10 Best Cover Songs

Cover songs all too often fall on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of how people feel about them. Most prefer bands not sample their favorite artist’s songs while others love to hear the varying takes from different people. The results often fall on the same spectrum. Many serve as a glorified karaoke version that comes off as a corny duplicate of the original.  However in a few special cases, some artists are able to rediscover the wheel, recreating a song to perfection. 

Before we get into the list for Top 10 Covers, it should be stated that music, like anything, is up to interpretation. As I am the one compiling the list, it wouldn’t be stretch to call it My Top 10 Favorite Covers. Having said that, I did my best to compile the best musically composed recreations I could find to bring you a list of songs that helped redefine their creator. 

10. Turn The Page – Metallica: This song is one of the top metal songs of all time, yet it was originally done by a man rooted in Detroit Rock 'n Roll. Bob Seger wrote this song in 1973, and it became a smash hit 3 years later when he released it as a live recording. Metallica, known for their energy and jam prowess, took to task on the famous record. The result is one of my favorite songs on the list. 

9. Respect – Aretha Franklin: Music’s first lady of vocals made this tune her claim to fame in 1967, which she borrowed from Otis Redding. It’s now one of the quintessential R&B tunes of all time, and helped Aretha Franklin garner the recognition she deserves as one of the greatest vocalists of hers or any other generation. 

8. Blinded By The Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band: Great lyricism really helps in the making of a great cover, and who better to take notice from than the Boss himself? While Manfred Mann was a one hit wonder, his cover of the early Springsteen song is one of the more popular tunes of the 80’s, taking the hit to #1.

7. Jolene – The White Stripes: Recorded off their album De Stijl, Jack White’s take on the Dolly Parton tune is one of the more memorable covers in rock history. Not that it’s an offense to Dolly Parton, but Jack White’s howling, reverberating vocals create a haunting and unique feel that put this song in a league of its own. 

6. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Guns N’ Roses: This marks the 2nd song of Bob Dylan’s to make the list, also proving his staying power for multiple music generations. Axl Rose brought his grudge metal scream to this rock tune on the Days of Thunder soundtrack, to much fan fare. It remains one of GNR’s most popular songs to this day. 

5. With A Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker: It’s to qualify for the list requirements for a song to ‘redefine’ when you add the unparalleled vocals of Joe Cocker. His cover, while originally a studio recording, became a hit with the historical performance at Woodstock, where he truly put himself on the map. The song itself was already a classic, written and recorded by one of Rock's all time greats, The Beatles.  Cocker’s version became a classic on its own, almost separating itself as a different song entirely. 

4. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor: It takes a lot to take a hit away from a legend like Prince, but that’s exactly what the Irish rebel Sinead O’Connor did when she rereleased this song back in 1990, five years after its original release. It has the familiar atmospheric feel as the Prince version, but is led by an assault of synthes and strings to compliment her one of kind voice.  The song became a staple of MTV upon it’s release, and achieved cult fame.

3. The Man Who Sold The World – Nirvana: Kurt Cobain and Nirvana showcased this rendition of the David Bowie song in 1993's MTV’s Unplugged. The performance showcased Nirvana’s raw emotional side, and it was no more evident when they played ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. Cobain adds a raspy edge to it, allowing his pain to seep into the song. It also served as an anecdote of his life, after his untimely death soon after. It provides not only one of the most intimate performances in the bands history, but rock as well.

2. Hurt – Johnny Cash: Originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails, the song was already filled with sorrow before music industry legend Johnny Cash got his hands on it. Add the fact that the song was released around the time of his death and you have a truly heart wrenching performance. Recorded in the last year of his life, you can hear the grit and dread in his voice as he reads over the lyrics. Only adding a guitar in the background, Cash delivers the most memorable performance of his already storied career.

1. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix: It’s poetic to put the greatest guitar player of all time at the top of this list, as he helped make All Along the Watchtower one of the most popular rock songs of all time, despite it not being his own. The song was originally penned by legend Bob Dylan, on the 1967 John Wesley Harding album. Hendrix ran with the record only 6 months later, transforming it into something else entirely. He implemented the electric guitar and nearly doubled the song lengths, giving Dylan’s lyrics new life.