Top 25 Covers Better Than the Originals

As voted by UG community.

Ultimate Guitar
Top 25 Covers Better Than the Originals

This week's traditional Wednesday Question saw the people of UG community discussing the matter of cover songs that are superior to original versions.

We received plenty of votes and close to 800 comments, all of which were summed up into a Top 25 rundown.

Before kicking things off, this week's honorable mentions are:

  • Ghost - If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover)
  • Eric Clapton - Cocaine (J.J. Cale cover)
  • Korn - Word Up! (Cameo cover)
  • Björk - It's Oh So Quiet (Horst Winter/Betty Hutton cover)
  • Sepultura - War (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
With that out of the way, the list awaits below.

25. Rage Against the Machine - Renegades of Funk (Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force cover)

Originally released back in 1983 by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, "Renegades of Funk" became one of Rage Against the Machine's staple tunes on their fourth and seemingly final album "Renegades" in 2000.

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24. Limp Bizkit - Faith (George Michael cover)

In 1998, the Limp Bizkit boys took George Michael's staple 1987 pop hit "Faith" and injected it with a nice chunk of rap metal vibe. The result is this week's No. 24.

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23. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Texas Flood (Larry Davis cover)

Back in the early '80s, Mr. Stevie Ray Vaughan took a Larry Davis' 1958 blues standard "Texas Flood" and turned it into one of the standout tunes of his repertoire.

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22. The Black Crowes - Hard to Handle (Otis Redding cover)

At No. 22, it's The Black Crowes with their 1990 rendition of Otis Redding's classic 1968 tune "Hard to Handle."

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21. 311 - Love Song (The Cure cover)

In 2004, 311 took The Cure's 1989 "Lovesong" and gave it a whole new charm as part of the "50 First Dates" movie soundtrack.

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20. The Clash - I Fought The Law (The Crickets/The Bobby Fuller Four cover)

As one of those covers most people don't even know are covers, up next are The Clash with their 1979 version of The Crickets' 1960 tune "I Fought the Law."

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19. Alien Ant Farm - Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson cover)

There were a few disagreements about Alien Ant Farm's version of "Smooth Criminal" beating Michael Jackson's original version, but the nomination ultimately received enough votes for spot No. 19.

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18. The Beatles - Twist and Shout (The Top Notes cover)

One of The Beatles' first hit singles ever, the "Twist and Shout" track off their 1963 debut record "Please Please Me," is actually a cover of a song released in 1961 by The Top Notes.

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17. Fantômas - Rosemary's Baby (Christopher Komeda cover)

Up next, it's the one and only Fantômas and their rendition of "Rosemary's Baby." In the words of our very own N-D, "I can't decide what I like more - this or the cover of Nino Rota's 'The Godfather' - the whole 'The Director's Cut' album is just fantastically great! And yes, Mike Patton is just an insane genius!"

The whole "The Director's Cut" record is essentially a collection of theme songs from a variety of classic horror and thriller film.

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16. Marilyn Manson - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (Eurythmics cover)

In 1996, Marilyn Manson scored quite a hit by taking Eurythmics signature 1983 track "Sweet Dreams" and infusing it with his signature deranged vibe.

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15. Deftones - The Chauffeur (Duran Duran cover)

You folks gave kudos to Deftones coves in general - their version of Sade's "No Ordinary Love," The Cars' "Drive," and The Cure's "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep," but the one that gets to represent the boys this week is their rendition of Duran Duran's "The Chauffeur."

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14. Guns N' Roses - Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan cover)

As the first out of two Bob Dylan covers you folks deemed superior to the original version, at No. 14 are Guns N' Roses with "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

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13. Muse - Feeling Good (Cy Grant/Nina Simone cover)

Originally written by Cy Grant in the early '60s and popularized by Nina Simone in 1965, this week's Lucky 13 goes to Muse and "Feeling Good."

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12. Faith No More - Easy (Commodores cover)

At No. 12, it's Faith No More's 1992 cover of Commodores' 1977 tune "Easy."

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11. Joe Cocker - With a Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles cover)

Besting The Beatles is no mean feat, and according to you folks, the man who's done it is late great Joe Cocker with his rendition of "With a Little Help From My Friends."

