67 Best Cover Songs of All Time

This article contains a list of the absolute best cover songs of all time.

Your favorite song may not be an original created by your favorite band or artist. Instead, tons of cover versions may have been created that take a classic song and improve on them. Whether it is Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift albums or pop stars making classics their own, the cover version is here to stay. Without further adieu, let’s get into the list of the greatest cover songs ever made!

1. Common People, William Shatner

It is safe to say the singing career of William Shatner has not been completely successful. A quick search of YouTube brings up thousands of videos mocking the Star Trek icon. However, Shatner’s version of Pulp’s Common People is a classic cover version. Sheffield poet, Jarvis Cocker’s ironic lyrics about a rich girl wanting to play at being working class lend themselves to Shatner’s over-the-top delivery. Ben Folds’s production makes this a true pop classic.

2. Hurt, Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash - Hurt

Johnny Cash was coming to more than the end of his career when producer Rick Rubin convinced him to cover some of the best songs of the 90s. Taking on a Nine Inch Nails classic about certain substance addiction seemed a stretch for the country singer. Cash and Rubin took Trent Reznor’s song and turned it into a heartbreaking classic about loss and mortality. Hurt swept the Grammy’s and became a classic thanks to a video featuring an aging Johnny Cash looking back on his decades-long career.

Next: Best songs about pain, hurt and suffering

3. Respect, Aretha Franklin

Did you know Aretha Franklin was not the first artist to record Respect? The song is forever linked with Aretha’s version that was originally written by Otis Redding. The song was written from the male perspective and sung to a woman by her boyfriend. Franklin added the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” refrain and a classic was born.

4. Borderline, The Flaming Lips

Borderline (with Stardeath and White Dwarfs)

The Flaming Lips have never been afraid to cover songs by other artists. The non-traditional nature of the band means Wayne Coyne and his community of musicians think outside the box. Covering Madonna’s early-90s classic, Borderline, may not seem like a good career move but The Flaming Lips make it work.

5. Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O’Connor

Sinéad O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U (Official Music Video) [HD]

Prince was at the peak of his powers in the late-80s and early-90s. Several classic songs were passed onto other singers and bands, including Sheena Easton and The Bangles. Nothing Compares 2 U was written for The Family, a short-lived Minneapolis band that failed to capture the imagination of the public. When Sinead O’Connor took the song and turned it into a powerful ballad, the Irish singer had a global hit on her hands.

Next: Best love songs for him (boyfriend song list)

6. A Case of U, Prince

Joni Mitchell wrote and performed A Case of U for her 1971 album, Blue. Prince was a huge Joni Mitchell fan and covered several of her songs during live performances. He covered the song during live shows from the early-1980s onwards and constantly tinkered with a studio version up to his untimely death.

7. The man Who Sold The World, Nirvana

The Man Who Sold The World - Nirvana

From a time before David Bowie was famous, The Man Who Sold The World is not one of his best-known sings. Nirvana took the song to new heights during their MTV Unplugged session. Reflecting on the sinister lyrics and Kurt Cobain’s fate adds to the power of a classic live performance.

8. I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You (Official 4K Video)

Like many of the songs on this list, Whitney Houston made her cover version her own. The song was written and released by Dolly Parton as a minor country hit. Featuring on the soundtrack of The Bodyguard, Whitney added her powerful vocals to the song and immediately eclipsed Dolly’s version.

Next: Greatest love songs for romantic playlists

9. Valerie, Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse

Mark Ronson ft. Amy Winehouse - Valerie (Official Video)

Ronson and Winehouse had become a celebrated musical partnership when the producer decided to create his first covers album. Alongside cover versions of songs by Britney Spears, Ronson added a song by the little-known Liverpool band The Zutons. Valerie became a global hit taken from its indie-rock roots to a classic 60s vibe.

10. Louie Louie, The Kingsmen

The Kingsmen were an American garage rock band in the 1960s who were searching for a hit song when they came across Louie Louie. The song had been written by Richard Berry and recorded on several occasions. The Kingsmen quickly disowned their version until they climbed to number two in the U.S. charts.

11. Proud Mary, Ike & Tina Turner

The story of Ike and Tina Turner is a heartbreaking tragedy for Tina. The problems of their life together did give the world a cover version that has gone down in rock and roll history. Ike and Tina covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary so well that it has become the standard for the bar band favorite.

