While it has got to sting a little for the original artists to see someone else do their songs better, a lot of them simply do not have any hard feelings. You probably wouldn’t either if it meant getting a comfortable cut of the royalties. Here are some of the most iconic songs that you might not know were covers.
"Achy Breaky Heart" - Billy Ray Cyrus
Released with his debut album in 1992, it's safe to say "Achy Breaky Heart" launched Billy Ray Cyrus's music career. But, it had actually already been released a year prior by the band The Marcy Brothers. The original release had minor lyrical changes, most notably changing the title to "Don't Tell My Heart."
The original was no match for Cyrus's rendition, which made waves internationally to the point of being Australia's number-one single of 1992. You know Australia? The home of country pop-rock? It can be funny what music other nations end up taking to — and this is a prime example.
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" - Cyndi Lauper
This one is going to blow your mind. Not only was Cyndi Lauper not the first recording artist to release this song, but the original singer was a man! Robert Hazard wrote and released the song in 1979, and it was originally from a man's point of view.
Sounds a little creepy, but rest assured, the original version is just as fun and punchy as Lauper's — and a little more rock, too. It does annoy us a little that a cover turned out to be Lauper's most successful song. We wonder how much she would have faired if she had released an original song instead of it.
"Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of...)" - Lou Bega
This one-hit wonder for Lou Bega is technically sampling rather than covering, but it had actually been around for almost five decades before the German singer made it mainstream in 1999. That said, if we are going to put it lightly, it sounded a little different all the way back in 1950.
The song started out as just an instrumental by Cuban artist Dámaso Pérez Prado, and Bega really made it his own with his cheeky lyrics. Just think of how different the early 2000s would have been without a little bit of Erica, Tina, Rita, and Jessica in our lives, and a little bit of Sandra in the sun.
"Torn" - Natalie Imbruglia
"Torn" actually changed a number of hands before it landed in the lap of Natalie Imbruglia. The song was initially released in Danish by Danish songstress Lis Sørensen in 1993. The first English version was released in 1994 by the band Ednaswap and was then covered by singer Trine Rein in 1996.
So, when Imbruglia released her version in 1997, the song was hardly new. Still, Imbruglia's debut single clearly stood the test of time, with virtually everyone crediting the song to her. Unfortunately, Imbruglia didn't have much of a career after releasing "Torn" though. At least she released something.
"Hound Dog" - Elvis Presley
You may be surprised to hear that this Elvis classic wasn't even originally his, but even more surprising than that is that the song has been recorded over 250 times as the years went on! Given those specs, it is pretty impressive that this was the best-selling song of Presley's career.
The original singer, Big Mama Thornton, did not do too shabbily either, and her version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013. Bonus fact: In the 2022 Elvis Presley biopic, "Elvis," Big Mama Thornton's version of the song is sampled as a tribute to the original. Facts!
"If I Were a Boy" - Beyonce
This song had some drama behind it. It was originally written and recorded by BC Jean in 2008, but after her record label rejected it, it was handed over to Beyonce, who recorded her version in the same year. The problem was that Jean wasn't made aware of this and was pretty irritated when she found out.
Eventually, they reached an agreement, and the song was released that same year. We love happy endings. But this doesn't take away from the fact that, although Beyonce has an incredible voice and the song has a pretty great message, we just don't really like the song.
"I'm a Believer" - Smashmouth
"I'm a Believer" is undoubtedly one of the most famous soundtrack songs of the early 2000s, but did you know this hit has been around since the '60s? First recorded by The Monkees in 1966 (and penned by Neil Diamond. Didn't see that one coming), the Smashmouth version shot to fame by being featured in the first "Shrek" movie.
The song was so popular in the movie that it was featured again in "Shrek Forever After," but that version was performed by the band Weezer. And isn't that just the most unexpected rendition they could have come up with? We wonder who will make the next cover.
"I Fought the Law" - The Clash
Not only was this iconic rock song just a cover by The Clash — but it was not even the most successful one. The original song was recorded by The Crickets in 1964 and covered shortly thereafter by The Bobby Fuller Four. It really did fall into a lot of hands over the years.
The Bobby Fuller Four version enjoyed way more success than The Clash's version, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame naming it one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock. Still, most people associate the song with The Clash, likely because they were overall the most famous band.
"RESPECT" - Aretha Franklin
It's hard to believe, but the song that put Aretha Franklin on the map wasn't even an original on her part. Those seven letters have never been more iconic than when they came out of her mouth - that's for sure. The song was written and recorded by fellow soul singer Otis Redding in 1965. Franklin's cover, though, does feature some significant changes.
Most notably, the famous spelling out of "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" was not even in the original, nor was the reference to "TCB" (an abbreviation of "Taking Care of Business," and an African American slang term that you're better off researching yourself). In short, Franklin's version was far superior.
"Whiskey in the Jar" - Metallica
This famous rock song started out as an Irish folk song. Many artists and bands have recorded their own versions over the years, and Metallica's cover bears a striking resemblance to an earlier version by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. Quite eerily similar, if we do say so ourselves.
Still, Metallica's heavy metal version of the song is the most famous and even earned the band a Grammy. It is crazy to see how far a folk tune from the Irish mountains can travel! And it's safe to say that out of the two metal bands, Metallica was the more successful and influential in the world of music.
"Twist and Shout" - The Beatles
Dubbed "the most famous single take in rock history," John Lennon famously sang himself hoarse in this one-and-done recording. While "Twist and Shout" is considered a Beatles classic, in every sense of the world, the song is actually a cover from The Top Notes, believe it or not.
You may have heard it was originally accredited to The Isley Brothers, and while that was the first version to chart, it was a cover itself. Another cover you may not have heard about was one recorded by hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa, who add a fun, feminine flair to the historically male-sung song.
"The Power of Love" - Celine Dion
One of the most famous love ballads, "The Power of Love" by Celine Dion topped the charts across the world. But did you know she wasn't the original singer? Truth is, there is actually a fair chance you did know that, as the original version was also a huge commercial success.
Jennifer Rush originally recorded the song in 1984 (a full decade before Dion's version!), and it became the UK's best-selling single in the entire year of 1985. Rush was actually the first female recording artist to have a million-selling single in the United Kingdom, thanks to this little number!
"House of the Rising Sun" - The Animals
British rock band The Animals popularized this tune in 1964, but it actually has its origins back in the Appalachian mountains. As a traditional folk tune, there is no clear original artist, but the first recorded version dates back to the 1930s. You could go as far as to say that this number's origins are steeped in legend.
Even so, there are reports of American miners singing the tune as far back as 1905. Wherever it came from, it's now cemented as a rock classic thanks to The Animals. And their version is arguably the darkest and grittiest of them all.
"Venus" - Bananarama
One of the most successful advertisement jingles, "Venus" was a hit when Bananarama released it in 1986. But the truth is, the song was already a hit almost two decades before that. Initially recorded by the Dutch band Shocking Blue in 1969, the song topped the charts across the world.
The catchy tune has been featured in multiple movie and television soundtracks, with tons of artists recording their own versions. Isn't that just hilarious when a song comes out of a specific country, and then the citizens of that country are shocked to find someone from another part of the world cover it years later?
"Can't Get Used to Losing You" - The English Beat
When The English Beat released their single, "Can't Get Used to Losing You," back in 1983, it became the best-selling single of their career. This could have been partly because they also announced their breakup in 1983, so there was a lot of hype around the band. Still, the song became synonymous with them, even though it was only a cover.
The original was recorded by Andy Williams back in 1963. Williams's version did pretty well but, understandably, it fell by the wayside after 20 years when it was picked up by the popular British band. And the rest was history.
"Dazed and Confused" - Led Zeppelin
This cover comes with some drama. When Led Zeppelin recorded "Dazed and Confused" in 1968, they changed up some lyrics to better suit their style. However, the original singer-songwriter wasn't credited at all, leading to a copyright infringement lawsuit in 2010.
The original artist was Jake Holmes, who released it a year earlier, in 1967. Legal matters were settled outside of court, but the dirty laundry is still public. Truth be told though, we can't help but simply think of Matthew McConaughey saying "Alright, Alright, Alright" in that southern drawl of his when we think of the term "Dazed and Confused."
"The First Cut Is the Deepest" - Sheryl Crow
"The First Cut Is the Deepest" was written by Cat Stevens and initially released by P.P. Arnold back in 1967. Since then, it's been covered by a slew of artists, including none other than Rod Stewart. While the song earned places on the charts for many singers, arguably the most successful cover was Sheryl Crow's, released in 2003.
Crow's version made waves internationally, even earning her a Grammy nomination. Stevens sold the song to Arnold for just £30 all the way back in the 60s, but thanks to multiple covers, Stevens earned songwriting awards for it well into the 2000s.
"Blue Suede Shoes" - Elvis Presley
It's hard to imagine that a song so iconically Elvis wasn't actually originally recorded by The King himself, but that's the case with "Blue Suede Shoes." The rockabilly tune was written and recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955, a year before Presley released it on his debut album.
Presley actually only recorded the song to help out Perkins after Perkins was involved in a car accident. Presley hoped the financial boost would help Perkins as his own version of the song was on the decline after enjoying some success. Needless to say, it did a little more than help out.
"I Will Always Love You" - Whitney Houston
This iconic ballad wasn't just covered by a powerhouse woman; it was also written by one too. As one of the best-selling singles of all time, everyone likely knows this as a Whitney Houston song. But did you know the original artist was the country queen herself, Dolly Parton?
Parton's version is a little more somber but just as soulful as Houston's, and you won't be disappointed with either. How does Parton feel knowing the cover is more successful than her original? Well, in her own words, "I don't care who gets the credit as long as I get the check."
"Louie Louie" - The Kingsmen
Okay, considering this song is widely considered the most covered rock song of all time, you may have heard through the grapevine that The Kingsmen were not the first to record it. That said, their version is the most popular, and they were one of the first covers, so they likely contributed to its popularity among other artists.
The song was first released in 1957 by its songwriter, Richard Berry. The Kingsmen's version was famously raucous and contained virtually unintelligible lyrics (presumably to mask the fact that they weren't safe for radio), and remains their most popular song to date.
"I Love Rock 'n' Roll" - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
As Joan Jett's only number-one single, it's easy to think of her strong vocals blasting "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." Jett was a fan of the original, performed by British band The Arrows in 1975, and took it to her band, who released their chart-topping rendition in 1981.
The Arrows' version enjoyed moderate success, but nothing compared to the heights Jett's version reached. Still, it earned them a television series in the UK, which is pretty cool. Of course, Britney Spears herself also made a version of this classic rock number - but we try to talk about that fact as little as possible. You're welcome.
