Music
2.3k voters

Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers

Updated February 25, 2020 13.6k votes 2.3k voters 60.6k views100 items

List RulesNo 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.
...more
  • The Beatles1
    553
    268

    The Beatles

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsAbbey Road, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Rubber Soul

    Spotify buy button

    More The Beatles 

    Behind The Scene Stories From The Recording Of The Beatles' 'Abbey Road'#1 of 25 The Best English Boy Bands

  • Alice Cooper2
    144
    53

    Alice Cooper

    Glam metal, Experimental rock

    AlbumsWelcome to My Nightmare, Hey Stoopid, Brutal Planet, Trash, Constrictor

    More Alice Cooper 

    The Best Alice Cooper Albums of All Time#12 of 392 The Greatest Heavy Metal Bands Of All Time

  • Bob Dylan3
    451
    275

    Bob Dylan

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsHighway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home

    More Bob Dylan 

    The Best Bob Dylan Songs#387 of 1,172 The Best Writers of All Time

  • David Bowie4
    370
    229

    David Bowie

    Rock music, Psychedelic pop

    AlbumsThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Hunky Dory, Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, "Heroes"

    More David Bowie 

    David Bowie and His Mysterious Connections to the Occult and Paganism#6 of 185 The (Male) Singer You Most Wish You Could Sound Like

  • Joni Mitchell5
    157
    84

    Joni Mitchell

    Pop music, Folk music

    AlbumsBlue, Court and Spark, Ladies of the Canyon, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Clouds

    More Joni Mitchell 

    The Best Joni Mitchell Albums of All Time#107 of 225 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters

  • Prince6
    244
    180

    Prince

    Hip hop music, Synthpop

    AlbumsPurple Rain, Sign 'O' the Times, 1999, Love Symbol Album, Around the World in a Day

    More Prince 

    Everything The World Should Know About Prince From His Band, The Revolution#14 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive

  • The Who7
    174
    129

    The Who

    Popular music, Pop music

    AlbumsWho's Next, Tommy, Quadrophenia, Live at Leeds, The Who Sell Out

    More The Who 

    Every Song in Tommy, Ranked by Singability#79 of 355 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

  • Leonard Cohen8
    219
    173

    Leonard Cohen

    Synthpop, Pop music

    AlbumsSongs of Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate, Old Ideas, The Future, Live in London

    More Leonard Cohen 

    The Best Leonard Cohen Songs of All Time#112 of 525 Which Artist Would You Bring Back From The Dead To Write One More Song?

  • Carole King9
    83
    46

    Carole King

    Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul

    AlbumsTapestry, Wrap Around Joy, Music, Love Makes the World, Colour of Your Dreams

    More Carole King 

    The Best Carole King Albums of All Time#58 of 316 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years

  • The Kinks10
    221
    176

    The Kinks

    Music hall, Pop music

    AlbumsThe 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 The Kinks 

    The Best Kinks Songs of All Time#125 of 219 The Top Pop Artists of the 1960s

  • The Clash11
    191
    155

    The Clash

    Hip hop music, Pop punk

    AlbumsLondon Calling, The Clash, Black Market Clash, Give ’Em Enough Rope, Combat Rock

    More The Clash 

    The Best Clash Songs of All Time#1 of 389 The Best Punk Bands Of All Time

  • The Velvet Underground12
    188
    156

    The Velvet Underground

    Noise rock, Blues-rock

    AlbumsThe Velvet Underground & Nico, Loaded, The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat, Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground Featuring Nico

    More The Velvet Underground 

    The Best Velvet Underground Songs#9 of 65 The Best Bands Named After Books and Literary Characters

  • Johnny Cash13
    201
    173

    Johnny Cash

    Outlaw country, Christian music

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

    More Johnny Cash 

    The Best Johnny Cash Songs of All Time#12 of 291 The Top Country Artists of All Time

  • Led Zeppelin14
    213
    188

    Led Zeppelin

    Blues-rock, Classic rock

    AlbumsLed Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin II, Physical Graffiti, Houses of the Holy

    More Led Zeppelin 

    Infamous Stories From Led Zeppelin's Heyday Most Fans Don't Talk About#3 of 265 Rank the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

  • Oasis15
    97
    72

    Oasis

    Rock music, Britpop

    Albums(What's the Story) Morning Glory?, Definitely Maybe, Don’t Believe the Truth, Dig Out Your Soul, Be Here Now

    More Oasis 

    The Best Oasis Songs of All Time#13 of 15 Bands Whose Whole Thing Is Hating Each Other

  • Jimi Hendrix16
    202
    193

    Jimi Hendrix

    Blues-rock, Rock music

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

    More Jimi Hendrix 

    Wild Stories From The Guitar-Shredding Life Of Jimi Hendrix#3 of 29 Members of The 27 Club

  • Bob Marley17
    162
    163

    AlbumsSun Is Shining, One Love, Rainbow Country, Lively Up Yourself, Forever Gold

    Buy buy button

    More Bob Marley 

    18 Things Most People Don't Know About Bob Marley#47 of 739 The Best Singers of All Time

  • Depeche Mode18
    123
    126

    Depeche Mode

    Synthpop, New Wave

    AlbumsViolator, Songs of Faith and Devotion, Music for the Masses, The Singles 86-98, Black Celebration

    More Depeche Mode 

    The Best Depeche Mode Songs of All Time#45 of 383 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '90s

  • Dead Kennedys19
    38
    29

    Dead Kennedys

    Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk

    AlbumsFresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Bleed for Me, Plastic Surgery Disasters, California Über Alles

    More Dead Kennedys 

    The Best Dead Kennedys Albums of All Time#197 of 279 The Greatest American Rock Bands

  • Pink Floyd20
    141
    156

    Pink Floyd

    Rock music, Space rock

    AlbumsThe Wall, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Meddle, Animals

    More Pink Floyd 

    Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know About Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side Of The Moon'#52 of 603 The Best Rock Vocalists

  • Simon and Garfunkel21
    125
    138

    Simon and Garfunkel

    Pop music, Worldbeat

    AlbumsBridge Over Troubled Water, Sounds of Silence, Bookends, The Graduate, The Concert in Central Park

    More Simon and Garfunkel 

    The Best Simon And Garfunkel Songs#99 of 297 The Best Duos of All Time

  • Ramones22
    127
    143

    Ramones

    Pop punk, Rock music

    AlbumsRamones, Rocket to Russia, End of the Century, Ramones Mania, Loud

    More Ramones 

    Were The Ramones The Most Dysfunctional Band That Stayed Together?#118 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

  • Elton John23
    47
    46

    Elton John

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsGoodbye 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 Elton John 

    All Of The Inaccuracies In 'Rocketman'#101 of 269 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World

  • Elvis Presley24
    120
    142

    Elvis Presley

    Christian music, Pop music

    AlbumsJailhouse 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 Elvis Presley 

    13 Conspiracy Theories About Elvis Being Alive That People Still Believe#131 of 162 1970s Christian Pop Artists

  • Aaliyah25
    10
    1

    Aaliyah

    Hip hop music, Pop music

    AlbumsAaliyah, One in a Million, I Care 4 U, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, Back & Forth

    More Aaliyah 

    The Best Songs Feat. Aaliyah#131 of 602 The Best Female Vocalists Ever