15 Best Cover Songs of All Time

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26 COMMENTS

  1. I’d say Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” so sublimely recorded by Concrete Blonde for the ‘Pump Up the Volume’ soundtrack deserves to be on this list. David Gray’s cover of Marc Almond’s “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” is also wonderfully done.

  2. Buckley’s Hallelujah isn’t a patch on John Cale’s which predates and probably led to Buckley’s version.

  3. Nirvana’s arrangement of “Where Did You Sleep..” was taken directly from one done slightly earlier by their good friend Mark Lanegan. Cobain sang backing vocals on Lanegan’s version, which is what led them to do it on “Unplugged”.

  4. I just listened to it, and disagree whole-heartedly; not even close to Buckley. Buckley’s version of this song is IT. No one else need cover it ever again.

  5. What I think Buckley takes from and understands about Cale’s version, and what pretty much every cover since fails to understand, is that just because the song is called Hallelujah it is not a hymn.
    It is in fact an anti hymn, the Hallelujah is ironic it is after all ‘Cold and Broken.’
    Cale covered it twice before Buckley, a studio Version on a Cohen cover album, and a live version (my personal favorite) on Fragments of a Rainy Season.
    Cale version is based more on his own interruption of the lyrics over the original song.
    As such Buckley was basically covering Cale’s cover. Buckley’s vocal is defined by Cale’s. They are separated only by the fact that Cale plays it on a piano and Buckley plays it on a guitar.
    Whilst it is Buckley’s version that has made the song famous and led to the numerous covers.
    Jeff’s untimely death has led to the numerous covers of the song focusing on the word ‘Hallelujah’ over the other lyrics and leading to it being sung, wrongly, as a gospel song.
    So Cale really deserves the credit for dragging an obscure Leonard Cohen album track into the light and making it a thing of bueaty.

  6. I’m surprised Whitney’s hit version of “I Will Always Love You” isn’t on this list. I bet a lot of younger people don’t even know it’s originally by Dolly Parton.

  7. Everyone is going to want to get cute and point out obscure covers that prove how hip they are, but there are two giants missing that can’t be overlooked: “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” – Elvis Costello’s cover of his producer Nick Lowe’s song; and “I Love Rock and Roll”, which Joan Jett covered from the Arrows’ original.

  8. Walk Off The Earth……I love all of their ‘covers’. ‘Royals’, ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’, ‘Wrecking Ball’……And their original stuff is pretty impressive also. Impossible to watch their videos only 2 or 3 times each…….They’re just TOO awesome to look at.

  9. 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.)

  10. 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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