Music

Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
16.2k votes 2.2k voters 60.1k views 100 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.
list ordered by
1
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock
2
Ranker Video
Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock
3
Ranker Video
Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music
4
Ranker Video
Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music
5
Ranker Video
Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave
6
Ranker Video
Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave
7
Ranker Video
Music hall, Pop music, Rock music
8
Ranker Video
Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word
9
The Velvet Underground ... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Noise rock, Blues-rock, Rock music
10
Ranker Video
Popular music, Pop music, Rock music
11
Ranker Video
Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana
12
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock
13
Ranker Video
Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music
14
Brandy Norwood is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Hip hop music, Pop music, Dance-pop
15
Ranker Video
Reggae
16
Ranker Video
Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock
17
Ranker Video
Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk
18
Mary J. Blige is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Hip hop music, Contemporary R&B, Rhythm and blues
19
Stefflon Don is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Hip hop
20
Monica is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Hip hop music, Pop music, Folk music
21
Cassandra Lucas is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Cassandra Lucas
22
Frank Ocean is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Alternative hip hop, Contemporary R&B, Pop
23
K. Michelle is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Pop music, Hip Hop, Contemporary R&B
24
Sparkle is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Sparkle Hip hop music, Contemporary R&B, Rhythm and blues
25
Remy Ma is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Hip hop music, Gangsta rap