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rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
15k votes 2k voters 57.5k views

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
635 335
Ranker Video
The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

2
469 259
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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

3
567 357
Ranker Video
Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

4
302 210
Ranker Video
Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

5
288 204
Ranker Video
The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

6
256 178
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
249 172
Ranker Video
The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

8
279 201
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

9
255 216
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
205 168
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
276 255
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

12
264 242
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

13
220 202
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Bob Marley Reggae

14
180 164
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

The Best Rock Vocalists

15
172 168
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

16
146 144
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

17
188 201
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

18
144 150
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

19
41 23
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
184 213
Ranker Video
The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

21
140 157
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

The Best Scottish Actresses Working Today

22
158 192
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

23
109 133
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

24
117 145
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

25
127 163
Ranker Video
Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

26
83 102
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AllyStevensPike added Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

27
108 139
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

28
112 148
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

The Greatest Album Covers of All Time

29
12 5
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Alice Cooper Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

30
126 169
Ranker Video
Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

31
98 129
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Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

32
75 96
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

33
37 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
15 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
42 55
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

The 37 Greatest On-Stage Falls of All Time

36
23 27
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

37
75 107
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

38
89 129
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

39
31 42
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

40
66 95
Ranker Video
Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

41
5 5
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
19 27
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

Absolutely Insane Behind-The-Scenes Guns N' Roses Stories

43
9 12
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

44
21 31
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
2 4
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

46
3 6
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

47
14 24
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

48
60 97
Ranker Video
Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

49
18 32
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Iggy Pop Punk blues, Garage rock, Protopunk

50
1 5
Eddie Cochran is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Eddie Cochran Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll