10 Song Covers You May Not Know Were Covers

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10. Louie Louie – The Kingsmen (original by Richard Berry)

While probably nobody remembers a version of this song as sung by Richard Berry, most people can hum the version that The Kingsmen produced. With lyrics that were barely intelligible, this song is notorious for singers shouting the chorus…and mumbling the rest of the song.

9. All Along the Watchtower – Dave Matthews Band (original by Bob Dylan)

Ok, so the original version of this song wasn’t written by Jimi Hendrix either, but most of us thing of Hendrix when we hear this song. Dave Matthews Band did an amazing cover of this song during their concert in New York at Central Park. If you’ve never heard this version, go listen to it now.

8. Against All Odds – The Postal Service (original by Phil Collins)


Done for the “Wicker Park” soundtrack, this is the only song on here that features Josh Hartnett in the video. A great new take on a classic, The Postal Service took what Phil Collins wrote and made it hip, cool, and interesting…something the former Genesis drummer would never be able to do on his own.

7. Smooth Criminal – Alien Ant Farm (original by Michael Jackson)

It’s hard to think of any reason why this wouldn’t be a better version, mostly because anything associated with Michael Jackson is now usually associated with…bad things. Alien Ant Farm does an amazing job of taking Jackson’s hit from the “Bad” album and making it rock, and then proceeded to shoot a video that is either an homage or a mockery of the King of Pop.

6. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer – George Thorogood (original by John Lee Hooker)

If anybody besides the internet actually knew this, they really need to look into getting a life. One can debate whether this song or “Bad to the Bone” is more associated with Mr. Thorogood, but I can say that I have walked into a bar and ordered using this song…it got me a few funny looks and a free drink from the old guy next to me.

5. Live and Let Die – Guns n’ Roses (original by Paul McCartney and Wings)

I’m having a hard time picturing Paul McCartney singing anything that would later be sung by Axel Rose, but there’s no denying that this is one of the quintessential G’n’R songs. While Sir McCartney left his greatest days behind him with the Beatles, he at least still put out albums post Beatle, something that cannot be said for Axel Rose (we’re still waiting on Chinese Democracy dude).

4. (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You – UB40 (original by Elvis Presley)


Taking a more reggae approach to this song, UB40 had a huge hit with this cover of the Elvis song in the 90’s. Introducing a new generation of listeners to the King’s music, UB40 managed to do a cover of a song that was similar to the original, but was distinct enough that you knew exactly which version you were listening to five seconds in.

3. Hooked on a Feeling – Blue Swede (original by BJ Thomas)

If you know who BJ Thomas is there’s probably something to be said, but if you catch yourself humming along to “Hooked on a Feeling”, you probably know who Blue Suede is. While this song can be argued for being a great cover, the fact that Quentin Tarantino included it in his masterpiece Reservoir Dogs means it’s a great cover to me, and that should be good enough.

2. Candle in the Wind – Elton John (original by Elton John)

Ok, so maybe I’m stretching here, but when Elton John re-recorded “Candle in the Wind” after the death of Princess Diana, he managed to cover himself, a feat that not many artists can do. This song counts as a cover because while the basic lyrics were the same, changes were made to make this version focus on Princess Diana, whereas the first one had been about Marilyn Monroe. It takes real gravitas…and cajones…to do a cover or a song that you yourself had already made famous. Kudos Mr. John.

1. Hurt – Johnny Cash (Original by Nine Inch Nails)


The Man in Black’s cover of this song brought him to a whole new generation of listeners, and when coupled with the movie about his life, meant Johnny Cash had one of the more productive four year spans of any artist. Many viewed the video for “Hurt” as Cash’s epitaph for himself, as it showed his regret over many of the decisions throughout his life. A moving version of the song, this is easily the number one cover song.

