Music

Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers 

Adam Tyler
Updated February 25, 2020 16.5k votes 2.2k voters 60.3k 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
Ranker Video

Albums: Abbey Road, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Rubber Soul, + more

More The Beatles 

#1,279 of 2,828 The Most Influential People of All Time The Worst Beatles Songslisted on The Best English Boy Bands

2
Ranker Video
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, + more

More Bob Dylan 

#306 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #64 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years The Best Bob Dylan Songs

3
Ranker Video
Genre: Rock music, Psychedelic pop & Electronic music; Nationality: United Kingdom

Albums: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Hunky Dory, Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, "Heroes", + more

More David Bowie 

#544 of 1,139 The Best Actors in Film History #130 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever The Best David Bowie Songs of All Time

4
Ranker Video
Genre: Hip hop music, Synthpop & New Wave; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Purple Rain, Sign 'O' the Times, 1999, Love Symbol Album, Around the World in a Day, + more

More Prince 

#19 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #21 of 639 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time The Best Prince Songs of All Time

5
Ranker Video

Albums: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur (or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire), The Kink Kronikles, Something Else by The Kinks, Face to Face, + more

More The Kinks 

#239 of 502 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '80s #121 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time The Best Kinks Songs of All Time

6
Ranker Video
Genre: Synthpop, Pop music & Spoken word; Nationality: Canada

Albums: Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate, Old Ideas, The Future, Live in London, + more

More Leonard Cohen 

#552 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #222 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time The Best Leonard Cohen Songs of All Time

7
Ranker Video

Albums: London Calling, The Clash, Black Market Clash, Give ’Em Enough Rope, Combat Rock, + more

More The Clash 

#44 of 502 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '80s #54 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time The Best Clash Songs of All Time

8
The Velvet Underground ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added

Albums: The Velvet Underground & Nico, Loaded, The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat, Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground Featuring Nico, + more

More The Velvet Underground 

#114 of 285 Musicians Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame #41 of 386 The Best Punk Bands Of All Time The Best Velvet Underground Albums of All Time

9
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Genre: Glam metal, Experimental rock & Shock rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Welcome to My Nightmare, Hey Stoopid, Brutal Planet, Trash, Constrictor, + more

More Alice Cooper 

#35 of 303 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #51 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years The Best Alice Cooper Albums of All Time

10
Ranker Video
Genre: Outlaw country, Christian music & Americana; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: American V: A Hundred Highways, American IV: The Man Comes Around, At Folsom Prison, American Recordings, American III: Solitary Man, + more

More Johnny Cash 

#108 of 330 The Coolest Actors Ever #29 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive The Best Johnny Cash Songs of All Time

11
Ranker Video
12
Ranker Video

Albums: Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin II, Physical Graffiti, Houses of the Holy, + more

More Led Zeppelin 

#10 of 424 The Greatest Heavy Metal Bands Of All Time #2 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time The Best Led Zeppelin Songs

13
Ranker Video
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Experimental rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: First Rays of the New Rising Sun, Band of Gypsys, Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection, Live at the Fillmore East, Live at Woodstock, + more

More Jimi Hendrix 

#24 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive The Best Jimi Hendrix Songs of All Timelisted on Members of The 27 Club

14
Ranker Video
Genre: Reggae; Nationality: Jamaica

Albums: Sun Is Shining, One Love, Rainbow Country, Lively Up Yourself, Forever Gold, + more

More Bob Marley 

#91 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #21 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive 18 Things Most People Don't Know About Bob Marley

15
Ranker Video

Albums: Ramones, Rocket to Russia, End of the Century, Ramones Mania, Loud, + more

More Ramones 

#1 of 386 The Best Punk Bands Of All Time #83 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time Were The Ramones The Most Dysfunctional Band That Stayed Together?

16
Ranker Video

Albums: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sounds of Silence, Bookends, The Graduate, The Concert in Central Park, + more

More Simon and Garfunkel 

#17 of 454 The Best Duos of All Time #27 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time The Best Simon And Garfunkel Songs

17
Ranker Video

Albums: Violator, Songs of Faith and Devotion, Music for the Masses, The Singles 86-98, Black Celebration, + more

More Depeche Mode 

#107 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #80 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time The Best Depeche Mode Songs of All Time

18
Ranker Video

Albums: The Wall, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Meddle, Animals, + more

More Pink Floyd 

#4 of 620 The Greatest Live Bands of All Time #4 of 2,211 The Best Rock Bands of All Time The Best Pink Floyd Songs

19
Ranker Video
Genre: Hip hop music, Doo-wop & Pop music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Live at the Apollo, Star Time, Funky Christmas, Santa's Got a Brand New Bag, I Got You, + more

More James Brown 

#69 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #119 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years The Best James Brown Albums of All Time

20
Ranker Video
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Rain Dogs, Mule Variations, Blood Money, The Heart of Saturday Night, Alice, + more

More Tom Waits 

#270 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time #33 of 844 These Poetic Geniuses Wrote Your Favorite Songs of All Time The Best Tom Waits Albums of All Time

21
Ranker Video
22
Ranker Video
Genre: Christian music, Pop music & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Jailhouse Rock, The Sun Sessions, From Nashville to Memphis: The Essential '60s Masters, Can’t Help Falling in Love / Rock-A-Hula Baby, Elvis Presley (Legacy Edition), + more

More Elvis Presley 

#365 of 1,139 The Best Actors in Film History #26 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive The Best Elvis Presley Songs of All Time

23
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Piano rock; Nationality: United Kingdom

Albums: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Disney's Sing-Along: The Lion King, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Madman Across the Water, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, + more

More Elton John 

#72 of 274 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #9 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists The Best Elton John Albums of All Time

24
Ranker Video
Genre: Americana, Blues-rock & Country; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Born to Run, Born in the U.S.A., The Rising, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, + more

More Bruce Springsteen 

#5 of 303 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #42 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists The Best Bruce Springsteen Songs of All Time

25
Ranker Video
Genre: Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul & Pop music; Nationality: Northern Ireland

Albums: Astral Weeks, Moondance, Saint Dominic's Preview, It's Too Late to Stop Now, The Best of Van Morrison, + more

More Van Morrison 

#72 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #115 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time The Best Van Morrison Songs of All Time