

    September 24, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    NOT a Single song from Ben Folds Five?

  28. Helton

    September 24, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Eleanor Rigby – Esperanto
    Every Little Thing – Yes

  29. Nora

    September 25, 2014 at 12:53 am

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

  30. franklin cerna

    September 25, 2014 at 3:47 am

    cindy louper ;a travez de la noche

  31. 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)

  32. Rick kosak

    September 26, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Train kept a Rollin Aerosmith

  33. SueN

    October 2, 2014 at 9:02 pm

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

  34. 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)

  35. 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

  36. 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.

  37. 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./

      October 23, 2016 at 5:06 am

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

  38. 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.

  39. Sken

    November 20, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Elvis Presley – Hound dog originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton

  40. 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?”

  41. 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

  42. Francis

    January 14, 2016 at 12:13 am


  43. joseph kirley

    March 4, 2016 at 12:31 am

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

  44. mary

    March 25, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    CSNY — Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” <3

  45. David

    September 5, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Gimme Shelter – Grand Funk

  46. Rcadxn

    November 28, 2016 at 12:18 am

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

  47. Rob

    September 3, 2017 at 10:05 am

    The Faces, Maybe I’m Amazed (McCartney)

  48. 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

  49. Håkan Johansson

    October 6, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Cat Power doing Satisfaction in a slow moody way with just the verses is original thinking.

  50. Lanny Dante

    October 8, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Also covers of 3 kink songs that came out in 1975 by LITTLE ROGER and THE GOOSEBUMPS…”all day and all of the night – so tired of waiting for you – Victoria”

  51. Michael Pacheco

    June 8, 2020 at 7:27 am

    some really good songs one this list, but nigths in white satin is not one of them, moody blues rocks that song! also 3 of the best covers ever are not on this list, sounds of silence by disturbed, strawberry wine chris stapelton, house of the rising sun white buffalo (SOA theme song), Simple man shinedown! now i forgot PJ did Last kiss, and wow what a great cover!

  52. Backbeat Forever

    December 4, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    GUN Word Up

  53. Kehinde

    December 5, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Unbelievable that 3 excellent covers are missing from this list
    1. Jimmy Cliff – Wild World (Cat Stevens)
    2. UB40 – Red Red Wine (Neil Diamond)
    3. Nina Simone – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Billy Taylor)

  54. Colin Aylott

    December 19, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    Best ever by a mile – Jimi Hendrix, All Along The Watchtower

    Worth a mention, in no order:

    Devo – Satisfaction
    Aretha Franklin- Respect
    Flying Pickets – Money (not necessarily great but certainly different)
    The Beatles – Twist and Shout, Money
    The Rolling Stones – I Wanna Be Your Man
    The Rationals – I Need You
    Eddie Cochran – Sweet Little Sixteen (one of the very few occasions that Mr Berry was out-berried) and Milk Cow Blues
    The Byrds – Mr Tambourine Man

    A lot of Elvis Presley covers but especially Blue Moon of Kentucky, Mystery Train and Lawdy Miss Clawdy

    Loads of songs on Nuggets …

  55. dwc13

    December 24, 2020 at 6:57 am

    Eric Clapton – After Midnight (version used in Michelob commercial) / J.J. Cale
    Georgia Satellites – Hippy Hippy Shake / The Swinging Blue Jeans
    Linda Ronstadt – Just One Look / Doris Troy
    Elton John – Pinball Wizard / The Who
    Grand Funk Railroad – The Locomotion / Little Eva
    Robert John – The Lion Sleeps Tonight / The Tokens
    Ferry Aid (various) – Let it Be / The Beatles
    George Harrison w/Eric Clapton – Something (Live in Japan) / The Beatles
    The Ventures – Wipeout (Live in Japan) / The Surfaris
    Bob Seger – C’est La Vie (You Never Can Tell) / Chuck Berry
    Juice Newton – Angel of the Morning / Merrilee Rush

  56. Geompat

    January 6, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    Disturbed – Sound of Silence, best cover I’ve ever heard.
    Sia – California Dreamin.
    Blackmore’s Night – Street of Dreams
    Taking Dawn – The Chain
    Nightwish – High Hopes
    Kravitz – American Woman
    Metallica – Turn the Page
    Fame on Fire – Shape of You
    Hall&Oates – You’ve lost That Lovin Feelin

  57. Peter Bole

    January 11, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work from his Unplugged album is spine tingling and superb

  58. Lee

    June 16, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    This site is called “Discover MUSIC”. How can you not include more modern music than this in this list?

