My Favorite Cover Songs
Everyone has an opinion about artists covering other artists' songs. Some people hate it and some people don't care at all. I happen to love cover songs, depending on the original song and the cover artist. This Hub showcases only 20 of my favorite cover songs (and I'll have you know it was extremely hard for me to cut my list down to only 20 songs). I made my final decisions by asking myself, "Do you like this song even more than the original?" Some of them take a very close second to their predecessors, while others surpass them. I hope you enjoy this list!
20. Hooked On A Feeling
This song was originally released by BJ Thomas is 1968. Not a bad pop song, but then the band Blue Swede covered this track in 1974. I enjoy the cover version much more than the original because it's weird but great! I really dig those "ooga-shaka"s.
19. Me & Bobby McGee
Written by Kris Kristofferson in 1969, "Me & Bobby McGee" was covered by one of the greats, Janis Joplin. It was featured on her 1971 album Pearl, and became a hit after her tragic death. I enjoy this cover simply because it is a great folk tune and fun to sing at karaoke night. (I was never a big fan of Kristofferson, except when he played opposite Pee Wee Herman in Big Top Pee Wee).
18. The Ballad of John & Yoko
While I might be one of the biggest fans of The Beatles to come from my generation, this track was never a favorite of mine. I liked it, but it wasn't ranked very high on my list of all time favorite Beatles' songs. Then I discovered a band called Archie Powell & The Exports. I was listening to their album and browsing their website, when I stumbled upon a video of their cover. They look like such a great group of guys, and the song/video pairing was a stellar example.
17. Don't Let It Bring You Down
Neil Young originally released this song in 1970. And while I respect the guy immensely, I don't really care for his version. Annie Lennox's version has much more soul to it -- it's almost haunting. I think I first heard her cover in the film American Beauty, even though her album Medusa was released in 1995. Such a great cover.
16. Cruel To Be Kind
This is one of those covers that I didn't even know was a cover until I heard the original on an old radio station years ago. I first heard the Letter's to Cleo version on the soundtrack to the movie 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). I had no idea it was originally recorded by Nick Lowe in 1979. I definitely like the cover version better than his.
15. We Found Love
I am famously NOT a fan of Rihanna. I don't know what it is, but I just can't get into her music. But when a singer from my home town happens to do a slowed down cover of one of her songs, I love it! Mat Kearney covered "We Found Love" on his iTunes Session album in 2012. His voice is so soothing.
14. Higher Ground
As much as I love "Higher Ground" from Stevie Wonder's 1973 album Innervisions, I just can't get enough of the cover by Red Hot Chili Peppers. It's almost more groovy than the original! These guys are probably one of my favorite bands. Mother's Milk was released in 1989 and they are still making new music to this day.
These days I've really been into random indie bands. I still love my classics, but when you find new music that is actually good, you have to embrace it. One such example is Rogue Wave's cover of Buddy Holly's "Everyday." I really love this song, almost as much as I love the original. It just sounds so drastically different! This cover was included on a soundtrack for a video game that was released in 2005.
12. Hey Hey, My My
Originally recorded in 1979, "Hey Hey, My My" is a song from Neil Young's album Rust Never Sleeps. It's such a brilliantly written song, and that's why I like this cover version better. Battleme covered this song in 2010 for the FX Original series Sons of Anarchy. The song was released on the compilation album titled Sons of Anarchy: The King is Gone - EP. The lead singers' voice is, in my opinion, better than Neil Young's, and somehow, this gives the song a whole new depth and meaning. SoA is a great show, by the way.
11. The Ghost In You
I am a huge fan of 80s Alternative rock. The Psychedelic Furs might be famous for "Pretty in Pink" but this song is one of my favorites of theirs. So totally 80s! When I heard Duncan Sheik, of "Barely Breathing" fame, cover this song, I was blown away. The arrangement is amazing, and his voice shines with this song. I liked it so much, I almost used it in my wedding ceremony! It was released on his 2009 album Whisper House.
10. This Woman's Work
I can remember being obsessed with Kevin Bacon when I was a kid, and I would watch She's Having A Baby whenever it was on TV. In a pivotal scene toward the end of the film, Kate Bush's song "This Woman's Work" is featured. I just couldn't help but cry. So when I heard a male vocalist cover this song, I was shocked. Greg Laswell recorded the song for his Covers EP in 2009, and I instantly became a fan. It really is great hearing this song and these lyrics from the perspective of a man.
9. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
I really got in to Talking Heads when I was in college, and I'm still deciding which song is my favorite. But I think it might be "This Must Be The Place." One of my friends told me about Miles Fisher and an EP he released with a Talking Heads cover on it. When I heard the song and saw the video, I was an instant fan. Not only did he do the song great pop justice, his video pays homage to the film American Psycho, with a spoof scene from that movie. Pretty funny stuff accompanied by good music.
8. Take On Me
With one of my favorite music videos to come out of the 80s, A-ha released "Take On Me" in 1985. I have to admit that I adore cheesy 80s pop music like this, but when Reel Big Fish decided to do a cover for a hilarious Trey Parker/Matt Stone movie, I ate it up! I bought the soundtrack to the movie BASEketball and I listened to it non stop. Their take on "Take On Me" is super Ska-licious, and very catchy!
