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rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
15.2k votes 2k voters 57.6k 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
652 335
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

2
475 265
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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

3
575 358
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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

4
308 212
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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

5
292 205
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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

6
259 178
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
282 202
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

8
251 174
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

9
259 217
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
210 168
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
270 243
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

12
278 255
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

13
221 203
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Bob Marley Reggae

14
183 164
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

The Greatest Album Covers of All Time

15
174 168
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

16
146 145
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

17
188 202
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

18
145 150
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

19
43 24
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
185 213
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

21
141 158
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

The Best Smirnoff Vodka Flavors

22
160 192
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

23
118 145
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

24
109 134
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

25
111 139
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

26
84 103
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
14 5
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Alice Cooper Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

28
127 164
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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

Rock Stars You Didn't Realize Were Swapping Ladies All The Time

29
115 149
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

30
76 96
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

31
99 130
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Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

32
126 170
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

33
37 43
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 12
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
43 57
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

Songs That Were Total Ripoffs

36
24 29
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
90 130
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

38
32 43
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

39
75 108
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

40
66 96
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

41
20 27
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

42
4 4
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

The Best Songs on The Doors' Self-Titled Debut Album

43
5 6
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Joy Division Punk rock, Post-punk

44
9 13
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

45
21 32
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Misfits Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

46
1 1
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Thomas R Moore added Thrice Rock

47
4 6
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs Novelty song

48
15 24
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
19 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
60 98
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Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music