"All Along the Watchtower" - Jimi Hendrix
"All Along the Watchtower" was actually written and recorded by legendary Bob Dylan. Jimi Hendrix was a huge fan of Dylan's and was musically inspired by him for many years. When Hendrix released his cover of "All Along the Watchtower" just six months after Dylan's release, this passion shone through.
And the song shot to the top of the charts. In turn, Dylan was strongly influenced by Hendrix's rendition, and his subsequent performances of the song have reflected that. It just goes to show how two rock legends can have such a huge impact on each other through one song.
"Whatta Man" - Salt-N-Pepa ft. En Vogue
This one is a lot closer to sampling rather than covering, but the recognizable parts are present, so we've slapped it on our list. Initially titled "What a Man," the song was released by Linda Lyndell in 1968, where it saw moderate success.
Salt-N-Pepa reworked the song into a rap song in 1993, giving us the tune we know and love today. The lyrics are notably different, and the title got a bit of a facelift, but it is the same song at its core. And let's face it, when you put Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue on a song together, whatever they ended up recording was bound to be gold.
"Baby I Need Your Lovin'" - Johnny Rivers
This is another classic example of a song that fell into the hands of many artists over the years - to varying levels of success. One of Johnny Rivers's defining songs, "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" was originally recorded by the Four Tops band in 1964. The song wasn't Four Tops' most successful on the charts.
But it's easily one of their most influential, even though hardly anyone knows it's theirs. But, credit where it's due — Rolling Stone placed the original song on their list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time." Johnny's version generated far more chart success, and he still gets the credit today for the hit.
"Walkin' the Dog" - Aerosmith
Aerosmith had to have done a stellar job on this cover for them to be the main artists associated with this one. Not because the original artist was so famous, but because the song was covered earlier by The Rolling Stones — and that's usually a tough act to follow.
Going back to the song's true origins, Rufus Thomas released it back in 1963, and it became his biggest hit. Still, Aerosmith's rendition was featured on their debut studio album, which actually did not do all that well on the charts, but still overshadowed all other versions before or since.
"Gloria" - Patti Smith
The opener for Patti Smith's 1975 debut studio album, "Gloria" is cemented in pop culture as Smith's raucous burst onto the scene. However, the song had already been around for a decade and had even been covered a few times already. Written by Van Morrison, the song was released by Morrison's band, Them, in 1964.
The song did not perform poorly on the charts. However, Smith's version blended the lyrics with the poem "Oath" and featured overtly religious provocative language to boot. As a result, this set it apart from the rest and earned it immense clout with the critics.
"Nobody's Fault But Mine" - Led Zeppelin
Blind Willie Johnson wrote and recorded this classic little number back in 1927 as a decidedly religious anthem detailing his personal spiritual struggle with damnation and faith. Then Led Zeppelin came along and covered it close to 50 years later and made some minor adjustments along the way.
The meat and potatoes of the song are still there, but Led Zeppelin opted for a more secular adaptation of the lyrics to better suit their style. The result is that we now have two great songs that speak to about as wide an audience as you can imagine. That is the power of music, folks.
"I Want Candy" - Bow Wow Wow
A song titled "I Want Candy" is bound to have multiple versions throughout music history. It was Bow Wow Wow's only single release and the one that put their name on the US map. Even though it's entrenched in pop culture as a New Wave anthem, the song is just a cover. It was initially recorded by The Strangeloves in 1965.
Interestingly, it actually performed better on the charts than Bow Wow Wow's version, but given that Bow Wow Wow released their version in 1982, audiences had long forgotten about the original, leaving a clean slate for Bow Wow Wow to steal the stage.
"Killing Me Softly" - The Fugees
The Fugees' version has been sampled so many times over the years that it's mind-bending to think the song isn't even theirs. Lori Lieberman released the first record of the song in 1972 after a heated public dispute about her writing credits (which she was denied). However, the song didn't chart, and Lieberman's efforts have been mostly for naught.
Notably, Roberta Flack also covered the song in 1973, and while she even earned a Grammy for her performance, it was no match for The Fugees' cover, which topped the charts in over 20 countries. It helped kickstart Lauryn Hill, Wyclef, and Pras's careers.
"A Case of U" - Prince
Prince had many muses throughout his life and career, but few artists reached the heights of Joni Mitchell in his eyes. So when Prince covered her song, "A Case of You," in 2002, Mitchell's 1971 song received a new breath of life. The only (seeming) downside is that Prince gets all the credit nowadays for the song — but that's not Prince's fault.
He gave credit to Mitchell in the album notes, and also very publicly talked about his love for her for years. It seems like Prince was both a lover of making many covers during his career and also ended up being covered by a lot of artists that came after him too.
"La Vie En Rose" - Grace Jones
Many artists actually tackled this French number, but no one did it quite like Grace Jones. Jones released the song as a single in 1977, and it made waves internationally. In truth, though, the song wasn't an original. The first artist was French songstress Édith Piaf, who released it in 1947.
The song was a success with European audiences and didn't do too badly in the US either, but it wasn't nearly as successful in the States as the covers were. Truth be told though, we really loved Cristin Milioti's version of the number when she performed it on the ukulele in the final season of "How I Met Your Mother."