Next: The greatest classic rock songs of all time

12. Gloria, Patti Smith

Patti Smith - Gloria (Audio)

Van Morrison created a garage band classic when he penned Gloria. Despite Morrison’s impressive version of the song, Patti Smith took it to post-punk heights, not many thought of. Gloria becomes a shambolic masterpiece under the direction of Smith and through her guttural vocals.

13. La Bamba, Los Lobos

The version of La Bamba you thought was sung by tragic pop star, Richie Vallens was probably not his version. Los Lobos recorded a new version of the song for the biopic of Vallens and had a global hit on their hands.

14. Sweet Jane, Cowboy Junkies

Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane (Official Video)

The Cowboy Junkies are an influential band that had several hits and influenced many bands with their work. Sweet Jane featured on the soundtrack of the 1994 movie, Natural Born Killers and gave the band a global hit. The original was recorded by The Velvet Underground and is just as impressive in a different way to the cover version.

15. I Fought The Law, The Clash

The Clash recorded several cover versions, with I Fought The Law a punk classic. Several cover versions have been released of The Crickets song that culminated with Joe Strummer’s band achieving chart success. The Clash’s version is closely associated with the version released by The Bobby Fuller Four in 1965.

16. I Only Want To Be With You, The Tourists

The Tourists - I Only Want To Be With You (1979)

Disty Springfield was an original diva of the 1960s and 70s. Springfield’s version of I Only Want To Be With You was topped by The Tourist’s version featuring a young Annie Lennox on lead vocals.

17. I Love Rock & Roll, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - I Love Rock N Roll

In the early-1980s, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts were beloved by The Sex Pistols and the punk scene. Jett’s most famous song, I Love Rock & Roll was a cover of the song by the little-known English band, The Arrows.

Next: The best 80s songs of all time

18. I Want Candy, Bow Wow Wow

Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy

I Want Candy was one of the biggest hits of 1982 for the English band Bow Wow Wow. The infectious beat was given a new wave feel to remove any memory of the original version by The Strangeloves.

19. Tainted Love, Soft Cell

Soft Cell - Tainted Love (Official Music Video)

Marc Almond and David Ball were akin to a British version of Sparks. The cover version of Gloria Jones Tainted Love stands as a classic of the 1980s New Wave era. Gloria Jones was the girlfriend of T-Rex singer, Mark Bolan and recorded a version lacking the sex appeal of Almond’s vocals.

Next: Best sex songs to add to your playlist

20. Jolene, The White Stripes

The White Stripes - Jolene (Official Music video)

Dolly Parton has written some of the greatest songs of the last century and her Jolene is a classic. The song has been covered so many times it is hard to choose the perfect version. Rolling Stone classed The White Stripes version as the definitive cover of a country classic, and we couldn’t agree more!

Next: The best country love songs ever

21. Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (Official Video)

Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah has such a unique and interesting meaning behind it. Interestingly, Cohen had to fight his record company to even include Hallelujah in his discography. One of the most covered songs of all time is given extra definition by Jeff Buckley in the wake of his drowning before he truly reached the peak of his abilities.

Next: Saddest songs ever made

22. I Shot the Sheriff, Eric Clapton

I Shot The Sheriff

The former Cream guitarist has had some tough times but remains one of the most respected guitarists of all time. Bob Marley & The Wailers had already recorded a classic version of the song when Clapton included it on his 461 Ocean Boulevard album. Clapton’s version would become the best-remembered version as reggae took hold of the U.K. charts in the late-1970s.

Next: The best reggae songs and hits of all time

23. Mad World, Michael Andrews & Gary Jules

Tears for Fears were part of the British invasion of the U.S.in the early-80s and held their position as a favorite for more than a decade. Michael Andrews was scoring the movie, Donnie Darko when he asked Gary Jules to sing the classic Tears for Fears pop song. The original has long been forgotten as the stripped-down version by Andrews and Jules dominates our memories.

24. MacArthur Park, Donna Summer

Actor and sometime crooner Richard Harris created one of the most wonderfully weird musical masterpieces in pop history in MacArthur Park. A complex song about losing a relationship, Harris was outdone by Donna Summer in her disco glory years.

Next: Best breakup songs to cry to

25. Red, Red Wine, UB40

UB40 - Red Red Wine (Official Music Video)

Niel Diamond had recorded a somber ballad about drinking away his blues about lost love. British band, UB40 used a reggae beat for their songs and kept that going with this classic cover version. The Campbell brothers are another set of siblings who have fallen out because of their chart success that peaked with this Neil Diamond cover.