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10. Quiet Riot - Cum on Feel the Noize (Slade cover)

Cracking the Top 10 open, it's Quiet Riot with their 1983 version of classic 1973 Slade track "Cum on Feel the Noize."

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9. Van Halen - You Really Got Me (The Kinks cover)

In 1964, The Kinks delivered one of the first tunes that embodies what we see as heavy guitar distortion, the one and only "You Really Got Me." In 1978, Van Halen delivered their rendition of the track, earning a spot No. 9 of this list.

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8. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder cover)

Adding a pinch of slap and gain to Stevie Wonder's staple track "Higher Ground," the Chili Peppers are up next at No. 8.

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7. Nirvana - The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie cover)

Nirvana actually fetched quite a few nominations here, including "Lake of Fire" (Meat Puppets cover), "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (Traditional/Leadbelly cover), "Plateau" (Meat Puppets cover), "Love Buzz" (Shocking Blue cover), "Oh, Me" (Meat Puppets cover), and "Molly's Lips" (The Vaselines cover), but the one that gets to represent Kurt Cobain and co. this week is "The Man Who Sold the World."

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6. Led Zeppelin - When the Levee Breaks (Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie cover)

As 2016pearsoow nicely summed it up, "they made it iconic." At No. 6, it's Led Zeppelin and their version of "When the Levee Breaks." In general, you folks acknowledged that Led Zeppelin are also worthy of making the rundown for a variety of their uncredited covers.

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5. Metallica - Am I Evil? (Diamond Head cover)

As Diamond Head guitarist Brian Tatler put it, "I don't know what I'd have done without the money I made from the Metallica covers. It kept me going and allowed me to not have a day job. But it repays their debt in a way as well. The bands that they liked and have been influenced by benefited from the covers they did. And they're wearing their influences on their sleeves, and not trying to hide it, so it was good for everyone."

Other notable Metallica-related nominations include "Whiskey in the Jar" (Traditional/The Dubliners cover), "Turn the Page" (Bob Seger cover), "Breadfan" (Budgie cover), "So What?" (Anti-Nowhere League cover), and "Last Caress" (Misfits cover).

Anyhow, at No. 5, it's Metallica and "Am I Evil?".

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4. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover)

There was some debate going on here whether Mr. Buckley's version of "Hallelujah" is really superior to Mr. Cohen's original, but the number of upvotes clearly places the man at No. 4 this week!

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3. Michael Andrews & Gary Jules - Mad World (Tears For Fears cover)

Some call it the saddest song of all time... As you may or may not know, Michael Andrews wrote the whole score for the "Donny Darko" movie and also crafted the Tears for Fears cover, inviting Mr. Gary Jules on vocals. Anyhow, the bronze this week goes to "Mad World."

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2. Johnny Cash - Hurt (Nine Inch Nails cover)

The words of Trent Reznor, which you may have already read several times, will suffice 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."

At No. 2, it's late great Johnny Cash and his version of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt."

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1. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover)

At the throne of UG this week, the tune you folks have branded an "obvious choice" for the gold - Mr. Jimi Hendrix's version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower"!

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And that wraps it up! Hope you enjoyed yet another ride, stay tuned until next week for the next one.