"Ray of Light" - Madonna
The story of how this song ended up as Madonna's is pretty convoluted, but the point is that it's not hers. In fact, the original artists only found out she recorded it when they heard it on the radio. Awkward. The musicians in question are Dave Curtiss and Clive Muldoon, who recorded the song under the name "Sepheryn" in 1971.
While Madonna did change some lyrics, the song is a definite cover of the Curtiss-Maldoon version. But, all is well that ends well, and the original artists received songwriting credit and a good chunk of money for their trouble. It's amazing that Madonna didn't do that many more covers in her career.
"Rusty Cage" - Johnny Cash
Truth be told, Johnny Cash can be found on this list a couple of times. It's actually impressive just how many hit songs came from the American rock band Soundgarden, especially given how many of those hits were covers. Believe it or not, this Johnny Cash country classic started off as a Soundgarden rock song in 1992.
Not only did Cash's cover earn him a Grammy, but even Soundgarden has dedicated live performances of the song to the cover artist. They also performed the song more in-line with Cash's version a few times as the years passed. Sadly, Cash and Chris Cornell are no longer with us.
"Mickey" - Toni Basil
The bad news: The tune you're signing in your head isn't original, and your life is a lie. The good news: The MOST famous line chanting "Oh Mickey, you're so fine" is original, and you can breathe again. The song was originally titled "Kitty" and sung from a male point of view.
The initial musicians were a pop group called Racey, who released the song in 1979. Basil covered it and gave it a female, cheerleader twist in 1981. Basil's rendition received some controversial reviews by critics but is overall a pop culture staple that everyone knows and loves until this very day.
"The Tide Is High" - Blondie
This is one of those songs where even if you haven't heard it in years, you still know all the lyrics by heart because it's just so darn catchy. Blondie popularized this tune in 1980, but the song was first released in 1967 by the Jamaican reggae band, The Paragons.
It never got very far with The Paragons, but Blondie's rendition topped the charts globally, and it's still the version we think of today. You could say that Blondie really made *waves* with this one. You're welcome. Also, we can't forget the time that Atomic Kitten put their own spin on the song. However, only British fans will really remember that version.
"Blinded by the Light" - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
It is no small feat for a cover to outdo the original, and it is even more impressive when the original musician is Bruce Springsteen. The Boss released the song all the way back in 1973, but it did not achieve particular notoriety on its own, that's for sure.
Then Manfred Mann's Earth Band took the reigns in 1976, and it shot to number one in the US and Canada. Not exactly the outcome you would expect, but that is showbiz, baby. But we can't pity Bruce too much. The guy has had so many hits over the course of his career. We're sure he can forgive himself for this one.
"Rock Around the Clock" - Bill Haley & His Comets
Does it count as a cover if the song was always intended for the cover artist and it was just a scheduling issue that prevented them from recording it first? Well, technically, yes. So, in that case, Bill Haley & His Comets covered the famed "Rock Around the Clock," but you can likely guess the backstory from our clues.
The first band to record it was Sonny Dae and His Knights (apparently, sentence-long band names were all the rage in the 50s) in March 1954. Then Haley took the mic in April 1954, and the start of rock and roll was well and truly in effect.
"Feelin' Good" - Michael Bublé
This may not be a huge surprise to many, given that a ton of Michael Bublé songs are actually covers, but "Feelin' Good" is one of his biggest hits, so you would think that there is a higher chance of it being an original. But nope — it's a cover.
Interestingly, though, this was not any old cover - the song comes from a 1964 musical called "The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd." Bublé released his version in 2005, and while it hasn't topped any charts, it is still the most successful and recognizable rendition of the song today.
"Red Red Wine" - UB40
If you were to guess who the original artist was for this hit, you'd probably say Bob Marley, given how decidedly reggae "Red Red Wine" is. Surprisingly enough, the singer and songwriter on this one was Neil Diamond in 1967. What's more, the song started out as an acoustic ballad.
Diamond didn't see much success with this one, possibly because he was clashing with his record label at the time and left them shortly after. UB40 took it on in 1983 and gave it that signature reggae bend. Interestingly, it only became a hit when it was re-released in 1988.
"I Think We're Alone Now" - Tiffany
It's amazing to think that singer Tiffany was just 15 years of age when she released the song "I Think We're Alone Now" on her debut album all the way back in 1987. The song was a hit and topped the charts in the US and UK. However, she wasn't the first to record it.
The original song came out in 1967 (before Tiffany was even born) and was recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells, a psychedelic rock band from the US. The original did moderately well, but nowhere near the success that Tiffany had when she turned it into a dance hit.
"Tainted Love" - Soft Cell
This synth-pop hit is so ingrained in 80s pop culture that it's hard to imagine any other version of the song. But, as it happens, "Tainted Love" started out as a jazzy soul song. Gloria Jones was the first musician to record the song back in 1964.
It achieved very little commercial success (okay, it was basically a complete flop) and didn't chart at all. Still, Soft Cell saw the potential in it and gave it a facelift in 1981, resulting in the hit we still dance to today. But we just have to mention that ghastly cover that Marilyn Manson did in the early '00s. Actually, can we take that one back, please?
"The Best" - Tina Turner
It's crazy to think that quite a few of Tina Turner's biggest hits have actually been covers. And we're sorry to break it to you, but Tina Turner was not the first artist to release this powerhouse hit that people still associate her with today. In truth, Bonnie Tyler was the original singer, but for some reason, her version just did not find success anywhere.
