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.
Albums: Abbey Road, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Rubber Soul
Albums: Welcome to My Nightmare, Hey Stoopid, Brutal Planet, Trash, Constrictor
Albums: Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home
Albums: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Hunky Dory, Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, "Heroes"
Albums: Blue, Court and Spark, Ladies of the Canyon, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Clouds
Albums: Purple Rain, Sign 'O' the Times, 1999, Love Symbol Album, Around the World in a Day
Albums: Who's Next, Tommy, Quadrophenia, Live at Leeds, The Who Sell Out
Albums: Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate, Old Ideas, The Future, Live in London
Albums: Tapestry, Wrap Around Joy, Music, Love Makes the World, Colour of Your Dreams
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
Albums: London Calling, The Clash, Black Market Clash, Give ’Em Enough Rope, Combat Rock
Albums: The Velvet Underground & Nico, Loaded, The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat, Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground Featuring Nico
Albums: American V: A Hundred Highways, American IV: The Man Comes Around, At Folsom Prison, American Recordings, American III: Solitary Man
Albums: Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin II, Physical Graffiti, Houses of the Holy
Albums: (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, Definitely Maybe, Don’t Believe the Truth, Dig Out Your Soul, Be Here Now
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
Albums: Sun Is Shining, One Love, Rainbow Country, Lively Up Yourself, Forever Gold
Albums: Violator, Songs of Faith and Devotion, Music for the Masses, The Singles 86-98, Black Celebration
Albums: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Bleed for Me, Plastic Surgery Disasters, California Über Alles
Albums: The Wall, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Meddle, Animals
Albums: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sounds of Silence, Bookends, The Graduate, The Concert in Central Park
Albums: Ramones, Rocket to Russia, End of the Century, Ramones Mania, Loud
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
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)
Albums: Aaliyah, One in a Million, I Care 4 U, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, Back & Forth