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25 of the Greatest Cover Songs

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs

Nothing quite grabs the attention more than a list of the greatest this or that, so at 85 posts about cover songs I thought it about time to get to it. As I advised with my other 'Greatest' posts we all have our favorites so anytime there is a list, something or someone 'great' gets left off. And the debate ensues, why is this and that at #11 not #4 and vise versa. My list therefore, shall be no different for it is not scientific but subjective and it is biased by my own tastes and exposure to music. Having said that it's hard for me to have missed many of the truly great cover songs of all time, indeed I think I've talked about quite a few:

  1. "Respect" from the writer and original recording Otis Redding and a cover she made her own, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. More about the song and Aretha in these posts. Before I get to some cover's I've not mentioned, here are more songs from my previous issues that are at the top of the list;
  2. "Hurt" from Nine Inch Nails and the legend Johnny Cash.
  3. "Hound Dog" by Willie Mae 'Big Mama' Thornton and the King, Elvis Presley
  4.  "At Last" originally from the musical "Sun Valley Serenade" first recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (vocals by Ray Eberle and Lynn Bari) and the quintessential version from Etta James.
  5. "The Sounds of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel, covered close to 250 times mostly as "The Sound of Silence" (dropping the 's') like the masterful David Draiman from Disturbed.
  6. "Hallelujah" written and performed by Leonard Cohen is on track to become one of the most covered pop songs of all time. It's on my post Hallelujah and the consensus seems to point to Jeff Buckley's version for the top spot. 
  7. "Angel from Montgomery" written and recorded by John Prine, a priceless cover from Bonnie Raitt.
  8.  Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton, I love this song! Originally recorded by David Allan Coe  (written by Linda Hargrove and Dean Dillon). 
  9. "Blinded by the Light" written and performed by the man himself Bruce Springsteen and let's face it the much better sounding cover from Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
  10. "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" Brinsley Schwarz and then the great Elvis Costello.
  11. "Cross Road Blues" by Robert Johnson is a seminal piece of Delta Blues  which I have previously discussed and sometimes a cover draws most of its power from the original, duly noted on this cover by Cream. There are plenty more great covers that I've blogged but let me get to some songs I have not talked about before:
  12. "Take Me to the River" ( Al Green, Teenie Hodges) by Al Green and the cover from the Talking Heads.
  13.  "Proud Mary" Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and then Ike and the dynamic Tina Turner power it up.
  14.  "All Along the Watchtower" Bob Dylan and first covered by of course the amazing Jimi Hendrix.
  15. "Mr. Tambourine Man" Bob Dylan and first covered by The Byrds.
  16.  "Quinn the Eskimo (Take 1)" written and performed by Bob Dylan, first cover was from Manfred Mann titled "Mighty Quinn" (pre Manfred Mann's Earth Band).
  17. "Not Fade Away" by Buddy Holly (The Crickets) was covered by Bobby Fuller as he would do with several Holly/Crickets songs, but the best cover I think was the next to so the song The Rolling Stones. The Grateful Dead played this frequently in concert.
  18. "That'll Be the Day" originally by Buddy Holly and The Three Tunes (never released), first released as The Crickets and a beautiful version from the  remarkable Linda Ronstadt.
  19. "The Man Who Sold the World" written and performed by David Bowie and covered over 100 times. Lulu with backing vocals from Bowie himself and an exceptional version from Nirvana.
  20. "The First Cut is the Deepest" written and performed by Cat Stevens. As PP Arnold (former Ikette Patricia Ann Cole) was at the same record label she was given first crack at this song leaving Stevens to (do the best) cover his own song, some of the other 'best' versions; Rod StewartKeith Hampshire and Sheryl Crow.
  21. "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone (written by Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley) is a fantastic performance and hard to beat, but a cover can be just as good for different reasons and make it on my list, Michael Bubl├ę  goes all 'James Bond' on the song, a little campy on the video a lot great on the music.
  22. "Bad Side of the Moon" by Elton John, it's hard to outdo Sir Elton but here is an awesome cover from the Canadian rock band April Wine. Far as I know it's never been covered since.
  23. In honour of the recent passing of Dave Bartholomew (December 24, 1918-June 23, 2019) "Ain't That a Shame" written with and performed by Fats Domino and a terrific cover from Cheap Trick.
  24. Another cover of a Dave Bartholomew penned song (I discussed already) but here it is again, the original "I Hear You Knocking" by Smiley Lewis and the awesome cover by Dave Edmunds, note the fine lip syncing in the video!
  25. "What a Wonderful World" (George David Weiss, Bob Thiele) is one of the best songs ever written and the original from Louis Armstrong is hard to beat but many of us love this version from Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo╩╗ole.


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  1. Speaking of #5, Sounds of Silence, I was surprised one day to hear this in my Spotify list. Turns out it was a cover of this song for the Trolls movie. I'm blaming my granddaughters!


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