95 Responses

  1. Corkwriter at |

    Pretty good list. Two amazingly original artists Dylan and Springsteen showed up. But what about the Beatles? WHo could cover them and actually improve their tunes.

    One man not only did it, he did it twice. Joe Cocker’s “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” is better than the original and his “”Get by w9th a Little Help from My Friends blows the door off the Beatles version.

    Huge Omission..

    Reply
    1. Paper at |

      Sorry, you are sadly mistaken, the Beatles version of Get By With a Little Help from My Friends
      absolutely demolishes the Cocker version…

      Reply
    2. fdx at |

      Joe Cocker better than The Beatles!!! what are you smoking??
      By the way writing the lyrices to a song doesn’t necessarily gives you the title of the song.

      If that was the case, the title could be “What would you do if I sang out of tune, Would you stand up and walk out on me. Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song, And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
      Oh I get by with a little help from my friends, Mmm,I get high with a little help from my friends,
      Mmm, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”

      But it’s only “with a little help from my friends” sorry to disappoint

      Reply
      1. Corkwriter at |

        For starters, I did NOT say Cocker was better than a Beatles. I said his versions of two songs were better than the Beatles versions. It’s just my opinion, and that of people with grown up musical tastes.

        Here’s a good rule of thumb, fdx. Before you try to out-snark your betters–that’s almost everyone–learn how to punctuate, learn proper grammar, and learn how to spell. Or is “By the way writing the lyrices to a song doesn’t necessarily gives you the title of the song” reasonable English in your Universe?

        I can visualize your Universe. It’s populated by groups like “The Cyrkle” and “1910 Fruitgum Company” and “The Archies.” There you are surrounded by your favorite Bubblegum music like “Sugar Sugar” and “123 Red Light” and the Beatles lame version of “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

        Love The Beatles. But they did it as a novelty song, and Cocker owned Woodstock with his arrangement. Here’s another clue. When Ringo sings lead, the Beatles considered the tune a throwaway.

        Now go away, kid, yuh bother me.

        Reply
        1. fdx at |

          Bad mood today ? :-)
          Having some sense of humor can help on this site, sorry you took it that way.

          BTW your vision of my world, my age and probably my whole “universe” is completely wrong.

          Since we’re mostly talking about music, Joe Cocker is a pretty good performer but he will never have the same impact on music than the Beatles….

          Reply
          1. Corkwriter at |

            Okay. I don’t usually start snark, but I don’t like to get it, and you went to some length to give me grief over the fact I didn’t Google the exact title of the tune in question. And trust me I DO have a sense of humor.

            But let me clarify once again.. I do NOT think Joe Cocker is better than the Beatles, nor do I believe he ever has had or will have the impact on music as the Beatles did. What I said, and what I believe and what a lot of people share is that Cocker’s version of “Help form my Friends”” was a masterpiece, taking a little novelty tune and turning it into an amazing soul classic.

            It happens now and then. “Blinded by the Light” for instance. Another great example. CCR’s “Lodi,” as performed by Al Wilson. I LOVE Credence…Wilson isn’t in the same league, but in covering this one song–he blows the doors off the Credence version. And you know who else says it’s his favorite cover of Credence stuff? John Fogerty.

            So,we’ll agree to disagree on Cocker and be nice to each other in the future, okay?

            Reply
  2. Mike Dickson at |

    What about ‘Without You’? Original by Badfinger, but much more famously covered by Harry Nilsson.

    Reply
  3. Clive at |

    What about tainted love by soft cell? Its the only song they’re known for and it was a cover. Not kidding

    Reply
    1. fdx at |

      Totally agree with you, some people even think Marilyn Manson’s version was a cover of Soft Cell

      Reply
  4. YeahThatGuy at |

    Here’s a few more- Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’ Connor is actually a Prince song
    – Black Magic Woman by Santana is a Fleetwood Mac song
    – Whisky In The Jar by Metallica is a cover of Thin Lizzy’s cover of The Dubliners version of and old Irish Trad song (if you follow me)

    Reply
  5. ParusMajor at |

    Great list! I’ve got one addition that most people don’t even know about: “Rock Around the Clock” wasn’t originally made by Bill Haley and his Comets in 1954 on Decca. It was recorded first by Sonny Dae and his Knights on Arcade. The original version is quite rare even today, although it has been re-released in Europe by Rockstar Records and possibly by White Label (not sure about the latter).