Tyler released it in 1988, just a year before Turner took over. Still, Tyler doesn't have any hard feelings — she herself admitted that Turner "did it much better than I did." And it's safe to say that Tina is still "the best."
"Jersey Girl" - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
This time, we have found a song that Bruce Bringsteen ended up covering from somebody else - and boy, is it a doozy. Given how many original songs Bruce Springsteen has dedicated to New Jersey, you'd be forgiven for thinking that "Jersey Girl" is no different. But the truth is, this one's not on him.
Tom Waits wrote and recorded the song in 1980. It was an ode to his future wife living in New Jersey at the time. It didn't make a big splash until Springsteen recorded it in 1984, and it quickly became a fan favorite. This takes nothing away from the fact that both guys are legends in their own rights.
"Ring of Fire" - Johnny Cash
This one is a tight 'cover' as it was released in the same year as the original. But we say that it still counts, so we're putting it in! The first to do it was Anita Carter in 1963, not long before Cash released his far more successful version.
If any superfans of Johnny Cash are seeing alarm bells with the last name "Carter," that's because Anita Carter is the sister of June Carter — Cash's second wife. In fact, June Carter actually co-wrote the song for her sister, although there's a juicy debate about that, with Cash's first wife claiming Carter had no part in it.
"1985" - Bowling for Soup
Easily one of the, if not the, most famous songs to come from Bowling for Soup, "1985" didn't start out with the band. The song was written and first recorded by fellow American rock band SR-71 in 2003. It didn't make much of an impression though.
There are a few versions of the story of how the song ended up with Bowling for Soup, but regardless, it was an amicable handover, and the song performed incredibly well when the cover was released in 2004. But if we're going to be completely honest, we remember the band's name more than we remember their music.
"MacArthur Park" - Donna Summer
This song was pretty much born to be a hit. Donna Summer was not the first to release it, but she did give the song a disco spin that revamped it and won over pretty much everyone. The song was originally released by Richard Harris in 1968 and performed pretty well internationally.
Still, a decade later — the music scene had moved more towards a disco undercurrent, laying the foundation for Summer to steal the show in 1978. And yes, both versions are very long and full of weird and wonderful lyrics. Macarthur Park really is melting in the dark.
"Year 3000" - Jonas Brothers
RIP to the trust of every tween girl of the early 2000s. The Jonas Brothers released this track in 2006, and it quickly became a fan favorite. However, the song was a cover from a British pop-rock band called Busted, who first released it in 2002. British fans were so confused when they started to hear it all over again.
A few of the lyrics had to be changed for the Jonas Brothers' version as they were deemed too suggestive for the boy band's younger audience. In 2019, the two bands actually joined forces and sang the song live at the Capital’s Summertime Ball.
"Sail On" - Destiny's Child
This 1998 hit for Destiny's Child was first released back in 1979 for The Commodores. What's more, the song was written for them by none other than Lionel Richie, who recorded his own version in 2007.
For The Commodores, the song charted in both the US and the UK and even earned the band a Grammy nomination. For Destiny's Child, it formed part of their hugely successful debut studio album, which lasted a whopping 26 weeks on the charts. To be honest, we don't personally remember this one from Beyonce and the crew. It was very early on in their careers, so there's that.
"Me and Bobby McGee" - Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin recorded this chart-topping song just days before her passing in 1970. When it was released in 1971, it went straight to the top of the charts, making it not only Joplin's only number-one single but also the second single in history to reach the top spot after the artist's death.
Initially, the song was released by Roger Miller in 1969, and it performed modestly on the charts. Kris Kristofferson, the songwriter, didn't even know that Joplin had recorded the song and only heard it the day after she passed. It's probably the most tragic story about a music cover on this list.
"Bless the Broken Road" - Rascal Flatts
This country classic has seen many renditions, but the original version came out way back in 1994. That's not exactly the Stone Age, but old enough, considering the song only became famous in 2005 when Rascal Flatts released their cover. The first to do it was Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and it was never released as a single.
Under Rascall Flatts, "Bless the Broken Road" won a Grammy award in 2005, and it wasn't long before it went platinum, cementing itself in mainstream culture. Sadly, Rascal Flatts went their separate ways in 2021 and we're just holding out hope for their eventual reunion.
"Shout" - Lulu
We shouldn't confuse this song with the classic single from Tears for Fears which is also called "Shout." That has nothing to do with this one. Lulu released this "Shout" version in 1965, and it became the most successful song of her career. However, it wasn't an original. The song was first released by The Isley Brothers in 1959.
It was a minor hit for the band at best, but it did actually become their first gold single just by virtue of how long it stayed on the charts, albeit not very high up. Many different versions of "Shout" have shown up in all kinds of movies as the years have passed.
"It's My Life" - No Doubt
No Doubt were (ironically) doubtful about recording a cover, but their creative risk paid off when "It's My Life" charted for close to 30 weeks in 2003. The original was performed by the British band Talk Talk in 1984, and it didn't have an amazing reception.
It was re-released by the band in 1985 and again in 1990, but it was only the third release where it gained any traction. The No Doubt version, on the other hand, picked up a Grammy award and another nomination. That's why most people thought that it was an original song when Gwen and her boys released it.
