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10 Cover Songs You Thought Were Originals

Updated on December 5, 2014

Songs You Didn't Realize Were Cover Songs

I have a soft spot in my heart for cover songs. Hearing how the same source material can evolve into wildly different interpretations is amazing to me. Imagine how surprised I was to learn many songs I thought were original hits turned out to be covers of someone else's song!

Here are ten songs you probably thought were the originals, but weren't.

"Always On My Mind" - Willie Nelson

It is safe to say that the classic version of the song "Always On My Mind" is the version performed by Willie Nelson. His version of "Always On My Mind" won the Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1983. Songwriters Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson Thompson won the 1983 Grammy for Song of the Year and Best Country Song.

Many artists have had chart success performing "Always On My Mind" over the years. Elvis Presley's version was released in 1972. It peaked at number 20 on Billboard's Hot 100. The Pet Shop Boys covered it in 1987 and it reached number 4 on the Hot 100.

The first version of "Always On My Mind" was recorded by Brenda Lee in 1972.

"Always On My Mind" - Brenda Lee

Purchase Brenda Lee's Version

"Always On My Mind" - Elvis Presley

"Always On My Mind" - Willie Nelson

Purchase Willie Nelson's Version

"Always On My Mind" - Pet Shop Boys

"Istanbul (Not Constintinople)" - They Might Be Giants

"Istanbul (Not Constintinople)" was an early hit for the alternative act They Might Be Giants. Most of their songs are short and quite quirky, as is this one. It's no wonder many listeners assumed the song was an original they wrote. In fact, "Istanbul (Not Constintinople)" was originally recorded by the Four Lads in 1953. The original version hit #10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Istanbul (Not Constintinople)" - The Four Lads

Purchase The Four Lads' Version

"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" - They Might Be Giants

Purchase They Might Be Giants' Version

"Don't Leave Me This Way" - Thelma Houston

Thelma Houston's version of "Don't Leave Me This Way" was one of the best known disco songs of the 1970s, topping both the Billboard Hot 100 and Soul Singles charts in 1976. However, it was originally released a year earlier in 1975 by Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, featuring Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocals. Their version was a hit disco track, reaching #3 on the Billboard Disco Charts.

In 1986, the Communards also covered "Don't Leave Me This Way". Their cover version hit #40 on the Billboard Hot 100, but topped the UK Single Charts.

"Don't Leave Me This Way" - Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes

Purchase The Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes Version

"Don't Leave Me This Way" - Thelma Houston

"Don't Leave Me This Way" - The Communards

"Always Something There To Remind Me" - Naked Eyes

Lou Johnson originally released the single for "Always Something There To Remind Me" in 1964. Sandie Shaw covered it that same year, and while it didn't crack the Billboard Top 40, it hit #1 in the UK. Dionne Warwick also released a version of "Always Something There To Remind Me" as a B-side in 1968. Fast forward to the 80s, and the Naked Eyes cover of "Always Something There To Remind Me" hit #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982.

"Always Something There To Remind Me"

"The Tide Is High" - Blondie

"The Tide Is High" was originally a reggae song recorded as a B-side by Jamaican band The Paragons in 1967. Reggae great Gregory Isaacs later covered "The Tide Is High" in 1978. Blondie's cover version of "The Tide Is High" topped the Billboard charts in 1980.

"The Tide Is High"

Download "The Tide Is High"

"Bette Davis Eyes" - Kim Carnes

Singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon wrote and recorded "Bette Davis Eyes" in 1974. Kim Carnes recorded a cover of "Bette Davis Eyes" and it became Billboard's #1 Single for 1981.

