15 Best Cover Songs of All Time

JOHNNY CASH, “HURT”: When Johnny Cash teamed up with Rick Rubin in the 1990s, he tried his hand at a number of covers of songs by Tom Petty, Beck, Nick Cave and U2, to name a few. But the unlikely recording of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” proved the most surprisingly poignant. Released just a year before Cash’s death, this version of “Hurt” provided new meaning to the original. Cash strips the song of its self-destructive angst and turns it into a song of reflection from an aging and frail artist. The video – juxtaposing images of a young Johnny Cash against images of a run-down Johnny Cash museum – provided an added layer, making it into a powerful statement about aging and death. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, for one, was moved by the song, stating, “That song isn’t mine anymore.”

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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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