    Reply
  6. ParusMajor at |

    @Clive: THIS is the best version of “Tainted Love”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh8BS4KctIw :D

    Reply
    1. tchudson at |

      That is a great version! Also check out THIS one by Imelda May….

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOgSdc8OAI&feature=artistob&playnext=1&list=TLplRZTALr93g

      Reply
      1. ParusMajor at |

        I love that version as well. Imelda May is brilliant. I also like the trumpet in this version. :)

        Reply
  7. Jessy at |

    Is it just me or has this list been done before by you guys? Maybe just déjàvu =\

    Reply
    1. TopTenz Master at |

      Yes, we published a list that was not nearly as good years ago. Here it is but when the author wrote it, he only wanted to write a list about covers he liked. A proper title never was given, so complaints began…but I eventually turned off the comments and agreed the list was not focused when written and poorly titled when posted. Live and learn.

      The list is linked above in the Related Top 10 Lists section. Here is a handy link: http://www.toptenz.net/10-song-covers-you-may-not-know-were-covers.php

      Reply
  8. ParusMajor at |

    @Jessy: I don’t remember seeing this exact list anywhere, although there might have been a similar one somewhere at some time. Here’s another cover version that’s WAY better than the original (at least I think so): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM2177pHMT0 The original “Umbrella” was by Rihanna, this cover was made by the German rockabilly band “The Baseballs”. :)

    Reply
  9. Hellion at |

    How about every American Idol singer to ever perform.

    Reply
    1. JT at |

      … is not more famous than the original.

      Reply
  10. Corkwriter at |

    A possible spin off:

    Artists who have “covered” themselves. In other words singers or groups that re-recorded their own tune to great effect. Let me start the bidding with “Layla” covered by Clapton fr the Derek and the Dominoes version featuring, well, Eric Clapton.

    While not technically a re-record, McCartney stripped off the Spector arrangement from “The Long and Winding Road” and others….

    Reply
  11. JT at |

    Gary Jules “Mad World” originally by Tears for Fears. Microsoft used Jules version in their Gears of War ad campaign which skyrocketed the popularity of the cover version.

    Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” is a cover of Leonard Cohen. Although I prefer Cohen’s original.

    Reply
    1. fdx at |

      Funny i’ve always prefered Buckley’s version but i’m not a Leonard Cohen’s fan

      Reply
  12. Lola at |

    I just wanted to say…good choice for number 1….even Trent Reznor agreed that Johnny Cash’s version was better.

    Reply
    1. brian at |

      I disagree….it is massively overrated

      Reply
  13. Johan at |

    Bruce Springstein? Nice, I didn’t know The Boss was/is Jewish ;)

    Reply
    1. ParusMajor at |

      LOL, that was a good one… I didn’t even realize at first what you did there LOL :D

      Reply
  14. ParusMajor at |

    Here’s another brilliant cover, the “a cappella” group The Flying Pickets with a version of the Yazoo song “Only You”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgDKtLPp46s

    Reply
    1. ParusMajor at |

      Another good cover of “Only You”, this time by Amy Diamond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-ug-uKrxaA :)

      Reply
      1. ParusMajor at |

        Although, I must admit, not even close to the a cappella version. Actually, erase my comment about Amy Diamond if it’s still awaiting moderation, please.

        Reply
        1. ParusMajor at |

          Damn, I see what happened there… you were checking the youtube link… ok, just release the Amy Diamond clip and erase my comments after that.She’s not that bad.

          Reply
  15. ParusMajor at |

    May I mention one more, please please please??? “I Drove All Night” was a big hit for Cyndi Lauper http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK16_sWD2Xk but it was originally a Roy Orbison song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8ZVFngqvzA&feature=related

    Reply
  16. Aratiti at |

    I never thought you would include Hurt, but I have to say it’s such an amazing song. I’m a 16 years old metalhead and I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and the music video makes me shiver…

    Reply
  17. Martin Fierro at |

    What about Placebo’s cover of Running up that Hill By Kate Nash

    Reply
    1. Jelly at |

      It’s Kate Bush and while Placebo’s cover is quite popular, it’s in no way more famous than the original.

      Reply
  18. Aratiti at |

    I just listened to the original, and to be honest it sounds like somebody who doesn’t know anything about music is performing…

    Reply
    1. ParusMajor at |

      Well… Johnny Cash was Johnny Cash… you know… like a divine creature of some kind… :D

      Reply
  19. fdx at |

    Covers, like live albums are really tricky musical exercises. Some bands failed because they can’t provide something new, something different to the original.

    Reply
  20. Rick at |

    About 20 years ago, when Body Count came out with Cop Killer, the right wingers were screaming to outlaw any kind of song the advocated violence toward public servants. It’s a good thing they didn’t get their way; otherwise we wouldn’t be able to listen to I Shot The Sheriff today.

    Reply
  21. Andrew at |

    its “revved up like a deuce” not wrapped.

    Reply
    1. gimelgort at |

      word.

      Reply
  22. Aron at |

    Whiskey in the Jar, traditional irish folk song that has been famously covered by Thin Lizzy and Metallica. A traditional song made great by fantastic covers of it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZDhnRo8YvQ

    Reply
  23. JR at |

    Dylan actually liked Jimi’s version better than his own and after hearing it has played it that way since as a tribute. Said “Its his song now”.

    Reply
  24. jason stone at |

    maybe it doesn’t deserve to be on this list..but one cover that I’ve always loved more than the original was Sympathy For the Devil by Guns N Roses over the original track from The Rolling Stones…the style that Guns recorded the song fits the song better and Axl’s voice is perfect for those vocals…like i said..I’m not saying it should make the list..but it is a well known song and two legendary bands are involved…

    Reply
    1. Trekstar at |

      I disagree. Stones version was genius and though I love GNR their version to over the top for me but I did love the movie that was made for.

      Reply
      1. gimelgort at |

        Axl’s voice is perfect…..for scaring rodents out of your baseboards. G’n’R Lies… they call it “music”.

        Reply
  25. marc at |

    The Johnny Cash version of Hurt is terrible as far as I’m concerned.

    Ministry’s cover of Lay Lady Lay is far better than all other versions.

    Fiona Apple shows her superiority over john Lennon as a singer HANDS DOWN with her cover of Across The Universe. Lennon sounds like a heroin addicted orangutang, slurring his way through a song that he probably wrote with his head in the toilet.

    Even funnier is that idiot Meg Lee Chin covering Ministry covering The Byrds, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, The Everly Brothers, Melanie, The Isley Brothers, Duran Duran, Magnet, Hoyt Axton, Angelique Kidjo et al with Lay Lady Lay.

    Reply
    1. brian at |

      Thank you Marc, I thought I was in some alternate reality where people didnt realize that the Johnny Cash version sucked.

      Reply
  26. Dennis at |

    I think Tiny Tim’s version of “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” was much better than Nick Lucas’ 1929 recording.

    Reply
  27. ProphetSword at |

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned that “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles is a cover.

    Reply
    1. ParusMajor at |

      The Isley Brothers made the original, yes.

      Reply
      1. zetje01 at |

        Nono, it was written for the Isley Brothers.

        Reply
  28. Nick Power at |

    “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner is actually a cover of a CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival) song. Both versions were hits, but no one usually remembers that it was a cover.

    Reply
    1. ParusMajor at |

      I remember the Creedence’s version as the hit more than Tina’s… maybe because I’m a ccr fan. I actually saw John Fogerty live this summer in Finland. Played all of his hits (well, at least most of them, there are so many). Seemed very happy to play his songs in a f*ucking pouring rain (outdoor concert). Someone from the audience shouted: “who’ll stop the rain?” He probably heard it and answered: “don’t look now, it ain’t you or me” :D :D: D What a great guy.

      Reply
  29. MC at |

    How is Eric Clapton’s version of I shot the Sheriff better or more famous than Marley’s version??I mean it’s the most recognized Bob Marley song worldwide!!

    Reply
    1. brian at |

      it’s better and Clapton’s sherif is probably more famous. While most people have heard o Marley I assume more people are more familiar with Clapton’s music. i am I probably couldn’t name too many songs of his other then the one you mentioned Then Marley’s It does matter if it’s his most famous song. Though it depends who you who they more associate the song. Similar to Creedence Clearwater’s Proud Mary arguably One of their most famous Songs next to Born on the Bayou and Fortunate Son though Tina Turner’s Mary is probably more famous then theirs, so this may be up to debate the only way to know is to ask people of different demographics who they think of when the song is mentioned. It may not matter if it’s his most famous Song. Reggae proabably isn’t quite as popular as classic rock and most people probably couldn’t name a single reage Musician other then Marley,which says just how famous he is, but Clapton’s music is more Widely known then Marley. bottom line is it might depend who you ask ask any Reggae an and They will probably say Marley but ask any Classic Rock an they will say Clapton so it would likely come down to these who wouldn’t considere them fas of either genre

      Reply
  30. Ronnie at |

    Great list, well thought out and lots of good information.

