Music

Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
16.1k votes 2.2k voters 60k 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
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Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock
3
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Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music
4
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music
5
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Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave
6
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Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave
7
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Music hall, Pop music, Rock music
8
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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
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Popular music, Pop music, Rock music
11
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Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana
12
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Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music
13
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock
14
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Reggae
15
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock
16
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Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk
17
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Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music
18
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Pop music, Rock music, Folk music
19
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise
20
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Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music
21
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Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music
22
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music
23
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Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock
24
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music
25
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Christian music, Pop music, Rock music