Cover Power: 12 Cover Songs More Famous Than Originals

Name a cover track that blows away the original version.

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Music covers are definitely a massive trend in the rock world these days, as guitar-driven covers of today's popular songs tend to pop up in a matter of days after the original. But there's more to covers than being brief attention-grabbers.

If done properly, cover versions can overshadow the original to such an extent that most fans aren't even aware they're listening to a cover track in the first place. That's what we'll focus on right now, so check out our list of 12 cover songs more famous than originals.

Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower (Original by Bob Dylan)

Released merely six months after the original Bob Dylan version, Jimi Hendrix's rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" became one of late guitar god's most renowned track. To this day, the song is more commonly associated with Hendrix than with Dylan.

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Joan Jett - I Love Rock 'N Roll (Original by Arrows)

When you think "I Love Rock 'N Roll," you think Joan Jett. OK, maybe Britney Spears, but definitely not the Arrows, the original performers of the track. Far from the classic hit made by Jett rendition in 1982, the song was originally released in 1975.

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Eric Clapton - Cocaine (Original by JJ Cale)

Far from an obscure guitarist, JJ Cale still garners way less props that he deserves. Being one of those guitar gods we shouldn't let fall into oblivion, Cale recorded quite a few classic tracks made more famous by other musicians.

"After Midnight" was the first in a series of Clapton covers that basically gave JJ a career in music. Then there's the well-known "Cocaine," as well as quite a few others - Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Call Me the Breeze" and "Same Old Blues" come to mind.

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Santana - Black Magic Woman (Original by Fleetwood Mac)

Staple Santana track "Black Magic Woman" wasn't actually written by the guitar legend, but by another guitar legend, the more underrated one. His name is Peter Green and you probably know at least some of his work with early Fleetwood Mac. If not, check out "Oh Well," it's a good starting point.

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The Byrds - Mr. Tambourine Man (Original by Bob Dylan)

An entire list can be made on famous track originally written by Dylan, but we'll stop here, with the classic Byrds track "Mr. Tambourine Man." As the group's debut single, it propelled the act into rock giants. They didn't take long to cover it either; Dylan's version was released on March 22, 1965, whereas The Byrds rendition saw its release on April 12, 1965, mere three weeks afterwards.

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Johnny Cash - Hurt (Original by Nine Inch Nails)

The story of Johnny Cash covering NIN is quite a well-known one, we'll just leave a quote from Mr. Trent Reznor here: "I pop the video in, and wow... Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps... Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore... It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form.

"I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning - different, but every bit as pure."

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Metallica - So What (Original by Anti-Nowhere League)

Metallica made several punk tracks way more famous than originals with their 1998 cover album "Garage Inc." but Anti-Nowhere League's "So What" definitely stands out as the song coming from the least famous artist that became the most famous. Interestingly enough, Metallica first released the cover as a B-side of "Sad But True" single.

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Led Zeppelin - Dazed and Confused (Original by Jake Holmes)

Consisting of only guitar, keys and vocals, the original version of "Dazed and Confused" was written by folk rocker Jake Holmes, and still features that distinctive descending bass note part.

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Black Sabbath - Evil Woman (Original by Crow)

Not exactly a staple Sabbath track, "Evil Woman" still stands out as one of the band's groovier tracks. It took future metal gods less than a year to cover the original 1969 track. As for the Crow, the blues rockers ventured forth and are still active to this day, despite several breaks.

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Animals - The House of the Rising Sun (Traditional song)

Speaking of traditional track, we might as well bring up Hendrix again, specifically the "Hey Joe" track. But since Jimi got his spotlight slot, we'll focus on Animals. Same story as before - not too many fans see it as a traditional, but a full-fledged Animals track instead. Talk about cover power.

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Faith No More - Easy (Like Sunday Morning) (Original by Commodores)

It's quite debatable whether "Easy (Like Sunday Morning)" should make the list, seeing that the original Commodores version, written by singer Lionel Richie, topped several charts around the globe. But we'll go ahead and include the Faith No More version here since, well, it's Patton and co.

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Rage Against the Machine - Renegades of Funk (Original by Afrika Bambaataa)

Taking quite a detour from the original Afrika Bambaataa electro hip-hop vibe, "Renegades of Funk" went on to become one of RATM's most famous tracks.

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Got more suitable tracks to share? Do it in the comments.