7. Love Is Blindness
This song recently jumped into my countdown mainly because of a certain Baz Luhrmann movie. I like U2 a great deal, but this song didn't really come on my radar until Jack White covered it for AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered in 2011. And then, when it was featured on The Great Gatsby soundtrack, I fell in love. I am obsessed with all things Jack White, and this cover is no exception.
6. Handle With Care
You would have to be crazy not to like a super group made up of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The Traveling Wilburys recorded Volume 1 in 1988 and released the video for "Handle With Care" prior to the death of Roy Orbison. Another group of this generation's folk stars got together for Jenny Lewis's album Rabbit Fur Coat. Without her Rilo Kiley bandmates, Lewis recorded a cover of the song with Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), and M. Ward (She & Him). It is performed in a slightly faster tempo than the original, and it plays on repeat in my car at least 3-4 times in a row on occasion.
If you were alive in the 90s, there was no way you could escape the music of Radiohead. Everyone knew the song "Creep" and most everyone liked it. I think my brother had a copy of Pablo Honey (1993), and I could hear the song blaring from his bedroom. But then I saw a preview for a little movie called The Social Network. It was accompanied by a soft choir song that sounded oddly familiar. And when I heard the woman's choir sing the words, "so f***ing special" I knew this song was for me. Scala & The Kolacny Brothers recorded many covers of new and old popular songs, and "Creep" showed up on their 2010 EP Dawn.
4. Mad World
"Mad World" by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules happens to be one of those songs that I am ashamed to say I didn't know was a cover. I am famously a huge fan of 80s pop music, but I didn't hear the Tears for Fears song until after I saw the movie Donnie Darko. The iconic scene at the end of the film played to Gary Jules' amazing singing voice is unforgettable. It is slowed down quite a bit, and makes for great mood music. Even though I love Tears for Fears, this cover of "Mad World" is just better in my opinion.
Country music has never been my favorite music genre, but I still hold Classic Country in high regard because of the tremendous influence it has had on contemporary music. Dolly Parton is one such musician. She is a legend in Country music, and is responsible for the song "Jolene." Released in 1973, Dolly is begging a girl named Jolene not use her charm and good looks to steal her man. So when a man like Jack White decides to add the song to his live shows, he adds a whole new life to it. The raw guitar sound is amazing, and hearing a man say, "Please don't take my man" is priceless. When I heard "Jolene" on Under Blackpool Lights (2004), I was immediately in love. This is still one of my favorite songs!
This is probably one of the most covered songs in the history of popular music. Originally released in 1984 by Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah" has been a mainstay in most artists' careers. People argue daily over whose version is the best, and while I enjoy Cohen's version, as well as Jeff Buckley's cover, I still maintain that Rufus Wainwright did it best. His version is featured on the 2001 soundtrack for the film Shrek, and ever since I heard the song, I was obsessed. Wainwright's voice is virtually flawless, and his tone is breathtaking. I absolutely adore him as an artist. I can listen to his cover over and over again!
1. With A Little Help From My Friends
Since I am a huge fan of The Beatles, naturally my number one choice would be one of their songs. There is no doubt in my mind that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a great album. While it isn't my absolute favorite of theirs, it still stands as an innovative and inspiring piece of work as a whole. But who could forget the opening sequence to one of the greatest shows on television? The Wonder Years used Joe Cocker's 1968 blues version of "With A Little Help From My Friends" to introduce us to the model of the American family in the late 60s. When I hear this song on the radio, I still get chills. I will be as bold as to say that Joe Cocker's cover is by far the best cover song ever recorded. He took this song in an entirely different direction and made it his own. I actually enjoy listening to this version more than The Beatles' original (please don't shoot me)!
Bhi Bhiman's cover of Dire Straits' "Walk of Life" [Substitute Preacher EP (2013)]
Cary Brothers and Priscilla Ahn's cover of Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Maps" [Covers, Vol. 1 EP (2012)]
Creedence Clearwater Revival's cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" [CCR (1968)]
Ellen McIlwaine's cover of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" [Up From The Skies: The Polydor Years (1998)]
The Fugees' cover of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" [The Score (1996)]
Joshua James and The Forest Rangers' cover of Hermans Hermits' "No Milk Today" [Sons of Anarchy: The King is Gone EP (2010)]
Mandy Moore's cover of Elton John's "Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters" [Coverage (2003)]
Mates of State's cover of David Bowie's "Starman" [All Day (2004)]
MoZella's cover of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So" [I Will (2006)]
Nirvana's cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World" [MTV Unplugged In New York (1994)]
The Postal Service's cover of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" [Wicker Park OST (2004)]
The Presidents of The United States of America's cover of Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks" [Pure Frosting (1998)]
Sara Jaffe's cover of Cold War Kids' "Louder Than Ever" [The Way Sound Leaves A Room (2012)]
Stereophonics' cover of Rod Stewart's "Handbags & Gladrags" [Handbags & Gladrags EP (2001)]
Tiffany's cover of Tommy James' "I Think We're Alone Now" [Tiffany (1987)]
Whitney Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" [The Bodyguard OST (1992)]
... to name a few.