Rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
15.4k votes 2k voters 58.3k views 68 items

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
658 337
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

2
480 267
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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

3
585 361
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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

4
313 215
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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

5
292 208
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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

6
255 175
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

7
261 181
The Velvet Underground is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added The Velvet Underground Noise rock, Blues-rock, Rock music

8
283 206
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

9
263 217
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
213 168
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
276 245
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

12
281 257
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

13
222 204
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Bob Marley Reggae

14
184 166
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

15
176 170
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

16
146 149
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

17
147 152
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
189 205
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

19
45 26
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
145 160
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

21
186 216
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

22
162 194
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

23
110 136
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

24
118 148
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

25
19 10
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Alice Cooper Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

26
130 166
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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

27
86 106
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AllyStevensPike added Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

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112 143
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

29
118 152
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

30
102 132
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Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

31
77 99
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

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126 173
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

33
28 31
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

34
38 46
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
simkat399 added Carole King Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

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15 15
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

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44 59
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Black Sabbath Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

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33 45
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

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67 97
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

39
75 110
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

40
90 133
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

41
21 29
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

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5 5
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

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10 14
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

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6 8
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Joy Division Punk rock, Post-punk

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22 34
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Misfits Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

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4 8
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs Novelty song

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1 4
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Thomas R Moore added Thrice Rock

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61 100
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Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

49
15 27
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

50
19 34
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Iggy Pop Punk blues, Garage rock, Protopunk