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bands/musicians Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
14.0k votes 1.6k voters 56.0k views 67 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
415 226
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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

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2
507 345
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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

3
465 320
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

4
235 157
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

5
267 187
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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

6
241 164
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
258 190
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

8
263 200
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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

9
233 209
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
183 160
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
255 248
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

12
173 157
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

13
199 194
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Bob Marley Reggae

14
231 235
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

15
144 137
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

The Greatest Album Covers of All Time Songs That Were Total Ripoffs

16
161 163
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

17
136 144
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
164 197
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

19
169 208
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

20
124 150
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

21
104 130
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

22
25 21
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

23
145 191
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

24
110 143
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

25
103 134
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

26
79 101
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
123 165
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

28
72 92
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

29
105 141
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

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30
119 162
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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
5 0
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Alice Cooper Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

35
11 9
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

36
74 104
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

37
86 123
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

38
19 24
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

39
28 39
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
62 92
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

41
3 2
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs Novelty song

42
3 2
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Joy Division Punk rock, Post-punk

43
17 24
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

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44
18 27
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
6 9
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

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
1 2
Eddie Cochran is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Eddie Cochran Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll

48
13 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
17 30
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
57 96
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Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music