15 Best Cover Songs of All Time

Videos by American Songwriter

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ELVIS PRESLEY, “HOUND DOG”: Written by songwriting team and future Brill Building alumni Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, “Hound Dog” first garnered fame through a performance by Big Mama Thornton, whose version was a bawdy and rowdy R&B track rife with sexual innuendo. After hearing it performed by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, however, Elvis Presley recorded his own version (using Bells’ altered lyrics), released as a B-side to “Don’t Be Cruel.” After it became a hit, however, the single was re-released with the A- and B-sides flipped.


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  1. Lots of excellent choices here, in the original list and in the comments. I’d nominate Emmylou Harris’s version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.” (And re. Hallelujah — I’ve always preferred Cohen’s understated original, but whatever version you prefer, plesae, I beg you, don’t add any more — let the poor song be.)

  2. I’ve got to say I love the covers that Cassandra Wilson has done; “Hellhound On My Trail” (Robert Johnson), “Death Letter” (Son House), “Harvest Moon” (Neil Young), “Tupelo Honey” (Van Morrison), “Last Train to Clarksville”, “If Loving You is Wrong”, just to name a few.

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