Honorable Mentions

Rocket Man – Angie Aparo (original by Elton John)

I’m not usually a fan of Elton John’s works, nothing against him personally, I just don’t dig his music. That being said, when Angie Aparo covered “Rocket Man” for his The One with the Sun album, it made me a fan of the song. Angie’s haunting voice and minimalist approach added a new dimension to what was already a hit song. While the entire album was covers, “Rocket Man” stands out amongst them all. See the video.

Red, Red Wine – UB40 (original by Neil Diamond)

It would seem that UB40 hasn’t recorded a successful original song…ever. That being said, “Red, Red Wine” was a huge success for them in the 90’s, and while not many people probably remember that Neil Diamond sang this song first, it is in fact a cover. While some would argue that this is more popular a song than “Fools Rush In”, there can be no denying that Elvis is bigger than Neil Diamond…and so the Neil only get the honorable mention. See the video.

Submitted by George Perry


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93 Comments

  1. Awesome List! There's definitely a lot of cover songs you could mention that people might not know the originals.

    Landslide – Dixie Chicks (original by Fleetwood Mac)

    I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston (original by Dolly Parton)

    Respect – Aretha Franklin (original by Otis Redding)

    Hard To Handle – Black Crowes (original by Otis Redding)

    Tainted Love – Soft Cell (original by Gloria Jones)

    Last Kiss – Pearl Jam (original by Wayne Cochran)

    Black Magic Woman – Santana (original by Fleetwood Mac)

    You Really Got Me – Van Halen (original by The Kinks)

    Crossroads – Cream (original by Robert Johnson)

    Me & Bobby McGee – Janis Jolpin (original by Kris Kristofferson)

    Hound Dog – Elvis Presley (original by Big Mama Thornton)

    Somebody to Love – Jefferson Airplane (original by The Great Society)

    Jolene – The White Stripes (original by Dolly Parton)

    Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley (original by Leonard Cohen)

    • Better than the original list. Just thought I would point out that Smashing Pumpkins covered Landslide before the Dixie Chicks did and I would have to say the Pumpkins did a much much better job than the Dixie Chicks and even a little better than Fleetwood.

    • I dont think anyone associates smooth criminal with anyone BUT Michael Jackson… same with Against all odds… Live and let die, and I thin Elton's reprise is going to be the footnote in history, and NOT the original. What makes Topher's list better is that the original artist was forgotten b/c the cover was so good…

      And what about JOHN DENVER's LEAVING ON A JET PLANE, covered by Peter Paul and Mary, and whoever did it for the Armegeddon soundtrack

      and ARLO GUTHRIE covering Steve Goodman's song THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS

      MR POSTMAN by the Marvelettes (which included MARVIN GAYE at the time) was quite famously covered by THE BEATLES

      I think everyone know Marvin Gaye also did HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE, but it is worth mentioning CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL covered it… the also covered a song, quite famously, called PROUD MARY, but it doesnt really make the cut either, b/c everyone knows that is Tina and Ike's song (just b/c he is a jerk, doesnt mean he shouldnt be mentioned when talking about art he helped create)

    • honestly, unless they obviously know nothing about music or are just idiots in terms of music, these are generally all obvious covers as well. the first one on the list, in fact, i personally knew of being a cover early on, as i heard the Fleetwood Mac original version before either of the two most well known covers (Smashing Pumpkins and Dixie Chicks) were even released. Landslide and You Really Got Me are staples of classic rock radio, as are both versions of Black Magic Woman. Last Kiss, You Really Got Me (again), Tainted Love, and both versions of Respect are all staples of Oldies radio. it’s been common knowledge for almost 20 years that I Will Always Love You is a cover. Tainted Love actually shows up as a fairly common trivia question on oldies radio (usually as “Soft Cell has the most well known cover, but who did the original?” Last Kiss i heard the original of before there even was a cover to begin with. admittedly, some of these are less well known covers than others, but anybody who doesn’t know any of the songs you listed is a cover should be sentenced to an auditory version of the Ludovico Technique, and it shouldn’t include merely covers, but also every song untalented hacks like Diddy, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Kanye West butchered by means of “sampling” as well

    • Awesome list – many people forget that some of the catchiest riffs came from classical music and were modernized into samples or even whole songs.