"Emotion" - Destiny's Child
This hit from Destiny's Child had been around for almost two-and-a-half decades before the girl group released their version in 2001. Samantha Sang was the first to release it back in 1977. Sang's version was also successful, even breaking the top 5 on the charts at one point.
Still, it did not compare to Destiny's Child's version. The timing of the release was poignant as it made waves internationally and actually came to be a tribute song for the victims of 9/11. Bonus fact: the Bee Gees also recorded a cover in 1994, but this was not released until it was featured on their Greatest Hits album in 2001.
"Valerie" - Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson
Say it ain't so! A song THIS iconic is just a cover? Somehow, yes. "Valerie" was originally released by The Zutons in 2006, just a year before Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse covered it. Ronson was actually unsure of whether the song would suit Winehouse's voice, but as soon as she hit the recording booth, he was sold.
Within no time, "Valerie" became a quintessential Amy Winehouse song and the fact that anyone did it before her is kind of unthinkable. As for The Zutons, they kind of disappeared into thin air. Amy, on the other hand, left this world way too early but left a massive impact on the world of music.
"Alone" - Heart
Plenty of the world's finest singers have given this song their best go. Some have succeeded with flying colors, while others have failed and it's nearly cost them their careers. Including you in the shower, we're sure. While Heart arguably did their best, they didn't do it first. The original band was i-Ten in 1983.
The song flew pretty much under the radar until Heart released their cover in 1987, topping the charts in both Canada and the US. Since then, singers like Alyssa Reid and Celine Dion have also released their own versions, but none have been quite as successful as Heart's.
"Make You Feel My Love" - Adele
The stats of this song are just crazy. At first, we thought it was a regular old Adele song, but then we learned it was a cover; interesting! Then we learned it was written by Bob Dylan and first performed by Billy Joel; crazy! Then we found out it's been covered by more than *450* artists!
Maybe we have just been living under a rock, and everybody already knew this, but we hope not. Anyway, after all that, it is pretty impressive that the song is so strongly associated with just Adele. What a queen. And to be fair, she hasn't done that many covers, so we'll give her this one.
"No More I Love Yous" - Annie Lennox
"No More I Love Yous" was an international hit for Annie Lennox when she released it in 1995. Lennox achieved success both as one half of the Eurythmics and as a solo performer. In this case, her song earned her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, making her the first British artist ever to receive this honor.
Lennox wanted to give the song another chance as she felt the original didn't get the reception it deserved. The original artists were a group called The Lover Speaks, and they released the song back in 1986. The original version just never charted, but Lennox made sure to change that.
"What's Love Got to Do With It" - Tina Turner
For this song, you (yes, you!) get to be the judge if this is a true cover or not. See, the first recording artist was a group called Bucks Fizz in 1984, just a few months before Tina Turner recorded her version. However, Turner ended up releasing her version first, so Bucks Fizz ended up postponing their release all the way til 2000.
So, dear reader, does a song become a cover only when the cover artist *releases* it after another artist or as soon as they aren't the first to *record* it? We are not entirely sure what our answer is either. Food for thought though.
"Don't Cha" - The Pussycat Dolls
If it were not for office politics, "Don't Cha" might have had a very different life. The song was originally released by Tori Alamaze in 2004. While the critics were overall impressed, the track's commercial success was stifled because of Alamaze butting heads with her record company.
The end result was that Alamaze's version just never really got the chance to make it. The Pussycat Dolls covered it that year and released it in 2005 on their debut album. The PCD version was instantly a hit, achieving the heights that Alamaze might have, had she been given a fair shot.
"When You Say Nothing at All" - Ronan Keating
"When You Say Nothing At All" was the debut single for Ronan Keating in 1999 and is maybe still his most memorable song today, at least as a solo artist. The song became a number-one hit for Keating, and people often only think of him when they think of the song.
Truth is, however, that the track was first released back in 1988 by Keith Whitley, who actually also had a pretty good go of things on the charts. Whitley, unfortunately, passed away while the song was still successful, so he never truly saw the full fruit of his labors.
"You Got the Love" - Florence + The Machine
This is one of those rare occasions when a rock band made a cover of a dance record and it ended up becoming even bigger. This dance hit was a perfect fit for Florence + The Machine's soulful club sound, and this undoubtedly aided in the song's success in 2009.
However, the song had already existed for almost 25 years, first released in 1986 by The Source featuring Candi Station. The original version had to go through a couple of remixes to reach success, unlike Florence + The Machine's rendition, which ticked all the boxes for commercial success straight away.
"Untouchable" - Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift is known for writing virtually all of her own songs, so it's surprising to learn when she covers another artist. In this case, "Untouchable" was originally released by Luna Halo, a rock band, in 2007.
Now, if you're anything like us Swifties, or if you've even just heard Swift's 2008 version, you're probably stunned to hear that this was a rock song, given that Swift's rendition sounds more like a lullaby. Luna Halo was pretty surprised, too, and didn't even recognize it at first. Still, this was Taylor Swift covering their song, so they didn't hold any grudges.
"Girl With One Eye" - Florence + The Machine
It seems that Florence + The Machine have enjoyed making their fair share of covers over the years. This track is for sure also a cover — Florence Welch proudly admits to that — but with an interesting twist in that the original song was never formally recorded or released. The original artist was The Ludes, a band whom Welch was close with.
The Ludes wrote and performed the song at their gigs, and Florence would often join in. After some time, she got permission to record it herself and released it on her 2009 album, "Lungs." And the rest is history.