139 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Fender Usa
    this list is ugh so many of these are much inferior to the originals
    Disturbed's cover of the Sound of Silence? No? Good. Because it's fucking cancer.
    paulstfu · Nov 04, 2016 05:15 PM
    I love the original I play it all the time but in a way I think the cover is supperior. It does something the original doesn't and it does it so well it surpasses the original by miles (in my humble opinion). It builds. The way the song starts of soft and tender and then keeps building up to this grand finale is something that the original missed. It probably went for different qualities but this is why I think the cover is better in a certain way. Offcourse that is just my taste in music. Whatever floats your boat I guess.
    That's true. The first couple of times listening to the cover were pretty good but then it got annoying and bad really quick. I've listened to the original over a hundred times and it's still a pleasure every time i do.
    Right on. It is one of the most deplorable bits of music I've ever heard. As in I'd rather listen to "Mambo #5" three times in a row than "SoS" once.
    it's not that bad, i agree it is not better than the orginal, but damn it is a good cover tho
    And traditionally - here's the rest of the list - again a lot of great nominations here: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Hey Joe (The Leaves cover) Disturbed - Land of Confusion (Genesis cover) Anthrax - Antisocial (Trust cover) Ugly Kid Joe - Cat's in the Cradle (Harry Chapin cover) Tool - No Quarter (Led Zeppelin cover) Cream - Crossroads (Robert Johnson cover) Seether - Careless Whisper (George Michael cover) Deep Purple - Hush (Billy Joe Royal cover) Kyuss - Catamaran (Yawning Man cover) Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Blinded by the Light (Bruce Springsteen cover) Nancy Sinatra - Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) (Cher cover) Red Hot Chili Peppers - Love Rollercoaster (Ohio Players cover) Judas Priest - The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown) (Fleetwood Mac cover) Judas Priest - Diamonds & Rust (Joan Baez cover) Yes - America (Simon & Garfunkel song) Yes - Something's Coming (West Side Story cover) Led Zeppelin - Dazed and Confused (Jake Holmes cover) Death - Painkiller (Judas Priest cover) Cake - I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor cover) Aerosmith - Train Kept a Rollin' (Tiny Bradshaw cover) Santana - Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac cover) Opeth - Soldier of Fortune (Deep Purple cover) Mötley Crüe - Smokin' in the Boys Room (Brownsville Station cover) Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - I Love Rock 'n' Roll (The Arrows cover) Sonic Youth - Superstar (Delaney & Bonnie cover) Creedence Clearwater Revival - I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles/Marvin Gaye cover) Faith No More - War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover) A Day To Remember - Since U Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson cover) A Perfect Circle - The Nurse Who Loved Me (Failure cover) A Perfect Circle - Imagine (John Lennon cover) Sublime - Smoke Two Joints (The Toyes cover) Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You (Dolly Parton cover) Pearl Jam - Last Kiss (Wayne Cochran cover) Pearl Jam - Love, Reign O'er Me (The Who cover) Reel Big Fish - Take on Me (A-ha cover) System Of A Down - The Metro (Berlin cover) Therion - Southbound (Thin Lizzy cover) Lynyrd Skynyrd - Call Me the Breeze (JJ Cale cover) Nina Hagen - TV-Glotzer (White Punks On Dope) (The Tubes cover) B.B. King - The Thrill Is Gone (Roy Hawkins cover) Megadeth - These Boots Are Made for Walkin' (Nancy Sinatra cover) Three Dog Night - One (Is the Loneliest Number) (Harry Nilsson cover) The Allman Brothers Band - Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell cover) Hugh Laurie - Unchain My Heart (Ray Charles cover) Soft Cell - Tainted Love (Gloria Jones cover) The White Stripes - I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself (Tommy Hunt/Dustry Springfield cover) Body Count - Institutionalized (Suicidal Tendencies cover) Ryan Adams - Wonderwall (Oasis cover) Alestorm - Hangover (taio Cruz cover) The Doors - Alabama Song (Bertolt Brecht cover) Type O Negative - Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young cover) DMA's - Believe (Cher cover) Blind Guardian - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Iron Butterfly cover) Peter Gabriel - My Body Is a Cage (Arcade Fire cover) Black Label Society - Junior's Eyes (Black Sabbath cover) Frank Zappa - Whippin' Post (The Allman Brothers Band cover) The Smashing Pumpkins - Jackie Blue (The Ozark Mountain Daredevils cover) The Smashing Pumpkins - Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover) NOFX - Perfect Government (Mark Curry cover) Eagles Of Death Metal - Save a Prayer (Duran Duran cover) Rammstein - Stripped (Depeche Mode cover) Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band - Stay Away (Nirvana cover) Charles Bradley - Changes (Black Sabbath cover) Slayer - Dissident