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bands/musicians Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
13k votes 1.4k voters 55k 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.

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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

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+ - 408 296
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

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+ - 214 150
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

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The Velvet Underground is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
The Velvet Underground Noise rock, Blues-rock, Rock music

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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

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+ - 225 203
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

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+ - 172 151
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

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+ - 174 157
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

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+ - 250 243
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

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Bob Marley Reggae

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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

The Greatest Album Covers Songs That Were Total Ripoffs

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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

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+ - 134 139
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

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+ - 166 203
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

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+ - 119 146
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

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+ - 153 194
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

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+ - 99 127
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

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+ - 142 188
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

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+ - 108 140
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

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+ - 77 97
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

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Elton John is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

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+ - 70 89
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

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+ - 38 44
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Black Sabbath Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

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+ - 31 37
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

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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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Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

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Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 37 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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Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

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+ - 17 21
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

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Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

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+ - 17 26
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Misfits Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

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+ - 17 27
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Iggy Pop Punk blues, Garage rock, Protopunk

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+ - 12 21
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

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+ - 13 25
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Blues-rock, Gothic rock, Rock music

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+ - 11 22
Yes is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Yes Rock music, Experimental rock, Pop rock

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Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

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+ - 48 84
J.J. Cale is listed (or ranked) 48 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

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+ - 18 36
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

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+ - 38 72
Duran Duran is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Duran Duran Synthpop, New Wave, Pop music