15 Best Cover Songs of All Time

JEFF BUCKLEY, “HALLELUJAH”:
When Leonard Cohen wrote “Hallelujah,” he apparently drew up 80 verses, and edited down from there. But for a song so labored over, it wasn’t exactly an instant classic. Buried on 1984’s Various Positions, it was neither much of a critical or commercial success, but over time it grew to be a cult favorite, having been covered by more than 300 artists. The most notable is Jeff Buckley’s, a version that’s both more emotionally gripping and more stripped down. Buckley’s voice is vastly different than Cohen’s, hitting higher registers and showing off a more dynamic range, and his version led to countless other covers, including those of American Idol contestants. Ten years after Buckley’s death, the song was released as a single and ended up a number-one selling song on iTunes after its re-release.

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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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