      Paul McCartney and Wings “Live and Let Die” was the theme song for the same titled James Bond movie and is, imho, one of the best JB themes yet written.

    • Better version by Jimi though. Then again it's only an opinion based argument that really holds no ground.

      • Bob Dylan had many great songs that had more commercial success as a cover. probably cause Bob cant sing

  2. Bob Dylan Fan – Thank you for the correction. I have made the change from Hendrix to Dylan.

    topher – Thanks for the additional songs. I particularly like Landslide.

    • who the hell actually thinks anyone but Dylan wrote all along the watchtower?!!
      come out from under your rock man!!!!!

  3. Actually tophers list is far better, the primary list is more a list of covers you most likely know are covers.

  4. Umm… these are fairly well known songs.

    Would you really think someone wouldn't know Smooth Criminal or Against All Odds? Maybe a twelve year old but anyone over about 15 or so can recognize a lot of these!

  5. i have to agree that most people know smooth criminal was michael's song if for no other reason than the video. i remember michael jackson video premieres being a really big deal.

    @ topher- yeah, you are right. i did not know that the jefferson aiplane song was a cover. and even though whitney gets most of the credit for that iconic song, i am sure mrs. parton is laughing all the way to the bank.

  6. dita – I would agree that most of us know Michael did the original, if you are 18 and older. I think those younger may only know Michael Jackson as the odd looking white man who has been accused of some crimes. He has become an unfortunate caricature and his musical legacy from the 70s, 80s and 90s is slowly being forgotten. He is the Howard Hughes for this generation. Just my opinion, but I could be wrong.

    My daughter didn't understand how Michael Jackson could have been in the Jackson 5, since he was black and today's Michael Jackson is white. That was very telling how things can change from one generation to the next. 😉

  7. Some more interesting cover versions (apart from Topher's mentions):

    Always on my mind – The Pet Shop Boys (original by Elvis Presley)

    I love Rock'n'Roll – Joan Jett (original by The Arrows)

  8. are you effin kidding about the against all odds cover? that song is garbage. listen to the original. then listen to that trash.

    • Much less obvious that the majority of this horrible list.
      I mean it, this list was horrible. Almost all of the songs are obviously covers and in most cases are more associated with the original performer than any others by far.

  9. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinaed O'Connor (Original written by Prince, performed by The Family)

  10. I think most of these are very well-known as covers to anyone with even a minute interest in music.

    You may think rock music was invented in the 21st century, but a lot of people in the world realize otherwise and have knowledge of such "unknowns" as John Lee Hooker, Elvis Presley, and Paul McCartney & Wings.

  11. Unless the reading audience is about 12, I think most people would know that these versions are covers. Try some more obscure originals next time.

  12. I'm with everyone else on this. Reading through the list, I knew all of the originals. If anything, I wasn't aware of the covers you list as being the more well known song. Maybe it would have been easier to just make a list of cover songs. You could probably make a whole list just of Bob Dylan covers (All Along the Watchtower, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Blowin' in the Wind, etc…)

  13. one more: barbara ann by beach boys. original by the regents. Most of these songs are well-known as covers.

  14. OK, anyone who listens to that Dave Matthews cover of Watchtower and still thinks Bob sings like crap is an idiot. He could sing up one side of Dave and down the other.

  15. who doesn't know these were covers. Practically the "gimmick" of half the songs in this list is that they WERE COVERS (Johnny Cash – NIN…Alien Ant Farm – Michael Jackson…Elton John reworking "Candle…" for Princess Di's funeral). The rest are just common knowledge for anyone born before 1989.

