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bands/musicians Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
12k votes 1.4k voters 52k views 62 items Follow Embed

List Rules No obscure musicians.

Artists who have inspired the best covers include legendary musicians and bands like The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, but this list also includes some lesser known singer-songwriters who's songs have become iconic -- all thanks to someone's brilliant cover of one of their tunes. A good example of this: Tom Waits, whose catalog is stunning, but who might be better known (to mainstream audiences) through cover songs (like Rod Stewart's "Downtown Train"). This list includes a lot of major artists who have inspired phenomenal covers by others in the industry. I've added several videos of these cover songs, where possible. This is a VoteRanked list, meaning the Ranker community sets the bar by voting for favorites. Be sure to cast your vote, and add any artists that you think inspired the best covers.

Occasionally, a cover song will eclipse the original version by a brilliant singer-songwriter in chart popularity. Examples of this include Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By the Light" (covered by Manfred Mann), Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine" (covered by UB40), David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" (covered by Nirvana) and Prince's "Nothing Compares to U" (covered by Sinead O'Connor). This doesn't always mean the cover version is better - just that it's more well-known and associated with the cover artist, instead of the original writer.

Great cover songs pay tribute to the original artists who inspired the music, though covers don't always sound like the originals: The song's melody and/or arrangement might be vastly different, like the Lemonhead's punked-out version of Simon & Garfunkel's classic song "Mrs. Robinson" or Chris Cornell's remarkable version of Michael Jackson's iconic song "Billie Jean."

Enjoy this list of incredible artists who have inspired the best covers throughout music history, and be sure to a) vote and b) add anyone I've left off.

1
+ - 353 196
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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

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+ - 471 299
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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

3
+ - 402 277
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

4
+ - 237 168
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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

5
+ - 213 148
The Velvet Underground is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
The Velvet Underground Noise rock, Blues-rock, Rock music

6
+ - 204 141
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

7
+ - 241 176
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

8
+ - 243 184
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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

9
+ - 221 192
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
+ - 168 142
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

11
+ - 246 232
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

12
+ - 196 179
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Bob Marley Reggae

13
+ - 164 153
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

14
+ - 135 123
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

15
+ - 217 221
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

All the Drugs, Murder, Adultery, and Disaster Around Eric Clapton's Layla The 36 Greatest On-Stage Falls of All Time

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+ - 156 151
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

17
+ - 133 131
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
+ - 164 194
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

19
+ - 119 140
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

20
+ - 152 186
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

21
+ - 101 129
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

22
+ - 98 125
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

23
+ - 140 184
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

24
+ - 20 16
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

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+ - 121 158
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

26
+ - 76 95
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

27
+ - 106 138
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

28
+ - 69 88
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

29
+ - 37 43
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Black Sabbath Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

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+ - 116 156
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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

31
+ - 101 136
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

32
+ - 89 120
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Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

33
+ - 30 36
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Carole King Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

34
+ - 18 19
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

36
+ - 72 101
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

37
+ - 7 6
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

38
+ - 6 5
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

39
+ - 26 35
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

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+ - 15 20
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

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+ - 59 89
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

42
+ - 16 25
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Iggy Pop Punk blues, Garage rock, Protopunk

43
+ - 15 25
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Misfits Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

Pink Floyd Parody Album Covers The Best Current Black TV Shows

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+ - 13 22
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Blues-rock, Gothic rock, Rock music

45
+ - 48 80
J.J. Cale is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
J.J. Cale Americana, Swamp pop, Tulsa Sound - "After Midnight", "Cocaine", "They Call Me The Breeze", among others

46
+ - 10 20
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

47
+ - 10 20
Yes is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Yes Rock music, Experimental rock, Pop rock

48
+ - 54 93
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Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

49
+ - 16 35
Judas Priest is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Judas Priest New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Thrash metal, Power metal

50
+ - 37 71
Duran Duran is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Duran Duran Synthpop, New Wave, Pop music