    First of all, the greatest cover song of all time is TOOL – “No Quarter” (Led Zeppelin)

    Secondly, how can you fail to include John Mayer – Bold As Love (Jimi Hendrix – Axis:Bold As Love)?

    Anyone who can play those chops on the guitar and still be able to sing over top of it deserves to be on this list.

    Thirdly, no Stevie Ray Vaughan – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)(Jimi Hendrix)?

    Or even Stevie Ray Vaughan – Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)?

    Stevie should have been on this list twice!

    Where’s Deftones – No Ordinary Love (Sade)?

  59. Maxwell

    July 10, 2021 at 12:17 am

    Plus almost every cover Mariah Carey has recorded over the last 30 years, from “I’ll Be There” (jackson 5) to “Open Arms” (Journey).

  60. Matthew Clark

    July 15, 2021 at 4:02 am

    The original list was assembled before Disturbed covered Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. No cover has ever made a song more their own. Some may match…may, but none surpass David Draiman’s vocals blowing folks away with an unexpected range and power. Disturbed completely owned The Sound of Silence.

  61. DeanO

    May 15, 2022 at 8:28 pm

    Good stuff. I will add a few more that I believe have been overlooked, and are worth mentioning…

    Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Blinded by the Light (Bruce Springsteen)
    Marianne Faithfull – As Tears Go By (The Rolling Stones)
    The Silkie – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles)
    Arlo Guthrie – City of New Orleans (Steve Goodman)

  62. Rich Griffith

    January 15, 2023 at 11:31 pm

    Linda Ronstadt – Buddy Holly Covers…
    – It’s So Easy
    – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore
    – When Will I Be Loved
    – That’ll Be The Day

  63. Rich Griffith

    January 16, 2023 at 12:03 am

    John Denver – Mother Nature’s Son – (Beatles)
    Aerosmith – Train Kept A-Rollin’ – (Yardbirds) – (Originally written and recorded by Tiny Bradshaw in 1951)

  64. CJ

    June 22, 2023 at 5:39 pm

    Disturbed – Sound of Silence *top 5
    Shinedown – Simple Man *top 5

    Marylin Manson – Sweet dreams
    Miley Cyrus – Zombie * Can’t believe I said that
    Daughtry & Lzzy Hale – Seperate Ways * u and comer

  65. Robert

    September 4, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    Live and Let Die, Guns n Roses (McCartney & Wings). Not a big fan of GnR, but this version is really good.

  66. Tim

    September 21, 2023 at 10:55 am

    Blinded by the Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band was written and originally recorded by Bruce Springsteen. Got to #1 in US charts. Gotta be the best cover of all time

  67. Sound of Text

    January 7, 2024 at 1:07 pm

    Great list! I completely agree with you on “Hotel California” by The Killers – it’s a perfect cover of a classic song. I also loved “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley, such a heartfelt and emotional version of the song. Keep up the good work!

  68. Jesus Valencia

    March 15, 2024 at 5:19 pm

    I don’t trust this list. Richie Valenz is not the original for La Bamba. That is an old Mexican folk song. Also Sugar Sugar is originally by The Archie’s. The Bob Marley version is the cover.

  69. Greg

    April 20, 2024 at 4:27 am

    LCD Soundsystem – Jump into the Fire

  70. Mike

    May 19, 2024 at 11:50 pm

    Kentucky Woman- Deep Purple

  71. Bruno

    May 31, 2024 at 7:24 pm

    I’m amazed that this list doesn’t include “Song to the Siren” by This Mortal Coil, original by Tim Buckley from his album Starsailor.

  72. Mario Reyes

    June 25, 2024 at 1:00 am

    It is rare when a cover of a song, is considered better than the original making the cover the definitive perfection of the original. These are on this list “Nothing Compares to You”, “Hurt” and “I Will Always love You”, Jolene”. Even rarer still when another cover of the same song can stand as an equal next to the original cover.
    I have heard two that automatically are covers that stand up to the definitive cover. Chris Stapelton singing “Nothing Compares To You” in tribute to Prince the day he died. The other is Lil Nas X singing Jolene. Lil Nas X also got a call out from Dolly.

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