"It's All Coming Back to Me Now" - Celine Dion
Celine Dion has done her fair share of covers over the years, and this is right up there with the very best. Arguably one of the most famous and dramatic love songs ever, "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" was popularized by Celine Dion in 1996. However, the song had already been released almost a decade prior, in 1989, by Pandora's Box.
The original version received a mixed critical response, and commercially it did not really register either. When Dion released it, however, the reception was quite outstanding, with Andrew Lloyd Webber calling it "the record of the millennium."
"Nothing Compares 2 U" - Sinead O'Connor
There might not be a song more worthy of being included on this list than Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U." The Irish singer was the biggest singer in the world (for like five minutes) after releasing this classic ballad in 1990. But it turns out that the late Prince actually wrote the song five years before.
Also, the band The Family recorded the song for their self-titled album. Unlike the original, which simply stayed on the album and wasn't even released as a single, Sinead's version reached #1 in the charts and sold 1 million US copies. It turns out though that Prince didn't even like the cover, resulting in a fiery conflict between the two.
"Hallelujah" - Jeff Buckley
Sure, there are plenty of people out there who know well enough that Leonard Cohen was the man responsible for the beautiful song "Hallelujah." The Canadian singer wrote the song back in 1984. And John Cale gave a sweeping rendition of the song in a Cohen tribute album.
However, many music listeners would have first heard the lyrics to this song being sung by the angelic voice of the late, great Jeff Buckley 10 years later. Since then, the song has been covered many times by a variety of artists, most notably probably by Leona Lewis. There has never been a song quite like it.
"The Man Who Sold the World" - Nirvana
Many will agree that Nirvana's performance of "The Man Who Sold the World" on their iconic 1994 "MTV's Unplugged" session shed some new light on Kurt Cobain's raw ability to pull at listeners' heartstrings with his emotional, pain-ridden vocals.
But many casual music fans were unaware at the time that the grunge legends' song was actually a cover of a David Bowie classic. In fact, it was also the name of the late Englishman's third studio album. The shift in the tone of Nirvana's cover certainly shows how bands from relatively different genres can still reimagine songs in such creative ways.
"Hurt" - Johnny Cash
This might be the most unique cover on this list. And yet, when listeners around the world were first blessed with Johnny Cash's single "Hurt," they would be shocked to learn that it was actually Nine Inch Nails who originally recorded the song back in the '90s.
And when you listen to one version after the other, it is like night and day. While Trent Reznor's original is dark, eery, and disturbing, Cash put his unique twist on the song, making it more reflective, somber, and emotional in tone. What added to the somberness of Cash's rendition was that he would pass away just seven months later.
"Renegades of Funk" - Rage Against the Machine
While there is no denying that Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name Of" is their most famous hit, their hit single "Renegades of Funk" was warmly welcomed by diehard fans and casual listeners alike. The song's homage to all things rebellious in the name of change and through the eyes of Hip-Hop was a unique message to be told by a rock band.
But it makes more sense when you realize that Rage's song was, in fact, a cover of an '80s song by hip-hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force. For the most part, the lyrics are the same, and the message is the same, but Rage's version is a lot more... How can we put it? Rageful.
"Drift Away" - Uncle Kracker
Uncle Kracker really was the talk of the town during the early '00s. This singer put a modern, poppy spin on the country genre, having hits such as "Follow Me" and "Yeah Yeah Yeah." And while his song "Drift Away" reached number one on the US Adult Contemporary charts, listeners were shocked to discover that it was just one of many renditions of the song.
Probably the most noteworthy version that people can trace back to was Dobie Gray's soul version from the '70s. But heck, even Michael Bolton recorded his own version of the song, albeit not being as successful as Uncle Kracker's single.
"Superstition" - Stevie Wonder
Did you know that "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder might not actually be his song? Sure, he made it one of the iconic soul records of the '70s. And by all accounts, he probably wrote it. But before the musical genius brought this powerful tune onto the soundwaves, he was working with Jeff Beck, who was starting his own supergroup Beck, Bogert & Appice.
While Wonder ended up releasing the song in 1972, it soon came to light that the rock band had recorded their own version a year later. And yet, some argue that the "cover" was actually made first. It just wasn't released until after Stevie's version. The debate keeps going on until this very day.
"The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)" - Judas Priest
When you make a cover that ends up being more famous and beloved than an original by Fleetwood Mac, you know you're doing something right. That's exactly what happened to Judas Priest when they made a heavy metal cover of "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)" in 1979.
What's amazing though is that a lot of fans had no idea that Fleetwood Mac had recorded the original about the decade before. Heck, it even got released as a single. According to "PopMatters:" "[It] succeeded in such a way that the Priest version is now far more famous than the original. They make it their own, accelerating the pace just enough."
"China Girl" by David Bowie
This example is a little different from others on this list. This is mainly because the two artists involved actually co-wrote the song together. Iggy Pop and David Bowie penned the classic song "China Girl" in 1977 and it was initially recorded to feature on Pop's album "The Idiot."
But fast forward about half a decade later, and Bowie decided to create his own rendition of the song. This version is most certainly the more famous of the two and ended up receiving widespread acclaim around the world. Retrospectively though, many music lovers would say that Pop's version is as good, if not better, than Bowie's.
