15 Best Cover Songs of All Time

Otis Redding’s “Respect” already had a lot going for it when it was released in 1965, even if “respect” as a euphemism for sex seems quaint by today’s standards. But when Aretha Franklin recorded the song, she completely redefined it, her version — though mostly unchanged — depicts a strong woman who does, indeed, demand respect from her man. Additionally, Franklin added the famous “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” line, which more or less made it the definitive version. It spent eight weeks on the Billboard pop chart, but more importantly, became an anthem for gender equality.


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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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