The Top 100 Cover Songs

Top 100 Cover Songs

top 100 cover songs Lorde70. Lorde, “Swingin Party” (2013)

Originally released by The Replacements, 1985

Lorde was 16 when her cover version of The Replacements’ “Swingin Party” was released as a B-side to her Pure Heroine single “Tennis Court.” Paul Westerberg was about 10 years older when The Replacements originally released the song, and his lyrics—about drinking to cope with stage fright—resonate even more when coming from an artist who was playing much larger crowds before she could even legally order a drink. – Sam Prickett

Willie Nelson top 100 covers69. Willie Nelson, “Georgia on My Mind” (1978)

Originally released by Hoagy Carmichael, 1930

I know that for most people, this song (written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael) belongs to Ray Charles. And that’s fine! His version’s incredible. But I have an affection for this warm, languid version from Willie’s Stardust. Booker T.’s jazz organ and Willie’s sleepy-eyed delivery turn “Georgia” into a swooning lullaby, all moonlight and starry skies. – Ben Dickerson

68-bon-iver68. Bon Iver, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (2011)

Originally released by Bonnie Raitt, 1991 and 1989

To be direct: Bonnie Raitt’s original “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a stone-cold classic. Still, Justin Vernon’s cover is a revelation; limiting the song to his earthy falsetto and a grand piano makes the pain and resignation of the original all the more resonant. Adding “Nick of Time” at the end makes it plain, too, that this is a tribute as much as a cover. – Ben Dickerson

David Bowie Station to Station67. David Bowie, “Wild is the Wind” (1976)

Originally released by Johnny Mathis, 1957

The image of Station to Station-era Bowie—strung out on cocaine and hot peppers and vamping as the fascist-sympathizing Thin White Duke—seems almost incompatible with his music from that era, which he had claimed not to remember recording. “Wild is the Wind,” in a way, is The Thin White Duke betraying himself, falling headlong into the passion he’d claimed to reject. If Bowie started Station to Station claiming to throw darts in lovers’ eyes—well, by the end of the album, he might want to check his own eyes. – Sam Prickett

66-ike-tina66. Ike and Tina Turner, “Proud Mary” (1970)

Originally released by Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969

I was in high school before I found out this was a cover, and it wasn’t as if I was wholly unfamiliar with CCR when I did. In my parents’ house, however, there was only this version, and on this we had one of the few things we could agree on. Eat the cake, John Fogerty. – Butch Rosser

top 100 cover songs Saint Etienne65. Saint Etienne, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (1990)

Originally released by Neil Young, 1970

When your source material comes from the guts of one of the great album trifectas of all time, it’s pretty hard even for young’uns to mess up a cover. The London trio’s debut single looped rave percussion, uptempo treated piano, and original vocalist Moira Lambert around the slowly swaying folk balladry of Young’s After the Gold Rush. And that was some debut: Saint Etienne haven’t had another hit on that worldwide level since. – Adam Blyweiss

top 100 cover songs Mark Ronson64. Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse, “Valerie” (2007)

Originally released by The Zutons, 2006

Apparently, The Zutons are mad no one knows their original, but this one’s just plain better. Mark Ronson gets Questlove to crib the “Lust for Life” drumbeat and enlists an army of brass players, Winehouse slurs her inimitable, smoke-ringed alto all over the song, and a new soul standard is born from the burnt ashes of Britpop. – Ben Dickerson

Nick Cave albums Murder Ballads63. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Stagger Lee” (1996)

Originally released by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, 1923

The legend of “Stag” Lee Shelton and his murder of Billy Lyons is one that’s informed five or six generations of popular music, from Mississippi John Hurt’s definitive blues telling to The Clash’s own rewrite in “Wrong ‘Em Boyo.” Naturally, when Nick Cave gets hold of the song, he offers a new, foul-mouthed, homoerotic, predatory twist on the gunslinger tale. On The Bad Seeds’ 1996 album Murder Ballads, it’s a noise-funk highlight, but in a live setting it’s an extended vamp fit for audience participation. If Cave should happen to lock eyes with you, things are going to get weird… said Mr. Stagger Lee. – Jeff Terich

top 100 cover songs The Specials62. The Specials, “A Message to You, Rudy” (1979)

Originally released by Dandy Livingstone, 1967

The Specials owe their career to Trojan Records so it makes perfect sense that one of their most beloved hits was originally released on the legendary London-based label. Like all great covers, “Rudy” pays tribute to the original while also furthering its conversation. Ska royalty Rico Rodriguez features prominently on both versions, tracing the lineage of Jamaica’s great influence on English music back to its roots. – Wesley Whitacre

top 100 cover songs Bauhaus61. Bauhaus, “Ziggy Stardust” (1982)

Originally released by David Bowie, 1972

Godfathers of goth, Bauhaus, were unafraid to pay tribute to their influences in hopes of graduating to peers. In 1982, they recorded the Bowie hit and released it as a single with a cover of Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle” as the B-side. In both cases, Peter Murphy et al. rocked it up, but stayed true enough to the original as if to prove to the world, “See? We can do that, too!” – Chad Gorn

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  • Congratulations to this compilation. It’s one of the best list that has been made ever. Thank you for posting it. We love covers and we have a blog in Portuguese called “1001 Covers” ( We have never thought Sloop John B is actually an adaptation of traditional song. Thanks again!