"Bette Davis Eyes"

Download "Bette Davis Eyes"

"I Love Rock 'n' Roll" - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Thie 80s rock anthem "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" was originally performed by the band Arrows in 1975. The song "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" was virtually unknown until Joan Jett decided to perform it as a cover song. The cover version of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" performed by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts was released in 1981 and spent seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

I Love Rock 'n' Roll

"Alone" - Heart

The song "Alone" was first recorded in 1983 by I-Ten, then performed by John Stamos(!) on his TV show Dreams in 1984. Heart released their cover of "Alone" as their first single from their album "Bad Animals" in 1987. Heart's cover version of "Alone" ended the year as the #2 Billboard single for 1987.


Download "Alone"

"Tainted Love" - Soft Cell

Gloria Jones recorded the song "Tainted Love" in 1965. The song was relatively obscure until it was popularized in the 70s UK Northern Soul scene. Soft Cell decided to cover "Tainted Love" and their 1981 cover version reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 the next year.

"Tainted Love"

"Mickey" - Toni Basil

Toni Basil's hit song "Mickey" was actually a re-titled cover song. This song was originally called "Kitty" and recorded by the UK band Racey in 1979. When Toni Basil decided to perform a cover version of the song "Kitty", she changed it from "Kitty" to the male name "Mickey" after Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees. Toni Basil's "Mickey" hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982.

"Kitty" / "Mickey"

Download "Kitty" / "Mickey"

Knew These Were Covers?

How many of these did you know were cover songs?

See results

Cover Versions Or The Original Recordings?

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    • Michael Oksa profile image

      Michael Oksa 5 years ago

      The Paragons version of "The Tide Is High" is simply wonderful. They also did the original version of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" with slightly different lyrics.

    • BenJacklin LM profile image

      BenJacklin LM 5 years ago

      Tainted Love! No way! Another good one is "Step On" by the Happy Mondays

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 6 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Happy New Year! Congratulations on your lens being chosen as a top 100 Community Favorite for 2011!

    • Auntiekatkat profile image

      Auntiekatkat 6 years ago

      Congrats on being nominated for Community Favorite Lenses of 2011. A wonderful lens. Fortunately we both share one thing it was easier to vote than for most as mine was my "why-I-am a- vegetarian was nominated as well. A proud moment for all of us. Good luck in the voting.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 6 years ago from Connecticut

      Congrats on making the top 100 community favorites.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Congrats on being in the top 100 Community Favorites

    • Mistl profile image

      Mistl 6 years ago

      This was quite interesting and a great opportunity to brush up on some of those old songs. :)

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens. I've learned so much from this page. I knew about "Always on my Mind" but the rest were very surprising!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 6 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      A recent one that comes to mind is Adele's Make you Feel My Love which was written and performed by Bob Dylan first. It's also been done by Garth Brooks and Billy Joel. Personally, I love Adele's version the best.

    • ZCademy profile image

      ZCademy 6 years ago from Northeast North America, Earth

      Most of these songs were from after I stopped listening to pop music, so I'm not familiar with them.

      But did you know that hey Might Be giant's "The Sun Song" (the sun is a mass of incandescent gas) is also a cover? I have a copy of the original, done in early 1960's little kid music style.

    • EEWorkouts profile image

      EEWorkouts 6 years ago

      This was great! A lot of those are my favorites and I loved getting the hear the origonals.

    • profile image

      Track29 6 years ago

      I'm visiting the lens in the Tier 1 Lens Challenge. Best of luck to you with your lens about cover songs, though I'm not really sure what "cover song" means.

    • hughgrissettsr lm profile image

      hughgrissettsr lm 6 years ago

      great lens! some more great covers are, the clash i fought the law, otis redding a change is going to come,the beatles please mr postman,johnny rivers baby i need your lovin;elvis after loving you, roy orbison unchained melody,al green together again, glen campbell let it be me,cream crossroad blues etc.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      Really interesting, had no idea some of these songs were old! (ie before my time)

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 6 years ago

      I enjoyed that! I'm always trying to find the original version of songs and love comparing different versions. There were a few there that surprised me!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 6 years ago

      Love all these songs but had no idea so many others had sung them before they became big.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      Very interesting ... I had no idea about some of these songs.