    Reply
  31. Joe at |

    How about “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, which was originally done by Bob Dylan but has been covered numerous times? In fact, the Guns N’ Roses cover is so good that a lot of people think it is actually one of their songs.

    Reply
    1. Dennis at |

      “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” is from the movie “Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid”–And that song belongs to Dylan-Nobody will ever top his version.

      Reply
  32. ParusMajor at |

    “The Twist” by Chubby Checker was a cover. The original was made by Hank Ballard (of the Midnighters who had hits like “Work with Me, Annie” and the follow-ups “S.exy Ways” and “Annie Had a Baby” in the early 50′s. You should always protect yourself at work, so that won’t happen). :D
    Etta James made answer records to those with “roll with me , Henry” and “Henry’s Got Flat Feet”. Hank = short for Henry Ballard. :D

    Reply
    1. Corkwriter at |

      You didn’t mention is so I will. Chubby’s soulless version, backed by powerful Dick Clark of “American Bandstand” fame was incredibly lame compared to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’.

      Reply
  33. Dennis at |

    Etta James wrote “Dance with me Henry” (also known as “Roll With Me Henry”) but Georgia Gibb had the big hit with it. At least in Hammond, Indiana. It was always played at our 9th grade “sockhops” long ago.

    Reply
  34. komeni at |

    where is love hurts by Nazareth????

    Reply
  35. winston b eden at |

    Can’t believe this one didn’t make the list, or maybe I’m just too old. Barry Manilow had a huge hit with MANDY. The song originally was called BRANDY and recorded by Scott Englis. Manilow didn’t want it confused with the Brandy (you’re a fine girl) so he changed it to Mandy. I think this should be on the top 10

    Reply
    1. Sandy at |

      Manilow also covered Ian Hunter’s “Ships.” Really good song.

      Reply
      1. Tanya Bennett at |

        Had no idea – thanks Winston, I added both Mandy and Brandy to the playlist on YouTube.

        Reply
  36. odin at |

    Man who sold the world by nirvana originally by David bowie.

    Reply
  37. hbg at |

    ‘All fired up’ by Pat Benatar , was originally recorded by the Rattling Sabres. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4iIVNzbdrM

    Reply
    1. Tanya Bennett at |

      Thanks added this to the playlist for this list at YouTube.

      Reply
  38. Repack Rider at |

    “Piece of My Heart” is associated with Janis Joplin, but it was a cover.

    Manfred Mann over Sprinsteen? I didn’t even know they covered him.

    J.J. Cale and Bob Marley over the Clapton covers.

    Reply
  39. brian at |

    The Johnny Cash version of hurt is the most overrated thing ever. Johnny Cash didnt write the lyric “I wear this crown of thorns” NIN used that line in the clean version of the song

    Reply
    1. Corkwriter at |

      “Most overated thing ever?” Really Brian? This guy disagrees:

      “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.”

      Maybe you’ve heard of him. Guy named Trent Reznor.

      Reply
      1. brian at |

        That only adds to my seeing it as overrated

        Reply
        1. ParusMajor at |

          Give up already, brian. You just got owned by Trent Reznor’s own comments, and he’s the one who wrote the song.

          Reply
      2. smartalek at |

        Corkwriter, I didn’t know that, so thanks for the lesson.
        That’s a great quotation from TR — a true artist.

        Reply
    2. Dennis at |

      I agree with Brian-Cash should not have recorded this song. Not his “type”song. Akin to Janis Joplin (one of my all-time favorites as is Cash) singing “Moonlight In Vermont.”

      Reply
  40. Stuart at |

    I wouldn’t say Eric Clapton’s version of I Shot the Sheriff is more famous than Bob Marley’s. It might have been more successful as a single at the time, but Bob’s original is now easily the more well known.

    Reply
  41. hbg at |

    Unless you live in Australia, you will not have heard of this guy called John Farnham. He has been massive over the years, and he is older than the guys in ACDC. He released this as a B side on his #1 Australian hit. This is a video from a live concert from VHS. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK3pwB2Foto

    Reply
    1. John m at |

      I am from the US and I HAVE heard of John Farnham. A favorite movie of mine, as a young man, “Rad” has a few of his songs on the soundtrack. In fact, looking up the tracklist tells me he may have been commisioned to write for the movie, as “Love Theme from ‘Rad’ ” is his.

