The Top 100 Cover Songs

Top 100 Cover Songs

Dinosaur Jr. You're Living All Over Me review30. Dinosaur Jr., “Just Like Heaven” (1989)

Originally released by The Cure, 1987

Another classic case of a cover closer, Dinosaur Jr.’s rendition of “Just Like Heaven” concludes the Amherst trio’s acclaimed sophomore LP in stunningly abrupt fashion. The band’s heavier take contrasts The Cure’s pop-soaked goth-rock perfection, complete with a swooning, signature guitar solo from frontman J Mascis. For an album ceaselessly expressing admiration for an unrequited love, The Cure’s ultimate romantic offering is the perfect way to cap off You’re Living All Over Me. – Patrick Pilch


Bjork Post review29. Björk, “It’s Oh So Quiet” (1995)

Originally released by Horst (Harry) Winter, 1948

“It’s Oh So Quiet” is a bit of an outlier in Björk’s career, even among the songs on Post. With its big-band instrumentation and showy, Broadway emotionality, it’s one of the least austere moments in her entire discography. Despite being her biggest hit to date, it stands in stark contrast to the electronic exploration that came to define her next two decades. In fact, it’s the rare moment in her career where the word “fun” is an apt descriptor. – Sam Prickett


best Spoon songs Ga ga ga ga ga28. Spoon, “Don’t You Evah” (2007)

Originally recorded by The Natural History, 2004

Taking a stab at their version of not only the song but also the title, Spoon created a relaxed, beach-rock vibe on their rendition of The Natural History’s “Don’t You Ever.” The song was on the little New York band’s second album People That I Meet, and having their old touring mates Spoon perform it on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was part of a three-year process to get People That I Meet released to the public. That makes this a rare instance in our countdown where the cover was widely available first. – Virginia Croft


27-kennedys27. Dead Kennedys, “Viva Las Vegas” (1980)

Originally released by Elvis Presley, 1963

The great strength of this San Francisco band’s earliest and best punk was a healthy appreciation for satire. It takes skill upon skill, however, to change the tone of a song with little more than one modified lyric and teeth-gritting delivery. Jello Biafra and friends do just that, shifting Elvis’ bossa nova-inflected rock to a grimy garage commentary on the soul-sucking nature of the city itself, with Presley as its food-and-drug-addled avatar. – Adam Blyweiss


top 100 cover songs English Beat26. The English Beat, “Tears of a Clown” (1979)

Originally released by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, 1967

Stevie Wonder writing a song and giving it to Smokey Robinson to make something out of it in the late ’60s was about as sure as sure things get, but when The Beat came along in 1979 to pick it up it made weird sense, since the song originally gained popularity in the UK. The bouncier version just further underscores the sadness the lyrics originally put out. – Butch Rosser


top 100 cover songs REM25. R.E.M., “Superman” (1986)

Originally released by The Clique, 1969

R.E.M.’s few covers usually stuck to sources either relatively well-known (Roger Miller, Aerosmith) or immediately contemporary (Pylon) before they got shunted off to B-sides. The one time they flipped this script, however, they hit paydirt. This fully-formed cover of an old Houston band’s choppy pop B-side closes Life’s Rich Pageant, the song’s “And I can do anything” optimism repeated throughout an album confirming the band’s full confidence, at last, in their abilities. – Adam Blyweiss


top 100 cover songs Led Zeppelin24. Led Zeppelin, “When the Levee Breaks” (1971)

Originally released by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, 1929

“When the Levee Breaks” is arguably one of the most diversional covers on this list. After rewriting a few lyrics, drawing the length out by four minutes, and veering the tone darker and heavier, Led Zeppelin’s version barely resembles the original folksy blues by Memphis Minnie. It’s one of the most complex tracks on Led Zeppelin IV (which says quite a bit, as IV also contains “Black Dog” and, of course, “Stairway to Heaven”). Also, the opening drums are impeccable. – Paula Chew


23-no-doubt23. No Doubt, “It’s My Life” (2003)

Originally released by Talk Talk, 1984

Talk Talk’s original version is like a New Wave tribute to Roxy Music. No Doubt’s version is more like a tribute to Madonna’s “Material Girl,” with the bass groove coming to the forefront. Gwen Stefani’s vocal is more sultry, with the guitars converging on the chorus to remind you this is the band who created Tragic Kingdom. No Doubt had firmly planted themselves as pop crossovers by this point, so this cover makes perfect sense. – Wil Lewellyn


top 100 cover songs Temptations22. The Temptations, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1972)

Originally released by The Undisputed Truth, 1972

After producing a gritty, hard-boiled funk version of “Papa” in 1971, writer Norman Whitfield’s take two was to blow his song out into a 12-minute psych-soul opus. Chilly strings swell and bass notes thump, with The Temptations’ immaculate vocals serving as an invaluable anchor. I loved this song when I was 8 and I love it now, too. – Ben Dickerson


21-aretha21. Aretha Franklin, “Respect” (1967)

Originally released by Otis Redding, 1965

She may have been soul royalty, but Aretha’s table-turning rendition of “Respect” was street thievery in broad daylight—a heist and a half that might be the most important American pop single of the 1960s. Producer Jerry Wexler took Redding’s fluid original and sharpened it up with a tough pulse. Even if Aretha didn’t intend to repudiate the machismo of Otis’ original, her passionate insistence that respect be a two-way street crushed any potential argument. – Paul Pearson

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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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