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 6 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Tainted Love, Mickey, I Love Rock N Roll and Bette Davis Eyes really surprised me. I had no idea that these well known songs were covers! On a side note, the most covered song of all time is Yesterday by the Beatles, but has anybody ever heard a cover version of this song? I know that I have not!

    • SAPearl profile image

      SAPearl 6 years ago

      Wow you're right, and the title was correct, I didn't know that most of those were covers. Or, like with 'Always on my mind' I knew the Pet Shop Boys' version was a cover, but not that Elvis's was too.

    • profile image

      ThomasJ4 LM 6 years ago

      It is surprising to learn that some of your favorite songs are actually cover versions. Good work here

    • punkgrinder profile image

      punkgrinder 6 years ago

      I only knew two, brilliant idea for a lens, thumbs up!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 6 years ago from UK

      I am really bowled over, thouht I had a good working knowledge of pop music. Interesting and informative lens, thanks

    • brando87 profile image

      brando87 6 years ago

      well done. I honestly don't think I knew any of these were covers. One that I always think of is All Along The Watchtower. Originally recorded by Bob Dylan, but covered by Jimi Hendrix

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      I always associated the songs "Tainted Love" and "Always Something There to Remind Me" with each other. I see they are from the same year, but much older than I thought. The most popular versions were in my childhood, but I realize now the songs predated me.

    • profile image

      NevermoreShirts 6 years ago

      I just recently found out about the Soft Cell one - blew my mind to say the least! Really fun lens. :)

    • profile image

      Oosquid 6 years ago

      Wow, lots there that I never knew were covers, I certainly learned something, thanks.

    • katemiya profile image

      katemiya 6 years ago

      @FanfrelucheHubs: I know, that was the one that practically devastated me. Not just that it was a cover song, but that John Stamos recorded it for a television show he was on before Heart recorded it.

    • InSearchOf LM profile image

      InSearchOf LM 6 years ago

      All I can say is "WOW". I really thought those 80's artists were the originals. Now I can totally relate to what my son and his friends must think with current covers. Eye-opening! Great job.

    • profile image

      stephanieelizabeth 6 years ago

      Apparently ''Hound Dog'' was a cover by Elvis Priestly, it wasn't the original.

    • javr profile image

      javr 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I wonder what the original artists thought when the cover eclipsed their success.

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 6 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Wwo, Alone was one of my favorite 80's song, and I had no idea it was a cover!

    • Formosangirl LM profile image

      Formosangirl LM 6 years ago

      Very entertaining lens. Thanks.

    • RichLeighHD profile image

      RichLeighHD 6 years ago

      Really interesting lens; Tainted Love surprised me!

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 6 years ago

      Enjoyed this a lot! Very unique.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      returning to give you Angel Blessings - I enjoyed this so much that I have sent the link to 2 other people - all things I didn't know.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love the songs you chose, especially Don't Leave me This Way, and the Blondie one, and Hey Mickey - our family had all those

    • Anime-e profile image

      Anime-e 6 years ago

      Looks great so far!! for a newbie keep it up! and I gave you a "like" I heard you wanted one on the forum :)

    • profile image

      bmw_chad 6 years ago

      Great lens!! One of my favorite nes I've read so far.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Quite a few of these surprised me. Even some of the older versions I thought were originals weren't.

    • profile image

      prince_david 6 years ago

      Tainted love!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      interesting to see these -- i didn't know many of them were in fact covers. another one from the more recent era is Torn (most people know it as Natalie Imbruglia's but it was really an ednaswap song first).

    • profile image

      arcuturus1 6 years ago

      So intresting....

    • gamecheathub profile image

      gamecheathub 6 years ago

      Fantastic lens. Contrary to what some say, the 80's were a great decade for music. Love Love Love.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Very interesting topic! I had no idea about these songs.