      Reply
  42. hbg at |

    This is probably better than the original.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnejLmQGYhg
    Pseudo Echo – Funkytown

    Reply
  43. hbg at |

    The original was a big hit.

    This was a #1 hit in Australia by Kylie Minogue, who was a well known soap star.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZAhzVvgY-c

    The rest is history…..

    Reply
  44. Mariel at |

    Enjoyed reading here. Please excuse my butting in and suggesting a listen to a cover of a song, not mentioned here, so far. The song is Grenade by Bruno Mars.

    The cover version I suggest is by Irish singer/songwriter Neil Byrne. Neil records and writes as a solo artist and when not doing this he tours worldwide with big Irish Show Celtic Thunder.

    If you get a chance listen to this cover on his album “Faces” Pale Blue Jak (his aka)

    http://www.neilbyrnemusic.com

    Reply
  45. ILUVTV at |

    Blinded By The Light. The original lyric by Bruce is “cut loose like a deuce”. Manfred Mann changed it to “revved up like a deuce.”

    Reply
  46. Trekstar at |

    Chris Cornell cover of Billy Jean is not more famous than Michael Jackson’s but it is one of my favorite covers. Also Nirvana cover of My Girl, My Girl.

    Reply
    1. John m at |

      I’m glad this was mentioned. The song is actually called “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and is by Lead Belly.

      Reply
  47. Trekstar at |

    Another I failed to mention, Masters of War by Bob Dylan covered by Eddie Vedder.

    Reply
  48. Trekstar at |

    And then there is Shinedown’s cover of Skynard’s hit Simple Man.

    Reply
  49. Brian at |

    8 that should be here most definately are;

    1)Motley Crue cover of Smokin in the Boys room.
    2)Uggly Kid Joe cover of Cats in the cradle.
    3)House of Lords cover of Cant find my way home.
    4)GNR cover of Since I dont have you.
    5)Sugar Ray cover of Abracadabra.
    6)Metallica cover of Turn the page.
    7)Mr Big cover of Wild World.
    8)Alien Ant Farm cover of Smooth Criminal

    Reply
  50. Batman at |

    I personally think that Alien Ant Farm’s Smooth Criminal was better than Michael Jackson’s version of it.

    Reply
  51. Greg at |

    How could you not mention Joan Jett and the Blackhearts? “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”, “Do You Want To Touch Me”

    Reply
  52. Jordan at |

    I strongly feel Cum on Feel The Noize should be on here, considering I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody, (other than myself), who knows its originally done by Slade, and Quiet Riot covered it….

    Reply
  53. Veto at |

    I don’t know if you can truly say that Dolly’s version of “I Will Always Love You” was somehow less than Whitney Houston’s version. Dolly became the first artist to chart number one with the same song twice, taking it to the top of the country charts in both 1974 and 1982, with the 1982 version also reaching the 17th spot in the U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary lists. The song came to the attention of Elvis Presley, but he wanted songwriter shares, which Dolly refused to give up and, subsequently, Elvis did not record the song. Many, including me, prefer the understated way that Dolly sang the song as it makes her version much sadder, much more reflective than the Houston song.

    Speaking of Elvis, one of his first hits was “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, which was a cover of Bill Monroe, the inventor of Bluegrass music and a “pioneer” in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…

    Reply
  54. zetje01 at |

    How about:
    She’s not there: Santana covered The Zombies
    I put a spell on you: CCR covered Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
    Gangster/Pastime Paradise: Coolio covered Steve Wonder
    My Way: Sinatra covered Claude François (comme d’habitude)
    Viva Las Vegas: Elvis covered Mort Shuman

    Reply
  55. Francisco at |

    “Red red wine”, originally by Neil Diamond. UB40′s version is the well known one. “Twist and Shout” was covered by the Isley Brothers and more famously by the Beatles. This son was shake it up baby, by the Top Notes. Another one is “Love Hurts”, originally by The Everly Brothers also covered by Roy Orbison, but made most famous by the Nazareth cover.

    Reply
  56. Stephen at |

    Landslide by Buckingham/Nicks…

    rerecorded later under Fleetwood Mac.

    Reply
    1. Brian at |

      It is not a cover song when the person who writes still sings it, and is the only one to release it.
      Nicks wrote the song and still sang it as part of the band.

      Reply

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