  16. The Johnny Cash version of Hurt is brilliant – a great pairing of modern songwriting and old school talent.

  17. Agreed: Topher’s list is better.
    Correction: The opening of #6 is from John Lee Hooker, while the balance is all George.
    And for the aficionados out there: The Bangles’ “Hazy Shade Of Winter” by Simon & Garfunkel, Elvis’ “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “16 Tons” by Merle Travis, Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover” and Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” both by Tommy James and the Shondells…for a third you can throw in Billy Idol’s cover of the Shondell’s “Mony Mony” (but that was always known to be a cover).
    In comparison to Sir Reg, Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” was a cover of a Generation X song (Billy’s earlier band).

  18. When the movie 'Moulin Rouge' came out I remember watching it with a few friends and exclaiming I love this song to Nature Boy to which one girl replied "I know! It's a cover of David Bowie's song!"

    I had to correct her since it's a cover of David Bowie's cover of Nat King Cole's song.

  19. Some of those are decent revelations (Watchtower, Red, Red Wine, and maybe Hurt, depending on what music you listen to).

    But does anyone actually think Smooth Criminal, Rocket Man, and friggin Live and Let Die were originally by AAF, Angie Aparo, and GUNS AND ROSES?

  20. Arizona Warwilf on

    Terrible list. I concur with most comments on here that if you didn't know these songs were covers, you're either completely clueless or have no concept of music pre-1990.

  21. Always on my mind ( Willie Nelson) was better covered by John Wesley Riles, How about Hendrix's RED HOUSE covered by Jon Butcher? ( Great!)Jesse Colin Young's Sunlight, as done by Three Dog Night

    Three Dog Night's Easy Evil covered by Dusty Springfield, Ricky Peterson's Living it Up, covered greatly by Three Dog Night, Leon Russell's

    This song for you, covered by Dusty Springfield.

    Ace Young did a good job on George Michael's Father Figure….Stevie Wonder's cover on We Can Work it Out, How many covers were done on "Feeling Alright"? Traffic, Dave Mason, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad…..to name a few.

  22. None of theses top tens are surprising, only a pre-teen would not know, and probably would not care.

    • Not to mention “Because The Night” – he couldn’t fit it onto Darkness On The Edge Of Town, so he gave what he’d done on the song to Patti Smith, who changed a couple of the lines and recorded it for an album.

      These two are probably less known than half of the ones on the actual list. :/

  23. What about "Twist and shout"?

    Everybody thinks it's a Beatles song. In fact, it was written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell.

  24. Joanthan Hopkins on

    Digital_N, "Nothing Compares To You" was written by Prince, performed first by "The Family", then Sinead O'Connor, THEN Prince

  25. Maybe I am getting old but these are all pretty common knowledge to me. Sounds like a good topic for my next podcast though! I thank you for that.

  26. As far as artists "covering themselves" – the brilliant Jeff Lynne did just that when he wrote and recorded "Do Ya" for The Move in 1970 and then re-recorded the same song as ELO in 1976.

    • how about the fact that John Fogerty solo sounded too much like CCR (fogerty's former band) and was sued by the label?

  27. I think everyone knows that Watchtower is a cover. Gary Jules Mad World is a Tears For Fears cover which most people don't know. Also, Little Suzi by Tesla was originally done by Phd. It's My Life by No Doubt is a Talk Talk cover. Just to add a few of my own.

    And to the people that say Dylan can outsing Dave Matthews, you are crazy. Dave Matthews is a musical genius. Dylan is as well, but Dave did that song justice.

    • lol i think your the one who is crazy for insinuating that dave matthews could outsing bob dylan..

  28. Carter Price on

    Really?!?!? If you didn't know at least 8 of these songs were covers you know nothing about music, especially since most of the originals are still more popular that the covers, very poor list, the author really needed to think this out more.

  29. Did people really NOT know that Live and Let Die was by Paul McCartney? And since when is Dave Matthews Band famous for All Along The Watchtower!? I'd put the Grateful Dead as more famous for playing the song than them! Really, It should be Hendrix to Dylan! Regardless that Dylan has played the song live more than any other song he's written, and his version still remains the best, with only Hendrix's competing. The only one I didn't know was a cover was Louie Louie, the rest I either knew or have never heard of either.