Aggressor (Juddas Priest cover) The Jeff Healey Band - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles cover) The Rolling Stones - Time Is on My Side (Kai Winding cover) Iron Maiden - Doctor Doctor (UFO cover) Devin Townsend - Fast as a Shark (Accept cover) Nine Inch Nails - Physical (Adam and the Ants cover) A-ha - Crying the Rain (The Everly Brothers cover) Weezer - Un-Break My Heart (Toni Braxton cover) Dope - Rebel Yell (Billy Idol cover) Orgy - Blue Monday (New Order cover) Queens of the Stone Age - Precious and Grace (ZZ Top cover) Gun - Word Up (Cameo cover) And I want to add some lesser-known, but just truly beautiful covers - highly recommend to find and to check out each of them: Manes - Cinder Alley (16 Horsepower cover) Blind Cave Salamander - (Set The Controls for) The Heart of the Sun (Pink Floyd cover) Nouvelle Vague - In a Manner of Speaking (Tuxedomoon cover) Steve Von Till - Running Dry (Neil Young cover) The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Adaptation of the Koto Song (The Dave Brubeck Quartet cover)
    I never knew the Fleetwood mac (Peter green) black magic woman was the original, every day is a school day
    Had the same reaction a while back, guess cause A) it's so attached to Santana and B) We're so use to the pop Fleetwood Mac instead of the original.
    I was about to vote Yardbirds' Still I'm sad that Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow did a cover, I thought that was an epic rock instrumental ever.
    Creedence's cover of "I put a spell on you" kills. Screamin' Jay's song is awesome, but the solo in the ccr version still sounds amazing.
    duane baldwin
    How about the Molly Hatchet cover of Dreams I'll Never See by the Allman Brothers. The original I always thought was a snooze.
    I'm a big Type O fan but Cinnamon Girl had to be their worst cover. Neil Young's was rock, Pete Steele almost made that one a disco tune.
    311's cover of Love Song and Manson's cover of Sweet Dreams? You can fuck right off! Also disagree on Alien Ant Farm's cover of Smooth Criminal, it's good, but it ain't better.
    Slightly baffled with Smooth Criminal. I'm all one for heavy guitars etc, but Michael's version is too good to be toppled.
    Love song better in the cover version??? Is the world deaf...? Also i know its just me but i like mad world in its original version more
    Thank goodness Disturbed wasn't on this list. I was about to peace out from UG if that happened.
    Limp Bizkit's cover of Faith made the list? Bruh.
    I didn't even like this cover back then. The original is much better. Also, it still irks me that Fred decided to change one word in the lyric line, "I know not everybody has got a body like you" to "I know not everybody has got a body like me". It doesn't rhyme with the next lyric line that'd come up, but even worse, it just makes Fred come off as being full of himself.
    Alien Ant Farm's cover is a nice rock song but is really devoid of that sinister and smooth (no pun intended) tone that really makes the original shine for me. I usually don't complain about the results but I never really got that cover.
    Maybe UG should have asked for "The Top 25 Cover Songs". In that regard, most of this list would make since. AAF's version is awesome, but better than original? Not really. Neither are most of these.
    That would've been great if they'd used that as the title. As you'd stated, most of these aren't better than the originals, but at the same time, they're still memorable.
    I think they may have done that before, I have to say this was a very hard question to answer. Even some of my favorite covers I'd say do not pass the original works. A cover really needs to go above and beyond to pull that off.
    Not officially recorded, but how about Heart's rendition of Stairway to Heaven... Anne Wilson really belted out those notes!
    Oh my god UGrs I don't expect much but you still surprise me, the 311 cover of "Love Song"? Gross. Black Crowes is sort of pushing it for me personally. I do not agree. Tears for Fears is much better also. GnR made an fine Dylan song really bad. Alien fucking Ant Farm? alright, I can handle that. I got mad love for THPS3. But there's no way Muse does the best version of anything. Especially not something NINA SIMONE played. Jesus christ
    To be fair, almost EVERY song Metallica has covered sound better than the original one. Garage Inc. is an amazing album, but people forgot abou other covers outside Garage Inc. Like "Remember Tomorrow" from Kerrang's Maiden Heaven or Deep Purple's "When a Blind man Cries"
    I was the one who nominated Am I Evil?, and I'm glad it got to #5. That song is special for me for certain reasons. I also love how Metallica - apart from making it heavier - made minor changes in the music as well as in the lyrics. But I totally agree with you, most of their covers are spot on.
    I love their cover of Turn the Page, i'm now a fan of Bob Seger thanks to them
