10 Song Covers You May Not Know Were Covers


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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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))

  6. 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)