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All Time Best Cover Songs Part 2

Updated on August 7, 2013

I am taking my favorite recorded cover songs and compiling a list but I discovered there are way too many amazing cover songs to fit into one hub. Here is part 2 of my all time favorites. You can read part 1 of the best cover songs here: Hope you enjoy!

6. Kate Bush - "This Woman's Work" covered by Maxwell and Greg Laswell

Kate Bush originally wrote "This Woman's Work" for the movie She's Having A Baby starring Kevin Bacon in the late 80s. The song has been covered by both Maxwell and Greg Laswell.

The Original

Kate Bush wrote the song from a father's point of view when there are complications as his wife gives birth to their child. My mom used to love the movie She's Having A Baby and would watch it all the time when I was young. The ending scene when this song plays is really the only thing I remember. It is a powerful scene where Kevin Bacon is in the waiting room. The moment is interlaced with his wife in surgery and a bunch of memories that he has with her. It's hard not to cry.

I included both the official video for this song and the best clip that I could find from the movie. Unfortunately it cuts off at the end but you get the idea.

Cover #1 - Maxwell

Maxwell rerecorded this song in the late 90s and it went on to be in the movie Love and Basketball. At first when I heard a man was covering such a high pitched song I was a little worried. Maxwell put all my doubts to rest. He really has an absolutely beautiful voice. He first performed the song at his MTV Unplugged show (not going to lie, I looked him up singing this song live because I was in such shock at how great he sounded).

Cover #2 - Greg Laswell

As I stated in my previous blog, I love Greg Laswell and his covers. I wasn't sure how I felt about this cover at first but it definitely grew on me. Unlike Maxwell, Laswell takes the song lower in key but it definitely still works. I love the ending how he shadows his own voice in different pitches. There isn't an official music video for this song so I chose the one to the right. It has beautiful artwork and really fits the song.

My Opinion

While both men made valiant efforts at covering this song, I still think Kate Bush's version is the best. It's strange since the song is written from the male's point of view (in the waiting room while his wife struggles to have their baby) but I still find the woman singing it to have a better understanding of the emotions behind the song.

Which version of "This Woman's Work" do you prefer?

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7. Eurythmics - "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" covered by Marilyn Manson

This song helped to bring two separate bands into the spotlight. The British band Eurythmics first released this song in 1983 which gave them a #1 hit in the US. Marilyn Manson covered the song in 1995 and it propelled them into fame (people both loving them and fearing them).

The Original

The dance pop hit "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" was a song defined by their music video. Lead singer Annie Lennox had extremely short orange hair and wore a suit in a business room type of setting near the end of what is called the second-wave feminism movement. This movement fought for many things including women working and being equal to men in the work place. While the movement ended around the time this music video came out, it was still an extra cheer for women.

The Cover

Marilyn Manson also had a very 'memorable' music video with their first real hit. Marilyn Manson was found by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame (which pretty much defines the music I listened to in middle school and high school). The band has always been known for their shock value and they definitely didn't hold back when they made this cover or the video that accompanied it. The video features the band in an abandoned broken down house, lead singer Manson in a wedding dress, and lots of make up. It is not for the squeamish.

Interesting tidbit- In both videos, the lead singers wear a bindi (the dot worn between the eyes of women from South Asia) at some point.

Interesting tidbit #2 - Marilyn Manson added lyrics at the end that weren't in the original.

My Opinion

I know I will probably be the only one on this one but I love Marilyn Manson's version. I think it's better than the original. While the Eurythmics version was already pretty dark (even with the dance beat behind it) I think Marilyn Manson took it to a whole new level.

Which version of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" is better?

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8. New Order - "Blue Monday" covered by Orgy

To follow along the path of music I loved when I was in middle school, next up is "Blue Monday". Originally by New Order in the 80s, the song is filled with fairly dark lyrics. There are many conflicting meanings behind the song but many think it's either about war or an emotionally abusive relationship. Orgy later covered this song in the late 90s.

The Original

New Order was a new wave band that was formed in 1980. New Order released a few different versions of this song throughout the 80s and into the mid 90s but the most popular were the first two. The first version in 1983 was over 7 minutes long which was shorted a few years later to just over 4. While the song is filled with dark imagery, there is still more of a dance beat in the background. Vocalist Bernard Sumner is fairly monotone throughout the entire piece, conflicting with the random instruments that pop up throughout the song.

The Cover

Oh Orgy. For my 13th birthday my best friend got me their CD Candyass with their cover of "Blue Monday" on it (my mom was not thrilled about the band name or the album title). Embarrassing secret time. I had a huge crush on the lead singer (Jay Gordon). I apparently had a thing for guys in white lipstick back then? My dad really wasn't thrilled about that. Okay I may still like the white lipstick. Don't judge me.

And moving on from memory lane... Orgy released "Blue Monday" at the very end of 1998, gaining fame into 1999 with their music video. While New Order was more of a pop song, Orgy is a full on rock song.

My Opinion

I love both versions of this song. As I said earlier, this song is filled with dark lyrics with an unknown meaning. If New Order wrote the song about war, I think their sound fits with that version. Orgy seemed to make the song more about a bad relationship. Either way, I think Orgy brings a darker sound to equal the words behind the song. Therefore, I like Orgy's version better. Especially at 3:31 when every instrument they have kicks in as loud as possible and then Gordon starts yelling the lyrics (and he is cracking his microphone cord like a whip... wait, what?). Orgy makes me believe the lyrics and the pain behind the song.

