When you hear the lyrics, "I fought the law and the law won," which artist comes to mind? If you're musically inclined, a certain English punk-rock band likely pops into your head. And the crunchy guitar riffs and raw power of "American Woman" probably conjure the image of a flashy rock star and his Flying V guitar. But get this, neither tune was written by the artist you associate the song with. They are just masterful takes on someone else's work. To see how your music knowledge stacks up, we've gathered the 50 best cover songs of all time. Be honest, how many did you think were originals? And for more great music trivia, check out 50 Songs Turning 50 This Year.
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‘Ring of Fire’—Johnny Cash
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At best it could be transformative, lifting both artist and label into the spotlight. Across four top lists in , Treble made a deep dive into how modern covers albums explored past artists and songs. We also limited musicians to one performance slot each in our countdown, although you may notice certain original artists, sources, and songs showing up multiple times—a testament to their timelessness and versatility. Even without considering some big names you might otherwise expect to find here, live bootlegs, radio-show one-offs, parodies and YouTube home-studio clips, we still managed to wade through and vote on hundreds of well-known and obscure covers.
Cover versions can be a delicate task. Do you simply copy a song or make it totally your own? Every artist has attempted a cover version of some kind during their career, and we've picked the times where they arguably improved up on the original:. Eva Cassidy covered many songs throughout her far too short life and career, but arguably her greatest was this beautiful version of an already-brilliant Fleetwood Mac song. While Christine McVie's original is also fantastic, Eva's version has even more subtle beauty, and is made all the more poignant by her life ending too soon. A year later, Eric released a rock-tinged cover version, and it became an even bigger hit than the original. Run DMC found the perfect way to bring hip-hop into the mainstream, by doing an early form of the mash-up and teaming up with rock legends Aerosmith. An inspired cover version updating the track with hip-hop beats and rap verses, it was the ultimate way to bring rock and rap together.
This fall, we asked you to share your favorite covers, and you responded! Find your frequency on the radio , get your smart speaker set up , or download The Current app to listen to our countdown, and share an experience you helped create. Top 89 Cover Songs This fall, we asked you to share your favorite covers, and you responded! We couldn't do Top89Covers and other adventurous programming like this without your support. Support The Current 1. Hurt Johnny Cash. The best cover songs transform the original into a new work of art. Johnny Cash made "Hurt" so much his own that it's almost unthinkable that it was written by Trent Reznor. I think Hendrix' version pays wonderful tribute and interpretation to Dylan's masterful lyrical genius.