116 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Also, "The Man Who Sold The World" by Nirvana (original by David Bowie). Nirvana popularized some less-known acts like The Vaselines, Meta Puppets and Leadbelly ("Where Did You Sp\leep Last Night", you know) through their covers, but this version of Bowie's song is the most famous cover (some fans thought that Bowie covered Nirvana's tune ) And yes, this is what can be called a really soulful cover.
    I honestly thought black magic woman was written by santana. i feel a bit stipid now.
    Same I was pretty surprised when I scrolled down to that. I guess they integrated the song pretty well into their sound for the cover.
    Guns N' Chains
    I thought we may have seen Quiet Riot's cover of "Cum on feel the noise" originally by Slade make this list.
    Whiskey In The Jar
    i think pretty much every song on garage inc.
    I'd say, The Diamond Head covers (Am I Evil?, The Prince, It's Electric, Helpless), Breadfan, Blitzkrieg, and Astronomy.
    link no1
    I agree with the Diamond Head songs. When I saw them supporting the Big 4 those are pretty much the only songs they played, likely because they were the only songs a lot of people knew.
    I won't agree with that. Stone cold crazy is well known but it's not better known than the original. Also... whiskey in the jar is debatable... To an Irishman Metallica's cover isn't the better cover song
    Pablo Mortis
    Thin Lizzy based Whiskey in the Jar on a traditional Irish Folk Song, same as how House of the Rising Sun was based on a traditional song - I think he was getting at that more that Metallica's cover (I prefer the Lizzy one myself)
    Isnt Twist and shout a cover too?The first one was by the Top Notes or somethin and then by The Beatles wich was a monstrous hit.....
    But Dazed and Confused is a Led Zeppelin original. Isn't it Mr.Page? "Fuck you! I'm the greatest!"
    Actually it is inspired by the same name song, but not a cover, so it has no place in that list...
    It's "inspired" according to the settlement Jimmy Page's huge team of lawyers worked out with Holmes' small one.
    Some of these were pretty good. Even a few I didnt know were covers. But "Hurt" and "So What", come on people are you even trying anymore. The only other one I would add is Hard to Handle by the Black Crowes. I didnt realize that was a cover until years after its releae.
    Of course people know they are covers but the cover versions of those songs are more famous than the original versions and that's what the list was about. (And I know what it said in the beginning but still, being more famous than the original doesn't mean people don't know they are covers.) And I would agree with that. People know Hurt and So What are covers but still the cover versions are what most people have heard and remember.
    While I'm at it, I just thought of another. Disturbed's cover of Genesis' "Land of Confusion". Not only a famous cover, but an impressive modern revamp in my opinion.
    Jeff Buckley's take on "Hallelujah"
    Debatable. Even though it's the best interpretation in my opinion, Rufus Wainwright's version became pretty popular with Shrek and John Cale's take is also a pretty popular one. However, I'd say that the song became synonymous with Jeff Buckley the moment he released his cover version.
    Yeah, to be honest I didn't even know Jeff covered it until I did some research, so I guess it does count?
    While it's not rock, Frank Sinatra's My Way (a cover of comme d'habitude by Claude Francois and Jacques Revaux.
    ITT: People who can't differentiate "most famous", "interresting", "my favorite", and "better".
    I'm surpised you picked a Metallica cover and DIDN'T go with Diamond Head's "Am I Evil"? Very well, I nominate Elvis Presley's version of "Blue Suede Shoes". Not sure it counts, it's a rock n roll standard, but the King's version is definitely the most famous.
    You Really Got Me - Van Halen ..who covered The Kinks! This one should've made the list, but whatever, nice list, mate!
    pretty sure the original is the better known one.
    I can't agree with you there. The Kinks made a classic in their time and it suited its era perfectly, even beyond. But the van halen version just brings it to life, gives it some real zest, you know? Maybe its cause my dad raised me on halen, def leppard and acdc but this song has always been a a killer tune to me, and van halen nailed it. to each his own my friend
    That depends, would you still say that if you knew that Kinks fans used to tell them that they did a "great cover of a Van Halen song"?
    Sleaze Disease
    I find it incredibly hard to believe a Kinks fan would say that, considering the songs are 15 years apart, which anybody claiming to be a Kinks fan would most certainly know.
    Not a good example, but it's hard to not to mention it: "Behind Blue Eyes" by Limp Bizkit (original by The Who). I must say I liked LB in my youth, and I still appreciate some of their stuff, but this cover is just not for me.
    I'm not against LB, but gosh, this cover is lame. Why did they remove the hard rock part instead adding a silly "discovery" bridge?
    Either because it didn't fit the movie or because LB just couldn't do it properly, or a combination of both.
    Willie Nelson's version of "Always On My Mind". It's been covered by so many, from Elvis to Pet Shop Boys, and people still associate it with Willie.
    Louie Louie was written in 1954 by Richard Berry, and covered so famously in 1963 by The Kingsmen.
    Faith No More also did a pretty great cover of War Pigs.
    The list was about cover songs more famous than the originals. And I'm sure the Black Sabbath version is more famous than this. And IMO the original is way better.
    Diamonds and Rust by Judas Priest/Joan Baez. Halford nails that tune and blows the original off the map. The Dead Boys version of Ain't it Fun is obviously more famous than the original, though I don't think RFTT actually released a version (I could be wrong) plus Cheetah Chrome was in both bands so maybe it doesn't count anyways. The G'n'R version on the spaghetti incident was pretty bangin' too.
    Blows the original off the map? Not sure about that. Rob's voice has settled really nicely into the range that song employs in recent years though. I'd say Green Manalishi is the more obvious example for Priest. Perhaps not as successful, but I think fewer Priest fans know that was a Fleetwood Mac song than that Diamonds and Rust was a Joan Baez one. I don't think either could necessarily be called more famous than the original if you include the generation to whom the originals were released in the consideration.