bands/musicians Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
13k votes 1.5k voters 55k views 66 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.
list ordered by

1
+ - 393 215
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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

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2
+ - 487 335
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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

3
+ - 423 313
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

4
+ - 264 181
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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

5
+ - 229 154
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

6
+ - 233 162
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

7
+ - 255 187
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

8
+ - 248 197
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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

9
+ - 229 207
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
+ - 180 159
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
+ - 253 246
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

12
+ - 172 155
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

13
+ - 198 192
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Bob Marley Reggae

14
+ - 223 234
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

15
+ - 140 135
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

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16
+ - 160 161
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

17
+ - 134 142
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
+ - 167 205
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

19
+ - 159 196
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

20
+ - 120 149
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

21
+ - 102 129
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

22
+ - 110 142
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

23
+ - 144 190
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

24
+ - 103 133
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

25
+ - 23 20
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

26
+ - 72 91
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

27
+ - 122 164
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

28
+ - 77 100
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

29
+ - 104 139
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

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30
+ - 39 46
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

31
+ - 118 161
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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

32
+ - 33 39
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Carole King Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

33
+ - 86 117
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

34
+ - 92 126
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Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

35
+ - 10 8
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

36
+ - 74 103
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

37
+ - 19 22
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

38
+ - 28 37
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

39
+ - 17 22
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

40
+ - 61 91
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

41
+ - 2 1
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers

42
+ - 6 8
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

43
+ - 18 27
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Misfits Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

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44
+ - 1 1
Eddie Cochran is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Eddie Cochran Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll

45
+ - 1 1
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Joy Division Punk rock, Post-punk

46
+ - 1 1
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

47
+ - 17 28
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Iggy Pop Punk blues, Garage rock, Protopunk

48
+ - 12 22
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

49
+ - 57 95
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Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

50
+ - 11 22
Yes is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Yes Rock music, Experimental rock, Pop rock