  • Are you serious? Willy Nelson’s Georgia on My Mind over Ray Charles
    version? Yeah Right

    Speaking of Ray Charles, in 1962 he made an album called “Modern Sounds
    of Country Music” This album was a masterpiece and should be part of
    anyone that knows and loves music’s collection.

    From that album was Ray’s cover of the Don Gibson song “I Can’t Stop
    Loving You.” Ray’s arrangement of that tune, which was the
    flip side of Gibson’s hit “Oh Lonesome Me” stood atop the Pop, R&B
    and Country Chart’s for most of the Summer of 1962, and was the
    #2 song on the Billboard Chart for that entire year.

    That’s why they called Ray “The Genius”. He took a tune and totally
    transformed it into something better and made it his own way
    before Buckley, Hendrix and Cash did, and it reached a wider
    array of audiences than them. He did it first and better than anyone.

    How a can you have a Top 100 Cover list without Ray Charles?
    Your panel put a lot of time and effort into this list, but missed
    the boat by omitting Brother Ray.

    Speaking of cover songs. Another gem by Don Gibson “Sweet Dreams”
    lent itself well as a cover. First by the great Patsy Cline, then the guitar
    Instrumental by Roy Buchanon from “The Departed.” And if you
    really are a conniseur of great covers check out the R &B version
    by Mighty Sam McClain. That’s 3 diverse great covers of one tune.

    Nobody is a bigger Beatles fan than me, and from everything I’ve read
    “Yesterday” is the most covered song by the most artists of all time.
    With that said I never heard 3 versions as diverse and great as the
    above mentioned versions of Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams”.

    You guys are good, but you got a long ways to go to be great.

    • I’m surprised they didn’t put maxwells version of Kate bush’s song a woman’s work. Instead they put running up that hill by Kate Bush covered by placebo. I also thought the same thing about not putting Ray Charles version up. Another cover that’s awesome is Leone Russell’s a song for you just about everyone’s covered it Ray Charles, Michael buble, R. Kell, willie Nelson etc etc. But the best cover of that song is Donny Hathaway blows it out the water. But yea this list is a little suspect if you ask me.

  • Adding to my previous reply, I want to suggest some really (IMO) good covers that deserve a place amongst the 100 best ones…
    My way (Frank Sinatra covering the Claude Francois song)
    Beyond the sea (Bobby Darin covering the Charles Trenet song)
    I got rhythm (the Gene Kelly version, after the original one in Girl Crazy)
    Gloria (the Doors cover of the THEM song)
    Only you (covered by Yazoo)
    Satisfaction (covered by Cat Power)
    Sea of love (covered by Cat Power)
    Big in Japan (covered by Ane Brun)
    Stand by me (covered by Florence and the machine)
    Caruso (the Lucio Dalla song covered by Sabina Sciubba)
    Llorando (Crying by Roy Orbison, covered by Rebekka Del Rio)
    Thank you (the Led Zeppelin song, covered by Lizz Wright)
    50 ways to leave your lover (covered by Tok Tok Tok)
    In a manner of speaking (covered by Nouvelle Vague)
    Everybody hurts (covered by The Corrs)
    I will survive (covered by the Puppini sisters)
    Because the night (covered by 10,000 maniacs)
    Piece of my heart (covered by Janis Joplin, but also by Beverley Knight)
    Me and Bobby McGee (covered by Janis Joplin)
    Tainted love (covered by Imelda May)
    You’re the one that I want (covered by Beautiful South)
    Don’t you worry ’bout a thing (covered by Incognito)
    Crazy (covered by Alanis Morissette)
    I got you babe (covered by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde)
    Spirit in the Sky (covered by Doctor and the medics)
    To love somebody (covered by Janis Joplin but also Lizz Wright)
    Oye como va (covered by Santana)
    Video killed the radio star (covered by the Buggles)
    Let’s stick toghether (covered by Brian Ferry)
    You can leave your hat on (covered by Joe Cocker)
    Suzie Q (covered by Greedence Clearwater Revival)
    California Dreamin’ (covered by Mamas and Papas)
    One step beyond (covered by Madness)
    It must be love (covered my Madness)
    Yeh yeh (covered by Matt Bianco)
    Superstition (covered by Stevie Ray Vaughan)
    She (Charles Aznavour song covered by Elvis Costello)

    And here is a playlist of songs that were made known by their cover versions, in their original version:

    Have fun !

  • Not true about I Heard It Through The Grapevine. The Miracles recorded the first version & Gaye the first cover. He pleaded with Berry Gordy to release it as a single but Gordy instead had Glady’s Knight & The Pips record it and release it as the first commercially available recording of the song

  • I don’t see the Fairy Godmother’s cover of “Holding Out for a Hero” from Shrek 2 and I’m kind of dissapointed.

  • Just glad Pet Shop Boys not on that list . I’ve seen it ranked no.1 on some lists , which is a crime in my eyes . Totally ruined a passionate love song , and turned it into an emotionless dirge . You know the song I mean .

  • I’m frankly shocked that absolutely no top lists have Elton John’s cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds on it. It’s a cover that Lennon himself said was better than the original. Was a top ten hit in the UK, and #1 in the US. Why is it so overlooked?

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