15 Best Cover Songs of All Time

THE BYRDS, “MR. TAMBOURINE MAN”:
In the age of YouTube, it’s common for a song to be covered within weeks of its release, but in the 1960s, for The Byrds to release their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” just one month after the original hit shelves seemed like record time. WHen Dylan released the song, he had already been playing it live for about a year. As The Byrds’ debut single, however, “Mr. Tambourine Man” took on new life as a fuller, janglier pop song now widely regarded to have given birth to “folk rock.” Though its arrangements and vocal harmonies are more complex than the original, The Byrd’s version is much shorter, levaing in only one of four verses and fading out after only two minutes and change. It’s technically a cover, but The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” is an entirely different song than Dylan’s original.

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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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