"Go West" by Pet Shop Boys
One of Pet Shop Boys' biggest songs is most certainly the 1993 hit "Go West." This catchy anthem did really well in the charts, reaching number one in five different countries, including the US Dance Club Songs. But it's easy to forget that it was the Village People who made the original "Go West" back in the late '70s.
Both songs had a pretty similar tone, emulating the melody of the Russian national anthem. But while Village People's version was more a traditional disco record, Pet Shop Boys put their trademark electro spin on the song, turning it into a club classic of the '90s.
"Don't Turn Around" - Ace of Base
The Ace of Base had a unique sound, to say the very least. With hits such as "All That She Wants" and "The Sign" to their name, fans were delighted when they released "Don't Turn Around" into the world. And it did pretty well in the charts too. But if you start digging in the crates, you'll find that the song has actually been covered quite a few times.
And its original wasn't even particularly successful. It was the B-side to the single "Typical Male" by Tina Turner, of all people. And if you listen to both versions back-to-back, they sound like completely different songs. There is no denying though that Ace of Base's version is the most successful of them all.
"Turn! Turn! Turn!" - The Byrds
Around the time of the Vietnam War, the song "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by folk rock band The Byrds struck a chord with a lot of people, with many resonating with the song's lyrics about peace and tolerance. But did you know that the band from California actually took the lyrics from an old folk song? Yes, Pete Seeger actually wrote the original back in the '50s.
And people familiar with The Bible will also recognize the lyrics, as Seeger had been directly inspired by passages from the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. And yet, The Byrds' cover made the song a commercial success. The Byrds' trademark sound took the song to a whole new level, in comparison to Seeger's more laid-back original.
"I Got My Mind Set on You" - George Harrison
When fans of George Harrison first heard his single "I Got My Mind Set on You" back in the '80s, they must have been taken aback. The ex-Beatles man delivered a sound that he hadn't been previously associated with. But truth be told, it wasn't even his song.
James Ray originally recorded the song back in 1962, delivering soothing vocals over a traditionally soulful instrumental that one would come to expect from his style. On the other hand, Harrison's cover a few decades later was just as optimistic in tone but was more in line with more typical pop-rock hits of the '80s.
"It Must Be Love" - Madness
Madness were, by all accounts, all the rage back in the '80s. They were responsible for bringing ska music to the masses, at least in the UK. Their song "It Must Be Love" clearly demonstrated what Suggs and the rest were capable of and it ended up reaching number 4 in the UK charts.
And commercially speaking, it performed even better than the original version of the song, which was recorded by the legendary soul artist Labi Siffre 10 years prior. While Madness's version carries the traditional ska beats that one would expect from one of their songs, Siffre's original is much more soulful in tone.
"Heartbeats" - Jose Gonzalez
There is no denying that Jose Gonzalez has a unique sound all unto himself. The Swedish musician is regarded by many as the king of modern acoustic rock. His keynote song "Heartbeats" perfectly encapsulates this. But did you know that the song wasn't even originally his?
Just a couple of years beforehand, fellow Swedish music group The Knife made the original version of the song. And boy, it sounds completely different. Sure, the lyrics are the same and the melody is still there, but it is an electro-pop song that is actually pretty catchy. Gonzalez brought an emotional weight to the song with his cover.
"Mad World" - Gary Jules
When the trippy film "Donnie Darko" made its way into the theater at the turn of the millennium, many people couldn't get their heads around it. But the song "Mad World," which made its way onto the movie's soundtrack was a huge hit and put Gary Jules on the map, albeit for a brief period of time.
But many younger listeners had no idea that it was British rock band Tears for Fears who made the original "Mad World" back in the 80s. Unlike the lowkey cover, the original is much more vibrant and plays more into the "mad" themes of the lyrics.
"Cruisin" - D'Angelo
At one point, there was no telling what D'Angelo couldn't accomplish. This guy was at the forefront of neo-soul during the late '90s and his two albums "Brown Sugar" and "Voodoo" were huge hits, both commercially and critically. On the former, his song "Cruisin" was popular on the radio and even had a music video.
And yet, many don't realize that it was Smokey Robinson who recorded the song back in the '70s. There really isn't much difference between the two versions. And truth be told, both singles didn't finish that high up the charts. But D'Angelo's version definitely sent a lot of casual listeners down the Motown rabbit hole, that's for sure.
"Dead Souls" - Nine Inch Nails
The soundtrack for 1994's "The Crow" included some pretty special songs, most notably "Dead Souls" by Nine Inch Nails. The sound really worked well with the gritty, gothic feel of the movie. And yet, moviegoers were quick to forget that this cool song was actually a cover of a song by the '80s new wave band Joy Division.
The band's bassist Peter Hook even commented on the eventual cult classic. "I like the band a lot, but they did the song very faithfully (...) A lot of the time when I hear it, I think it's us. That's a great compliment from Trent [Reznor]."
"Always on My Mind" - Pet Shop Boys
It's wild to think that the Pet Shop Boys arguably had more success with a song that Elvis once recorded. The British electro-pop band released the song "Always on My Mind" in 1987, 15 years after the "Hound Dog" crooner put his own rendition on the airwaves.
While both versions sound very different, they both stand on their own as enjoyable listens. What's ironic is that Elvis's version is also a cover. While Gwen McRae and Brenda Lee had already released versions of the song in 1972, it was the King of Pop who actually had some success when he recorded his own.