  30. just seen the list and have to agree with most of the comments that unless you are still in high school or younger, most people would know these are covers. But then I know when Motley Crue came out with "Smokin' in the Boy's room" many of the guys I served in the army with in the mid '80s didn't know that was originally done by Brownsville Station back in the early 70's..also another G'N'R better known cover, "ain't It fun" was originally done by the dead boys

  31. I'd like to add one that might actually fit the title – Nazareth's "This Flight Tonight" was written and recorded by Joni Mitchell.

    And on a similar note, "Crazy" by Patsy Cline was written by Willie Nelson.

  32. Not the the following is a better suggestion than any others listed in the comments – but I would argue potentially better than some of the songs listed:

    The song "Such Great Heights" as done by Iron & Wine for the "Garden State" soundtrack gained a lot of attention, but was actually a cover of the Postal Service.

    I've come across quite a few people who were not aware of that one.

    • Actually, it was the other way around: written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, released as a single and on the album "Out of Our Heads" in 1965. Covered by Otis Redding on Otis Blue, 1966. Later notably covered by Devo in 1977.

  33. and Btw Dave Matthews cover of Along the Watchtower is horrible. He should have just steared clear of the classics. The only classic song that was covered halfway decent was the Jimi Hendrix version and 311 doing Dyer' Maker

  34. Good article.

    The first group of responses were meaningful and honest.

    Then, like a wine tasting at a friends house, one a$$ after another shows up to sniff and proclaim the poor quality of the work.

    I haven't seen so many trolls under a bridge since the last time I drove through the city.

  35. This is ridiculous, I'm 13 and I knew most of these were originals. For instance, who DOESN'T know about Michael Jackson's iconic Smooth Criminal video? I remember I used to watch moonwalker nearly every weekend (I sometimes still do :p) and I continue to marvel over the anti-gravity lean. I was quite young when the Alien Ant Farm cover came out but it was all they played on the radio and I hated it. Phil Collins' version of Against All Odds is undeniably better than any of the covers. Weirdly enough, most of the people I know thought Mariah Carey's version was the orginal. Other covers people thought were originals are:

    Who's lovin' you- The Jackson 5 (Originally by The Miracles)

    I'm Every Woman-Whitney Houston (Originally by Chaka Khan)

    I think the Jackson 5 version is better (even Smokey Robinson admitted it) and the Chaka Khan version definately has more feeling.

    • i’m 27 and I was younger you are when Whitney’s version of I’m Every Woman was released and i knew THEN it was a cover. and Who’s Loving You by the Jackson 5 being a cover was common knowledge then. i certainly hope the people you know who don’t know those were covers were younger than you. cuz that’s the only way such egregious ignorance could possibly be redeemed. then again, my nephew is the same age you are and my niece is younger than you and they both know both those songs are covers, which is probly a good argument as to why today’s parents shouldn’t let their children formulate their ideas about music from MTV, BET, VH1 and commercially driven radio. that leads to idiotic scenarios like middle schoolers believing Daft Punk sampled Kanye West instead of the other way around or Earth, Wind and Fire sampling Outkast or the idea trhat George Clinton’s P-Funk Mothership Connection blatantly ripped off Dr. Dre. Kinda sad when you think about how these legendary greats made music what it is today and rather than get the credit they deserve, THEY’RE the ones who are looked at as being thieves.

  36. Henry Coleman on

    It pisses me off that people think Cash wrote Hurt, even though it's an amazing cover. Also, does anybody REALLY think that Alien Ant Farm wrote Smooth Criminal?

  37. BOBERT PINGPONGBALL on

    can people please stop saying you have to be about 12 not to know this i knew most of these and i was nine when this people started commenting saying youd have to be 12 not to know these I KNEW THESE WHEN I WAS ABOUT 5 !!!

