Cover songs are something special. They either have to be EXACTLY like the original, or do something so completely different as to make them almost something new. While this isn’t a comprehensive list, these are ten of my favorite song covers.
10. Hurt – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash performing a Nine Inch Nails song doesn’t seem like it would work on paper. But when you strip the song down to just Johnny, a piano, and a guitar, magic happens. A song that channels an old man at the end of his life, full of regret.
9. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now – Meat Loaf w/ Marion Raven
As much as I love Celene’s original, Meat Loaf’s operatic voice lifts this song past hers. The addition of Marion Raven also adds that duet element that Meat Loaf does so well, in addition to being able to better convey a nearly-visual story.
8. Mad World – Gary Jules
Gary Jules took a more upbeat Tears for Fears sad song… and made it even more sad. This song got a lot of traction thanks to the movie Donnie Darko.
7. Just Dance – Gary Go
Take a song about a happy drunk having an awesome time at a club, change the themes by changing the melody, and you get Gary Go’s cover of Lady Gaga’s Just Dance. Seriously, he turns Gaga’s club theme in a song about a lonely alcoholic, all without changing the lyrics.
6. With a Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker
I don’t want to rag on the Beatles here (In fact, I think Twist and Shout could easily make the list), but Joe Cocker’s version is superior. It’s more frantic, more desperate, and Cocker’s smokey rasp ties the song up in a nice little gift to your ears. It was also the theme song to one of the best television shows of all time, The Wonder Years.
5. The Man Who Sold the World – Nirvana
Kurt Cobain had a lot of respect for David Bowie, and I’ve always wondered if Kurt wished if he could just reinvent himself like Bowie could. Here, we have Cobain at his best. This was performed for MTV Unplugged, and the use of acoustics makes this song an instant classic.
4. Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis Presley
No disrespect to Carl Perkins, but let’s face it, when the King covers your song, you just can’t stand up to him.
3. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers
An outpouring of lyrical and tonal emotion, The Righteous Brothers take an amazing song and make it better. Want to get me to tear up? Put this on for me while I’m driving in the car, or making dinner, or really any time. Unchained Melody punches me right in the heart.
2. House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
Eric Burdon has the voice that I always wished I had: Deep-throated, bluesy, able to belt out higher notes nearly effortlessly. The organ and guitar riffs will get stuck in your head for days.
1. All Along the Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
I don’t think this even needs an introduction. Jimi worked nearly a year to get his version just perfect. And it shows.
Hey you. Yes you! That person who says that I missed some. You bet I did. There are too many good ones. Let me know in the comments what you think should be on this list, and maybe I can do a followup