26. Venus, Bananarama

Bananarama - Venus (Official Video)

The 1980s were fertile ground for cover versions in the U.K., with Bananarama bringing girl band power to the world. Venus was originally recorded by Shocking Blue in 1969. Nirvana would release a Shocking Blue cover of their own as their first single.

27. Everybody’s Talkin’, Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson - Everybody's Talkin' (From "Midnight Cowboy") (Audio)

Harry Nilsson is famous for being The Beatles’ favorite singer in the 60s and 70s. Nilsson had recorded songs for the movie, Midnight Cowboy but none seemed to suit the needs of the producers. The story goes that Everybody’s Talkin’ was supposed to be used as a guide track for the editors that the producers felt could not be bettered. Fred Neil recorded the original version.

28. Take Me To The River, Talkin’ Heads

Take Me to the River (2005 Remaster)

The Reverand Al Green recorded the original version of Take me To The River. Talkin’ Heads frontman, David Byrne reimagined the song as a 1980s classic alongside producer Brian Eno. The cover of Green’s song was described by Byrne as being a combination of teenage list and religion.

29. Twist & Shout, The Beatles

Twist And Shout (Remastered 2009)

Recorded in one take, The Beatles Twist & Shout is one of the classic tunes of the 60s. John Lennon knew the song would destroy his voice and made the decision to leave the song until the end of the recording session. The Isley Brothers recorded the original version, with Lennon claiming a head cold gave his voice its unmistakable rasp.

Next: The top Beatles songs of all time

30. We Can Work It Out, Stevie Wonder

We Can Work It Out

Almost every song by The Beatles has been covered at some point, with Stevie Wonder adding his own twist to the funky cover. The song was originally a plea for a truce with a loved one. Stevie Wonder adds a layer of funkiness that is difficult to match.

31. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Cyndi Lauper has become forever linked with two songs, True Colors and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Despite recording the definitive version of Girls Just Wanna have Fun, Lauper was not the first to record the song. Robert Hazard had already released the single when Lauper made it a hit.

32. Killing me Softly, The Fugees

Killing Me Softly With His Song

The Fugees were riding a wave of success when they released this cover of the Lori Lieberman song. Roberta Flack had made the original a hit, with Lauryn Hill taking lead vocals on their version. The beat and hip-hop elements date The Fugees version to the 1990s when the band overtook the most famous version from Roberta Flack.

33. Let’s Spend the Night Together, David Bowie

Let's Spend the Night Together (2013 Remaster)

The original song by The Rolling Stones is rightly remembered as a classic of minor importance. Bowie’s version is an improvement on the original for several reasons, including the addition of the glam aesthetic that launched the Starman to stardom.

34. Strawberry Fields Forever, Candy Flip

Strawberry Fields Forever

The electronic dance duo, Candy Flip, gave the world a new version of the classic song by The Beatles in 1990. The duo turned the psychedelic song into a dance floor classic for the Baggy generation.

35. Changes, Charles Bradley

The soul singer Charles Bradley turned a Black Sabbath ballad into a tender tribute to his mother. Ozzy Osbourne’s version of Changes is a completely different animal to that sung by Bradley.

36. You’ve Got A Friend, James Taylor

James Taylor - You've Got A Friend (Official Audio)

James Taylor will forever be linked to You’ve Got A Friend but it was not his original song. Carole King wrote the song as a response to Taylor’s sense of loneliness on his Fire and Rain album. King recorded the song herself, before allowing Taylor to cover it and get the biggest hit of his career.

Next: Best friend songs about friendship ever made

37. These Days, Greg Allman

Choosing between the version of These Days recorded by Nico and Greg Allman is difficult. Both give staggering performances of the Jackson Browne classic in completely different ways. Nico’s vocal performance is impressive, but the soulful tune created by Allman just wins out.

38. I Don’t Need no Doctor, Humble Pie

I Don't Need No Doctor (Live At Fillmore East/1971)

Ray Charles recorded so many great songs that it is sometimes hard to imagine anybody else singing his songs. Steve Marriott and Humble Pie blow Charles’ version out of the water with this hard-rocking version recorded live. The former Small Faces frontman never sounded as good.

39. Hold On Hope, Glen Campbell

Hold on Hope - Glen Campbell

Guided by Voices is a strange choice of cover song for the Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Cambell. After the success of Johnny Cash’s album of covers, Campbell did the same after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Hold on Hope is given extra resonance because of Campbell’s health issues.