Which version of "Blue Monday" do you prefer?

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9. Nine Inch Nails - "Hurt" covered by Johnny Cash

So far on this list, there have been younger bands/artists covering an older musician's song but not in this case. You know you have written an absolutely beautiful song when a legend like Johnny Cash wants to cover it. "Hurt" was originally released in 1994 and Cash went on to cover it in 2002, shortly before his death. The song has taken on different meanings to different people from addiction to suicide.

The Original

Nine Inch Nails founder and only actual member, Trent Reznor, wrote "Hurt" which went on to get a Grammy nomination. In Reznor's version he sings almost the entire song at a whisper until the very end when the background music kicks in, distorted, loud, and chaotic. The lyrics are about regret about where Reznor's life had taken him and the decisions he had made. It is also about his drug addiction.

The Cover

Johnny Cash wasn't a stranger to addiction or demons so when he covered "Hurt" you could tell it was personal. He recorded the song in 2002, it was released in March 2003, and he passed away in September 2003.

Trent Reznor talked about Johnny Cash's song after he got a CD of the music video in the mail: "I pop the video in, and wow... Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps... Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore... It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure." Alternative Press #194. September 2004.

My Opinion

Both versions of this song are heartbreaking but I also think they are distinctly different. Reznor's version was written from the soul in a moment where he felt at his lowest. He was in a dark place of addiction and self-loathing. The way that he sings the song you can tell that he is numb from everything and that's why he hurt himself to see if he could feel.

Cash's version is when he is at the end of his life and reflecting back on everything that has happened. The music video perfectly captures his "empire of dirt". The way that Cash sings the song feels like he does feel the pain and it is overpowering him. It almost sounds like he is about to cry in some parts.

I could never pick which version I like better. You could threaten my life and I still wouldn't be able to choose. They are both beautiful.

Which version of "Hurt" do you prefer?

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10. Leonard Cohen - "Hallelujah" covered by Jeff Buckley

While this song has been covered many times, I will only be looking at these two versions. "Hallelujah" was released in 1984 and was covered by Jeff Buckley in 1994. Other honorable mentions who covered this song are John Cale, Rufus Wainwright, K.D. Lang, Bob Dylan, and literally hundreds more.

The Original

Leonard Cohen was initially a poet and writer but switched to music in the late 60s when he wasn't successful. Cohen is known for his deep voice and distinct singing style, still writing music and touring. The song is filled with biblical references and Cohen had many other verses written but shorted the song down.

The Cover

A man named John Cale originally covered this song in 1991 and Jeff Buckley took mostly from that cover for his own version. Buckley's version is one of the most popular and most praised.

Buckley tragically died at the age of 30 from an accidental drowning. I think he had so much more he could have given the world musically. At least we were left with his beautiful version of "Hallelujah". The way that Buckley uses his guitar almost reminds me of an angel's harp. Mix that with his gorgeous voice, it makes for a perfect song.

My Opinion

While Leonard Cohen is an amazing musician and a talented lyrist, for this song I don't think he had the right voice. This needed to be sung with a higher voice (comparable to an angel) and Jeff Buckley filled the role. Buckley's version gives me absolute chills.

Which version of "Hallelujah" do you prefer?

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    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 3 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      Oh wow, Jeff Buckley... any excuse in the world to listen to his heavenly voice. This hub made my day.

    • Nykki13 profile image

      Nykki 4 years ago from Germantown, WI

      Thanks so much for the kind words epigramman! It's refreshing to find someone who loves music as much as I do! haha. Thank you for reading and sharing my hub. It means the world to me.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Gee Miss N - this is the most fun I've had at a Hub in a long long time no doubt because I am a master musicologist and I love cover versions - can't say though I am familiar with the cover of Kate Bush here although I have a pretty amazing cd of people covering her songs called I just wanna be like Kate.

      I love Kate by the way and have followed her since her debut album which is my favorite of all time called The Kick Inside.

      She was discovered by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.

      Sweet dreams by Marilyn was featured prominently in a David Lynch film and gave that scene much of its emotional punch. Yeah I love his rendition but ya know a cover ain't a cover if it wasn't a good song in the first place. lol

      Hallelujah is beautifully done by John Cale and K.D. Lang also.

      Jeff is the son of a famous singer from the 60's and 70's Tim Buckley and you should check out his signature piece - A song to the siren.

      I am so proud of you my friend because I love your passion and intelligence and this is a world class hub which will be posted and linked on my FB page for all to see and read and listen to.

      Sending warm wishes and good energy from Colin and his cats Tiffy and Gabriel at lake erie time canada 10:54pm

    • Nykki13 profile image

      Nykki 4 years ago from Germantown, WI

      PDXKaraokeGuy- I agree about Cohen's voice but in the end I would choose to listen to Buckley. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

      kereeves3- I will definitely have to check out your hub about covers! I couldn't agree more about Greg Laswell. I absolutely love him! Thanks for reading and for the comment!

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 4 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Johnny Cash's Hurt is a million times better than the original... buckley and cohen is intriguing Buckley's version is so sensual and haunting, yet there's something to be said about Cohen's voice. That one is a tie for me. Nice work, my friend.

    • kereeves3 profile image

      Karen 4 years ago from Salem, OR

      I, too, am a huge fan of cover songs, and I have also written a Hub about them. I really enjoy the format that you used, including the polls.

      I am so glad you featured Greg Laswell in this Hub. I absolutely love the tone of his voice. His cover of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" is one of my all-time favs! He also does a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" that is so different from the original. Good stuff!