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rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
14.5k votes 1.8k voters 56.8k views 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
437 241
Ranker Video
David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters The Best Truck Accessory Brands

2
535 328
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

3
537 349
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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

4
279 194
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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

5
249 170
The Velvet Underground is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added The Velvet Underground Noise rock, Blues-rock, Rock music

6
240 163
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

7
278 204
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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

8
262 195
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

9
239 212
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
193 163
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
264 250
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

12
248 238
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

13
178 161
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

14
208 198
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Bob Marley Reggae

15
145 141
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

The Best R.E.M. Albums Songs That Were Total Ripoffs

16
165 166
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

17
142 147
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
175 199
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

19
34 22
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

20
177 211
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

21
132 153
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

22
149 192
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

23
105 133
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

24
112 145
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

25
81 102
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AllyStevensPike added Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

26
109 145
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

27
104 138
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

28
121 163
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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

29
124 168
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

The Best Black Rock Bands Fun Jobs That Pay Well

30
9 3
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Alice Cooper Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

31
72 95
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

32
95 129
Ranker Video
Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

33
34 42
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
simkat399 added Carole King Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

34
13 11
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

35
41 53
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Black Sabbath Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

36
74 107
Ranker Video
Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

37
21 27
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

38
87 128
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

39
19 25
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

40
29 41
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

41
63 95
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

42
4 4
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Joy Division Punk rock, Post-punk

43
2 3
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

The Best Bob Dylan Songs Highbrow Comedy Shows That Impress You Most

44
19 30
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Misfits Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

45
3 5
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs Novelty song

46
14 23
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

47
7 12
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

48
18 31
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Iggy Pop Punk blues, Garage rock, Protopunk

49
1 4
Eddie Cochran is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Eddie Cochran Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll

50
58 97
Ranker Video
Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music