Next: Greatest songs about hope of all time

40. Just Breathe, Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson - Just Breathe (Official Video)

Pearl Jam’s grunge-tinged song is given a new lease of life by the country veteran, Willie Nelson. The song is a classic in its own right, which Nelson pays tribute to alongside Lukas Nelson.

41. The In Crowd, Bryan Ferry

In the 1980s, Bryan Ferry was the coolest man on the planet who dated supermodels and lived the playboy lifestyle. At least, that was the image he chose for himself. The In Crowd is a parody of his image and continues his lounge lizard persona to its natural end. The original by Dobie Gray is an early-60s dancefloor classic.

43. Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin - Me And Bobby McGee (Audio)

Before he became a country superstar, Kris Kristofferson was a bonafide songwriting legend. Kristofferson wrote Me and Bobby McGee for Roger Miller and Kenny Rogers. The melancholy song tells the story of the end of an era in American culture, with this one of the last songs Joplin recorded before her death in 1970.

44. Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon, Urge Overkill

Urge Overkill - Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon

Quentin Tarantino went a long way to changing the musical landscape with his first few movies. Including the indie rockers, Urge Overkill’s version of the Neil Diamond standard was inspired. The song is often cited as an example of a cover better than the original.

45. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Guns N’ Roses

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Guns N’ Roses were known for their bloated tours and over-produced albums when they recorded this Bob Dylan classic. Axl Rose provides a stunning vocal and Slash gives his usual impressive guitar solo on a piece of soft rock art.

Next: Best songs about death & dying

46. Got My Mind Set On You, George Harrison

George Harrison - Got My Mind Set On You (Version II)

George Harrison had been through many incarnations in his post-Beatles career, including pop star during his 1987 return to the music scene. Harrison was a keen movie producer and returned to the music studio several times to fund his love of film. Got My Mind Set On You was first heard by Harrison in the 60s and remained a favorite from James Ray.

47. Doin’ Time, Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey - Doin' Time

Sublime was one of the top indie rock bands of the 1990s and inspired Lana Del Rey to become an artist. The singer covered their classic, Doin’ Time for her sixth album and released it on the same day as a Sublime documentary premiered.

48. Dazed & Confused, Led Zepplin

Led Zeppelin - Dazed And Confused (Official Audio)

Jimmy Page and Led Zepplin made Dazed & Confused a hit after Page heard it playing as part of the New Yardbirds. The Yardbirds had copied the song from American Singer-Songwriter, Jake Holmes soon after its release in 1967.

49. Blue Suede Shoes, Elvis Presley

This may be difficult for fans of The King to believe, but he was not the first artist to record Blue Suede Shoes. Carl Perkins had already recorded the song, with Elvis declaring his version a tribute to his friend.

50. C** on Feel the Noize, Quiet Riot

Quiet Riot - Cum On Feel The Noize (Video Version)

Slade were English leaders of the Glam Rock scene and had a string of hits throughout the 1970s and early-1980s. Quiet Riot made their classic glam rock song a hit with a straight cover that sounded exactly like the original.

51. Across the Universe, Fiona Apple

Across the Universe

John Lennon wanted a much harder edge to Across the Universe, at a time when The Beatles were imploding. Fiona Apple’s version would have annoyed Lennon even more because of its dreamy quality that makes it sound like a cross between a dream and a nightmare.

Next: Best songs about dreams (of all time)

52. Tainted Love, Hannah Peel

Soft Cell’s version of Tainted Love appeared earlier on this list and is joined by Hannah Peel’s cover. Northern Irish singer-songwriter and classical conductor, Peel began her career using a music box as her backing music for a beautiful, dreamy cover of the Gloria Jones classic.

53. Ring of Fire, Wall of Voodoo

Johnny Cash gave Ring of Fire a simple melody that invites artists to give their own take on the song. Wall of Voodoo took their industrial post-punk sound and twisted it to an almost unrecognizable cover of the Johnny Cash country classic.

Next: Greatest songs that everyone knows

54. Walk This Way, Run DMC

If Run DMC would have sampled the original version by Aerosmith the course of music history would have been changed forever. Instead, Run DMC chose to record the song with Aerosmith and create a musical collaboration laying the groundwork for rappers working with mainstream artists in the 1980s.