    i don.t like you saying better then original...original should always be credit more.. more like up to dated. No original no cover. briliant riff was already there and 80 perecent of the arrangement was already done ..someone puts a bit more distortion and makes it really loud gets all praises, that makes no sense.
    DISAGREE!!! A few of these so called "better" covers ARE NOT and some are too close to call... First of all Otis reading DESTROYS The Black Crows, so does The Cure's original over 311. Second, Muse over Nina?? Really??? Jokes. The Kninks kill Van Halen, even though I want David Lee Roth's outfit. Now for the too close to calls... Red Hot Chili Willy and Stevie are both great. Alien Ant Farm was amazing for it's day but MJ did the whole leaning thing and it will stand the test of time. Nirvana and Bowie are both amazing so no winner there either. And finally... Jeff Buckley should have been at one, Johnny Cash two.
    I'll never be able to get over how perfect Jimi's rendition of "All along the Watch tower" is. Whenever I listen to it it always feels like an old chapter in my life has ended and a new one is beginning
    U2's version is better.
    That's your opinion...I disagree with it...But at the end of the day, what ever floats your boat. Personally I prefer Jimi's version
    Not bad overall, but I have to seriously groan at some of these. Cocker's cover of With A Little Help? Alien Ant Farm's Smooth Criminal? Sheesh, I didn't think there was even an opinion on those. Good covers, but I didn't think anyone thought they were better. I can see Hard to Handle, but that's probably just because most people heard the Black Crowes' version first. I love Otis Redding.
    Thank god, for once the Guns make it on this top for a reason which is good and not hateful !
    I didn't realize Twist and Shout was a cover, but I suppose it's kind of obvious if you think about it. It doesn't really sound like their typical style.
    RHCP's cover of Havana Affair by the Ramones is the best Ramones cover i've ever heard. But their cover of Love Rollercoaster is my favourite cover of theirs...killer song either way.
    A pox on whoever nominated and voted for 311's shit version of Lovesong. No way in hell is that better than the original.
    I could add many somgs/make my own list but this isnt bad. And I had NO IDEA that Renegades is a cover!
    Crowbar's covers of No Quarter and Dreamweaver deserve at least a mention.
    One of my personal favourites:
    Does the Kyuss version of 'N.O.' count as a cover, as some of the band wrote it in their previous group?
    Really like what Rage did with #25. The original is very thin, and feels like something is missing. RATM added to the song very tastefully and made it more complete. Very good to listen too and enjoyable.
    Came here to say that every song The Beatles and NIRVANA covered were better than the originals.
    Gotta be kidding me with the smooth criminal one. Like daymn. I guess it's all opinion, but BOY do some people have bad opinions
    Totally forgot about 311's Love Song. Great piece! Also, GnR's version of Knockin on Heaven's Door makes me cringe every time I hear it. Not a Dylan fan by any means, but GnR ruined that song for me
    Khetag Lagkuti
    Personally, I can't fathom how Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah is better than Leonard's. His version is so lethargic it sounds like a suicide song.
    I kind of forgot FNM's rendition of "I Started a Joke", but hey, "Easy" is a great choice as well!
    Perhaps not many folks on here will know these. 1. Dustin Kensrue - Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus cover). It totally trashes the original by a mile and check out his criminally underrated band Thrice. 2. NOFX - Radio (Rancid cover). Totally different from the original, turned into a reggae tune. 3. Stone Sour - Wicked Game (Chris Isaak cover). Corey Taylor does an awesome cover here. 4. Halestorm - Straight through the heart (Dio cover). I dont usually like their songs but this is awesome. 5. Orgy - Blue Monday (New Order cover). A lesson in how to turn an 80s song into a heavy industrial beast while retaining all the emotion
    *scratches head* wasn't this the weekly question a month or two ago? I mean, some of the songs are on the list again and the rest were the ones that weren't ranked high enough for top 25
    Foo Fighters' cover of 'Baker Street' is not on this list. What is wrong with you people?
    doesn't hold a candle to Gerry Rafferty's original...I like the Foo's version don't get me wrong, but the original out does it on soo many levels
    If Dave wouldnt have changed the lyric "booze" to "crack", the cover would be better. Plus his singing isnt all that great.
    Turn The Page by Metallica? (Bob Seger) Wicked Game by HIM? (Chris Isaak)
    While those are good covers for the most part (Limp Bizkit's Faith? Srsly?!), I disagree that they are better than the original except for one or two.
    yeah the limp bizkit one threw me off too. this should have been a list of great covers and not 'better than the original'
    John Mayer: "Free Fallin" (Tom Petty cover) from his Live in LA album. Surprised this wasn't suggested, but his version is significantly better than the original.