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bands/musicians Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
13.8k votes 1.6k voters 55.8k views 66 items 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
403 222
Ranker Video
David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

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2
498 342
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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

3
449 316
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

4
265 184
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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

5
233 155
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

6
238 163
The Velvet Underground is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added The Velvet Underground Noise rock, Blues-rock, Rock music

7
255 189
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

8
251 199
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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

9
231 208
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
182 160
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
255 247
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

12
173 156
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

13
198 193
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Bob Marley Reggae

14
230 235
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

15
142 136
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

The Best Supergroups Ever Made Great One Hit Wonder Artists of the '90s

16
160 162
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

17
135 143
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
169 206
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

19
162 197
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

20
121 150
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

21
103 130
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

22
144 191
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

23
110 143
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

24
103 134
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

25
23 21
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

26
72 92
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

27
78 101
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

28
122 165
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

29
104 141
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

The Best Female Rock Singers The Worst Things You Can Make Jokes About

30
118 162
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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

31
39 48
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Black Sabbath Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

32
33 40
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
simkat399 added Carole King Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

33
92 127
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Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

34
86 119
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

35
74 104
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

36
10 9
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

37
19 23
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
28 38
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

39
17 23
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
61 92
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

41
2 2
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Joy Division Punk rock, Post-punk

42
2 2
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs Novelty song

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

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44
6 9
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

45
1 2
Eddie Cochran is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Eddie Cochran Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll

46
1 2
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

47
17 29
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added 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
punksnotdead added Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

49
57 96
Ranker Video
Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

50
11 23
Yes is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
alecorrado2 added Yes Rock music, Experimental rock, Pop rock