The Top 100 Cover Songs

Top 100 Cover Songs

top 100 cover songs Ben Folds40. Ben Folds, “Bitches Ain’t Shit” (2005)

Originally released by Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg & Dat Nigga Daz, 1992

Just seeing those five words together makes me crack up: “Ben Folds, ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit.’” There’s no way this should work, let alone has for almost two decades. It not only does, it surpasses the original. If Weezer can take a trip back to the Motherland, Ben can cover “No Vaseline” before the decade closes out. – Butch Rosser


top 100 cover songs Cat Power39. Cat Power, “I Found a Reason” (2000)

Originally released by The Velvet Underground, 1970

Lou Reed was a misogynistic abuser of women who skated by on a persona of detached nihilism. For these reasons and more, “I Found a Reason” doesn’t deserve to belong to him. Chan Marshall, on the other hand, is a graceful poet. Her cover of the track removes all the hypocritical irony of the original and replaces it with earnestness. – Wesley Whitacre


top 100 cover songs Chance the Rapper38. Chance the Rapper & The Social Experiment, “Wonderful Everyday” (2014)

Originally released by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, 1996

Chance the Rapper’s team-up with his pals The Social Experiment to cover the theme song for the PBS cartoon Arthur is one of those rare nostalgic recreations that transcends the source material—turning the simple, reggae singalong of Ziggy Marley’s original “Believe in Yourself” into a gorgeous soul tune that slowly, beautifully unfurls into something far from two-dimensional. – Sam Prickett


37-fnm37. Faith No More, “Easy” (1992)

Originally released by The Commodores, 1977

At the time, it must have shocked MTV’s Headbangers Ball and 120 Minutes crowds that Faith No More so convincingly embraced R&B in the shadow of their arty alt-metal on Angel Dust. Not just any R&B, mind you, but a song forming a DMZ between the classic balladry of a great soul group and Lionel Richie’s oft-cheesy work as their breakaway soloist. But with FNM’s instrumental skill, and watching how Mike Patton’s mercenary vocal career has played out, in retrospect their straightforward rendition is really no surprise. – Adam Blyweiss


36-ocean36. Frank Ocean, “Moon River” (2018)

Originally released in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961

Frank released his version of “Moon River” on Valentine’s Day, a gesture not lost on this lover. With his 2016 masterpiece Blonde, Ocean discovered his knack for finding beauty in ambient space and he continues the trend here, transforming the Henry Mancini classic into a pensive ballad. Like its titular outer space ravine, “Moon River” flows with gravitational pull. – Wesley Whitacre


beach-boys-pet-sounds35. The Beach Boys, “Sloop John B” (1966)

Originally recorded by Cleveland Simmons Group, 1935

“Sloop John B” sometimes unfairly gets cast aside as a bottom-tier track on Pet Sounds (along with the instrumentals). But even if that’s true, it’s a bit like being the lowest GPA on the honor roll or the lowest-scoring player on the all-star team. A traditional Bahamian song given a folk-scene boost by The Kingston Trio, “Sloop John B” is an account of a sailing trip gone horribly wrong but narrated with a sort of sad-sack charm. When arranged by Brian Wilson, that no-good very-bad maritime disaster becomes attached to the depression and angst that fueled so many of the album’s best songs, less an account of fighting the elements or human nature as it is the narrator’s inability to escape his own hurt in spite of the escape attempt. – Jeff Terich


34-ewf34. Earth Wind & Fire, “Got to Get You Into My Life” (1978)

Originally released by The Beatles, 1966

Literally the only great thing about the 1978 movie musical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was EWF’s reworking of one of The Beatles’ most R&B-influenced songs. A little more than a decade after the Motown-stomp original, Maurice White rebuilt almost everything except the main melody line. Fitted with a fast-paced stroll rhythm, the spiky EWF horns and a great intro, White’s version was the only song on the soundtrack to defy Beatles purism and win. – Paul Pearson


top 100 cover songs Otis Redding33. Otis Redding, “Try a Little Tenderness” (1966)

Originally released by Ray Noble and His Orchestra, 1932

Nobody but Redding could have turned the syrupy sentiment of this 1930s standard into a defiant challenge of traditional masculinity. It’s also great R&B drama, starting off as a calm diagnosis that builds slowly over rimshots and organ, before Redding finally (and, ironically, not so tenderly) turns it into a convincing piece of revival-tent passion. – Paul Pearson


32-nirvana32. Nirvana, “The Man Who Sold the World” (1994)

Originally released by David Bowie, 1970

A cover is only as good as its delivery, and Kurt Cobain thankfully graced our ears with his version of this track before his untimely death. Recorded for MTV Unplugged, Cobain gave new meaning to Bowie’s song, imbuing the melody with an eerie feel, the lyrics leaving an uneasy air. More importantly, Nirvana’s performance brought David Bowie to a whole new crowd. – Virginia Croft


Isaac Hayes albums that begin with a cover31. Isaac Hayes, “Walk On By” (1969)

Originally released by Dionne Warwick, 1963

The Burt Bacharach songbook is solid enough that even mediocre versions of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” are still going to end up sounding pretty good. But no Bacharach original ever ended up so twisted or psychedelic as when Isaac Hayes got his hands on “Walk On By.” Taking Dionne Warwick’s hit version and adding nine more minutes, some eerie backup vocalists, a dramatic string arrangement and a guitar riff fit for an action film, Hayes takes this slice of mid-’60s pop and transforms it into a psychedelic soul epic. It’s the coolest and weirdest a Brill Building standard ever sounded. – Jeff Terich

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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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