Next: Best pump up songs of all time

55. Kiss, Art of Noise featuring Tom Jones

Tom Jones and Art Of Noise - Kiss (Official Video)

The Welsh baritone of Tom Jones juxtaposed perfectly with the original version of this song by Prince. The funky sound of the purple songwriter was given a late-80s update by Art of Noise and Tom Jones.

Next: The best baritone songs to sing (our picks)

56. Dedicated to the One I Love, The Mamas and Papas

Dedicated to the One I Love

The Shirelles classic was covered by The Mamas and Papas to truly improve on the original. The romantic harmonies of The Mamas and Papas change the feel of the Motown classic into a beloved family favorite.

57. Whiskey in a Jar, Metallica

Metallica - Whiskey In The Jar (Official Music Video)

The best cover songs take a song and change it into a new version. Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy had been annoyed at their record company for releasing a cover of the Irish folk song, Whiskey in a Jar. Phil Lynott would have been happier with Metallica’s version that took the folk song into rock and roll territory.

58. A Little Help From My Friends, Joe Cocker

With A Little Help From My Friends

The Beatles had given A Little Help From My Friends to Ringo Starr and abandoned the song as a novelty. Joe Cocker was a powerful performer, with a voice from the gutter who elevated the song to become more powerful than ever. Performing the song at Woodstock made Cocker a superstar.

59. Trapped, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Trapped (Live at Meadowlands Arena, E. Rutherford, NJ - August 1984)

Bruce Springsteen has a long history of returning to his bar singer days to fill his hours-long shows with covers. At the We Are The World Benefit Concert, Springsteen and his band stole the show with Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped. The usual swagger of the Boss adds to the desperation of the material.

Next: Best bar songs to play at the bar

60. Because The Night, Bruce Springsteen

There is a little controversy about this choice because Springsteen wrote the original with Patti Smith. Smith’s version was released first and became a hit. Springsteen released his version later and changed the lyrics and melody to create a completely different song.

61. Torn, Natalie Imbruglia

Natalie Imbruglia - Torn (Official Video)

Former soap opera actress Natalie Imbruglia has made Torn her own song. However, the song was first recorded in Danish by Lis Sorenson, followed by several bands and artists. Imbruglia had a global hit with the song in 1997.

62. American Woman, Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz - American Woman (Official Video

In 1999, Lenny Kravitz recorded his version of American Woman and made the song popular again. The Guess Who had released their version of the song way back in March 1970 without the hard rock edge of Kravitz.

63. Love Hurts, Gram Parsons & the Grievous Angel

Love Hurts (2007 Remaster)

Written by Boudleaux Bryant and recorded by The Everly brothers in 1960, Love Hurts has become a pop, rock, and country staple. The country stars, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris recorded a duet of the song in a country and western style. Released after Parsons’ 1973 death, the song has become a classic of early country-rock.

Next: Best country songs of all time

64. I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Marvin Gaye

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

I Heard It Through The Grapevine will always be linked to Marvin Gaye. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown Records. Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded a version of the song that would be eclipsed by Marvin Gaye’s version.

65. I Feel For You, Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan - I Feel for You (Official Music Video) [HD Remaster]

Prince wrote some of the best-known songs of the 1980s, including Chaka Khan’s I Feel For You. Prince released his version on his self-titled 1979 album without having the impact of the disco diva.

Next: The best disco songs of all time

66. Always on my Mind, Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys - Always On My Mind

Written as a country and western standard for Brenda Lee, Always on my Mind has been covered by many artists. The U.K.’s Pet Shop Boys gave the song a pop twist in 1987. The song drew heavily from the Elvis Presley version that increased the pop leanings of the song.

67. All Along The Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - All Along The Watchtower (Official Audio)

Written by Bob Dylan in the wake of his motorcycle accident in the mid-60s, All Along the Watchtower has stripped-back production values. Jimi Hendrix brought his charisma and expert guitar playing to his cover version just one year after the Dylan version was released. Dylan was so impressed by Hendrix’s version he has played it in the guitarist’s style ever since it was released.

The best cover songs are often completed by artists in different genres. As Bob Dyland explained when discussing Jimi Hendrix’s version of All Along The Watchtower, another artist can find new directions to take a song as they deconstruct and reconstruct it for themselves.

There have been so many great songs throughout the years, as well as even greater covers to those same songs! Oftentimes, the song that is played on the radio and really hits it big in popular culture and media isn’t actually the original version of the song.

Leave a Comment