  38. Thank you for putting Hurt up there!!! Nine Inch Nails is my favorite band and it is pretty tedious to continuously tell people that Johnny Cash covered it!

    Amazing cover nevertheless but NIN rarely receives the credit

  39. iggy pop -china girl

    alot of people think david bowie wrote it but NOPE

    iggy's version was from 1977 or 1979 i can't remember

    • Iggy Pop and David Bowie co-wrote China Girl, so technically, it’s not a cover; Iggy’s version was simply released before Bowie’s.

  40. "You May Not Know Were Covers…" Yeah, maybe if you're 12 (and even then you'd have to be pretty ignorant)? I found all of these were really obvious, so it's kind of a stupid list. Especially 9, 7, and 4. hurpdurp.

    • I agree and was thinking that the person creating this list has to be very young ……I would also throw in there 8,5,3…so almost the entire list as being very obvious.

  41. Well gee, how about the Twist? Originally written and released in 1959 as a B-side by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters; covered by Chubby Checker in 1960, it hit number 1 twice–1960 and 1962. C’mon, baby…

  42. ok how’d this debate get as far as it has without so much as a passing mention of Nirvana and “The Man Who Sold The World”? Easily one of the best songs they did (if not the #1 best) and people STILL don’t know it’s a David Bowie original, despite the fact that Cobain CREDITS Bowie at the end of the song (which is noticeably cut from the radio cut, you’d only know this if you have the full length cut or have seen the actual Unplugged performance). hell, my gf is a bigger Nirvana fan than I am and she’s been listening to them longer than me and she had NO CLUE “Man” was originally recorded by Bowie first.

  43. Uhhh who doesn’t know that can’t help falling in love is Elvis and further more who the hell is UB40?

  44. Gee, how did we miss Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin'” (orig. Fred Neil) and “Without You” (orig. Badfinger)? Huge hits. As was the Cat Stevens (!) cover of Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night”.

    Less of a hit was Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding”, written by Nick Lowe, originally for Brinsley Schwarz. (Now that’s obscure.)

    Not exactly covers but in the same ballpark are movie themes with a hired singer. Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” wasn’t– and doesn’t sound like– one of his own. However, “I Got a Name” sounds exactly like something Jim Croce would write, though it was actually written by Hollywood composers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, who also came up with Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” for the same movie.

  45. Not A Squirrel on

    Ok, I disagree with 1, 4, 5, 7, and to a lesser extent 9 (there are a decent number of people who know that Bob Dylan wrote that song). EVERYONE knows that Michael Jackson did Smooth Criminal and that NIN first did Hurt; and who doesn’t know Elvis wrote I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You? I never even heard of the band that did the cover.

  46. I don’t understand how so many songs that were OBVIOUS covers made the list. I’ve discovered more about songs that were actually covers from the comments than the post. What about songs like I fought the Law, or a few of the covers that Nirvana did that people might not have realized weren’t their songs.

  47. Here are a couple I’ve noticed

    Can’t get Enough of You Baby – Smashmouth (originally ? and the Mysterians)

    (Got my mind) Set on You – George Harrison (originally recorded by James Ray, written by Rudy Clark))

  48. Okay not a perfectly executed first list as displayed by the vastly harsh criticisms but it was posted a long time ago even before Chinese Democracy was FINALLY released (& was that album worth the wait, that’s questionable) .
    Good reading though. From some of the lists there are songs I had no idea were covers. But now that I know I’m likely not to forget. This site is aimed at the general person so 3 out of ten ain’t bad.
    Best covers I’ve ever heard have to be….
    Manfred Mann – Blinded By the Light (Bruce Springsteen) already mentioned
    Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder) the most obvious omission here
    St. Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Neil Young) undeniably beautiful cover
    Rage Against The Machine – The Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen)
    Ministry – Lay Lady Lay (Bob Dylan)
    Pop Will Eat Itself – Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel)
    Danzig – Trouble (Elvis Presley)