Throughout the history of modern music artists have been releasing covers of other artists’ songs. They do this in order to put a new spin on one of their personal favorites. In most of these cases, the newer version of the song does not live up to the success of the original version. However, there are a few times when the new version becomes so popular that it is actually considered better than the original.
One of the most popular artists to cover is Bob Dylan. This is probably because he is a terrific song writer who writes simplistic music and is not a very talented singer. Therefore, pretty much anyone who covers a Dylan tune will make it sound better than Bob Dylan. The thing is; that artist is not Bob Dylan. Dylan is a legend of music who cannot be outdone by someone covering his songs. He is just too popular and too well respected. Sorry Hendrix fans, but “All Along the Watchtower” is not on this list.
Some of the best songs of all time were not actually written by the artist that is most known for performing it. However, in the public’s mind, these new versions are considered better than the original. Here is a list of the ten cover songs that are not only better than the original, but are better than all the other covers out there.
10. “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” by George Thorogood And The Destroyers
“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” was written in 1953 by Rudy Toombs for the blues artist, Amos Milburn. The song was then covered by blues legend John Lee Hooker. In 1977, George Thorogood took the song’s chorus and combined it with the story from another John Lee Hooker song, “House Rent Boogie”. This version of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” became the signature song from the debut album George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Thorogood’s version is a staple in taverns all over America.
9. “Piece Of My Heart” by Big Brother And The Holding Company
The 1968 song, “Piece Of My Heart”, launched Janis Joplin’s career. The song was originally recorded in 1967 by Aretha Franklin’s older sister, Erma. Erma Franklin’s version was not a mainstream success until the next year when it was featured on the album Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company. At this point, Big Brother was not Janis’ band. She was simply listed on the album as the band’s lead singer. After this song was released, Joplin emerged as one of the biggest stars in the San Francisco scene.
8. “Lake Of Fire” by Nirvana
Ten years prior to Nirvana’s legendary appearance on MTV, a band known as The Meat Puppets were releasing their second album. This album featured the song “Lake Of Fire”. The Meat Puppets never achieved much mainstream success until a band they greatly influenced rose to the top of the charts. This band was Nirvana. In 1993, Nirvana performed “Lake Of Fire” with Curt and Cris Kirtwood of The Meat Puppets for the TV show MTV Unplugged. The following year Nirvana would release a live album of the show. “Lake Of Fire” was the single used to promote the album. Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York also features “Plateau” and “Oh Me” by The Meat Puppets.
7. “Hard To Handle” by The Black Crowes
Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle” has been covered numerous times by artists such as The Grateful Dead, Toots and the Maytal, Gov’t Mule, and New Riders of the Purple Sage. However, it is the version by The Black Crowes that has achieved the most mainstream success. Originally written in 1967, The Black Crowes released their cover of it on their 1990 debut album, Shake Your Money Maker. The song immediately became the band’s signature song.
6. “I Love Rock And Roll” by Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
Joan Jett first heard the song “I Love Rock and Roll” on TV when it was performed by its original writers, Arrows. Arrows released the song in 1975, but it never became a commercial success due to poor promotion by the band’s record company. In 1979, Jett recorded a version of the song with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols. In 1981, she re-recorded it with her band The Blackhearts. This version was a huge success. It reached number one on the charts and stayed there for seven weeks in a row. It is estimated Joan Jett’s single has sold over two million copies.
5. “Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner
Before Ike and Tina Turner covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”, they were just a small opening act for The Rolling Stones. CCR recorded the song in 1968. The song did well on the charts and is one of the band’s most popular tunes. The song would launch Ike and Tina’s careers in 1971. They went from being a small opening act to headlining huge venues in just a matter a weeks. “Proud Mary” is still Tina Turner’s most popular song and is considered to be one of the great R&B hits of all time.
4. “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton
Of all the songs from his solo career, “Cocaine” is quite possibly Eric Clapton’s most notorious. The song was written in 1976 by an unknown blues guitarist named J.J. Cale. Clapton recorded a version of the song the following year for his album Slowhand. Not only was this song a huge success for Clapton, but it also helped Cale’s career. Cale would be featured on albums by a number of different artists. “Cocaine” was not the only song Clapton would take from Cale. He also record versions of Cale’s “After Midnight” and “Traveling Light”. Because of Clapton’s success, Cale quickly became one of the most sought after song writers. Lynryd Skynryd’s “Call Me The Breeze” is actually a Cale tune as well.
3. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is a classic. The song made her the first artist to ever have the same song hit number one three times. Parton’s version reached the top of the charts twice. The third time occurred in 1992, when it was sung by Whitney Houston. Houston sang the song as the main track for the movie The Bodyguard. Unlike Parton’s version, Whitney Houston begins the song a cappella and later instruments kick in. The Whitney Houston version immediately shot up the charts and became her signature song. Her version is one of the best-selling singles of all time.
2. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash
Throughout his long career, Johnny Cash covered song by many artists from many different genres. In 2002, he covered “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails. “Hurt” was written by Trent Reznor in 1994. However, Cash’s version was a much bigger commercial success. It was one of the last singles he released before his death. Cash decided to do a version of the song because of its powerful lyrics based on addiction and self hatred, which were two things the country singer knew all too well.
1. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin is arguably the greatest vocalist of all time. Her most popular song is “Respect”. The song was originally written in 1965 by Otis Redding. Franklin’s version came out two years later. It quickly became an anthem for the Feminist Movement going on in the United States. Today, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin is still considered to be one of the greatest R&B hits of all time.