The Top 100 Cover Songs

Top 100 Cover Songs

60-gonzalez60. Jose Gonzalez, “Heartbeats” (2003)

Originally released by The Knife, 2002

Acoustic covers sometimes have more impact than other types because they’re barer: you got something to say, a guitar to say it with, fin. By peeling The Knife’s propulsive breakout single away from the synths that made it, Gonzalez beautifully focused in on the low heartbreak the song found after a giddy high love and made something completely different but equally arresting. – Butch Rosser


59-seu-jorge59. Seu Jorge, “Life on Mars” (2004)

Originally released by David Bowie, 1971

Bowie’s mutability makes him an easy target for covers, but this one comes Bowie-approved. Jorge’s use of his native Portuguese asserts ownership right away, and his arrangement strips the original of its pomp, leaving only its improbably soaring melody and its sense of wonder. Perfect lion-shark discovery music. – Ben Dickerson


58-pumpkins58. Smashing Pumpkins, “Landslide” (1994)

Originally released by Fleetwood Mac, 1975

As if the original version of “Landslide” wasn’t sad enough, Smashing Pumpkins managed to make it even more grey and bleak, including it as a B-side to their 1994 single “Disarm.” For a cover, this went on to be one of Smashing Pumpkins’ most beloved songs, even earning approval from Stevie Nicks herself. – Virginia Croft


57-hot-chip57. Hot Chip, “Dancing in the Dark” (2015)

Originally released by Bruce Springsteen, 1984, and LCD Soundsystem, 2007

In this 2015 cover, Hot Chip give Springsteen’s classic a conclusive push into the sleazy disco it was always meant to be, draping it in itchy, jittery synths and stitching it into the exhilaration of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”—a welcome answer to the doubt of the original. – Ben Dickerson


56-johnson56. The Brothers Johnson, “Strawberry Letter 23” (1977)

Originally released by Shuggie Otis, 1971

In the hands of its original author, the great psychedelic prophet Shuggie Otis, “Strawberry Letter 23” was a mysterious folk song begging to be understood and expanded. George and Louis Johnson were happy to oblige and their version lives on as a classic of fruit-scented passion, complete with a bassline so funky George Clinton would be proud. – Wesley Whitacre


55-dick-dale55. Dick Dale, “Miserlou” (1962)

Originally released by Tetos Demetriades, 1927

In 1962, the “King of the Surf Guitar” Dick Dale popularized this Eastern Mediterranean melody after a bet with a fan. Dale won the bet by playing a song using only one string, simultaneously forging the origins of surf rock and decades of movie royalty payouts. The cover is inescapable and has become timeless, but its ability to pay homage to Eastern tradition through Western reinterpretation is what sets it apart from any other cover on this list. – Patrick Pilch


Beach House Devotion54. Beach House, “Some Things Last a Long Time” (2008)

Originally released by Daniel Johnston, 1990

With a handful of excellent renditions to choose from, settling on Beach House’s cover of “Some Things Last a Long Time” for our list was quite conflicting. Though difficult to surpass the emotional potency of Johnston’s most stirring 1990 cut, the Baltimore duo’s rendition from their sophomore LP Devotion is the closest we’ll get. Victoria Legrand’s sultry baritone vocals contrast Johnston’s childlike croon, weaving Beach House’s clearly conceived aesthetic into this tastefully abridged rework. – Patrick Pilch


53-placebo53. Placebo, “Running Up That Hill” (2003)

Originally released by Kate Bush, 1985

Both the Kate Bush and Placebo versions of this track are inexorable earworms in their own right—Bush in the dance-clubby artpop way, Placebo in a haunted piano, thrumming undercurrent, devilish chanting sort of way (“Come on darling/Let’s exchange the experience”). I suppose one could argue the presence of a demonic figure at the end of Bush’s version, based on the studio vocal effects. Regardless, Kate Bush and Placebo are great and the world is richer for both of these songs. – Paula Chew


top 100 cover songs Nina Simone52. Nina Simone, “I Put a Spell on You” (1965)

Originally released by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, 1956

“I Put a Spell on You” has been covered hundreds of times by different artists, and Nina Simone’s is patently the best. She turns a brazen shock record into something smooth, layered, and romantic with her quintessentially impeccable vocal work. And make no mistake: it’s just as influential and forceful as the original. – Paula Chew


Elephant-Album-Cover-the-white-stripes-1019841_600_60051. The White Stripes, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” (2003)

Originally released by Tommy Hunt, 1962

One of the standout features of the Dusty Springfield version of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” is the elevation of the instrumentation along with Springfield’s voice during the bridge. That was how dynamics were generated in mid-‘60s pop music. With the advent of ‘90s rock, however, it was all done with guitars and cymbals and fuzz boxes, matched with controlled screaming. That’s how The White Stripes tackled it on Elephant, and it fit right in with all the rest of the numbers on that landmark album. – Chad Gorn

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View Comments (15)
  • 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” (https://www.1001covers.com.br). 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:
    https://open.spotify.com/user/ilianna1968/playlist/1tPKceB51kdKggU0TzHQoo?si=fEHYX9X8Q3arWrMB2iF-Hw

    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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