Rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
15.6k votes 2.1k voters 59.2k views 68 items

List Rules No obscure musicians.

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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

668 339
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Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

487 268
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Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

596 362
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

313 218
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Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

294 210
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Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

257 178
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Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

261 184
The Velvet Underground is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Noise rock, Blues-rock, Rock music

286 208
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Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

72 13
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

267 219
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Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

215 170
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Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

278 248
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Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

282 258
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

224 205
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186 168
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Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

176 172
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Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

148 154
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Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

190 207
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Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

146 152
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

46 28
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

147 160
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Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

186 218
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

163 196
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Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

110 137
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Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

118 149
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Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge