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Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers

Updated February 25, 2020 12.9k 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.
  • The Beatles1

    The Beatles

    Pop music, Rock music

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

    Spotify buy button

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  • Alice Cooper2

    Alice Cooper

    Glam metal, Experimental rock

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

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

  • Bob Dylan3

    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

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  • David Bowie4

    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"

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  • Joni Mitchell5

    Joni Mitchell

    Pop music, Folk music

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

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

  • Prince6


    Hip hop music, Synthpop

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

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  • The Who7

    The Who

    Popular music, Pop music

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

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    Every Song in Tommy, Ranked by Singability#78 of 355 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

  • Leonard Cohen8

    Leonard Cohen

    Synthpop, Pop music

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

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  • Carole King9

    Carole King

    Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul

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

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

  • The Kinks10

    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

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  • The Clash11

    The Clash

    Hip hop music, Pop punk

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

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

  • The Velvet Underground12

    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

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  • Johnny Cash13

    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

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

  • Led Zeppelin14

    Led Zeppelin

    Blues-rock, Classic rock

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

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    Infamous Stories From Led Zeppelin's Heyday Most Fans Don't Talk About#108 of 219 The Top Pop Artists of the 1960s

  • Oasis15


    Rock music, Britpop

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

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  • Jimi Hendrix16

    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

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  • Bob Marley17

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

    Buy buy button

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  • Depeche Mode18

    Depeche Mode

    Synthpop, New Wave

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

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

  • Dead Kennedys19

    Dead Kennedys

    Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk

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

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    The Best Dead Kennedys Albums of All Time#479 of 1,728 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

  • Pink Floyd20

    Pink Floyd

    Rock music, Space rock

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

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  • Simon and Garfunkel21

    Simon and Garfunkel

    Pop music, Worldbeat

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

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

  • Ramones22


    Pop punk, Rock music

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

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  • Elton John23

    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

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  • Elvis Presley24

    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)

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    The Best Elvis Presley Songs of All Time#131 of 162 1970s Christian Pop Artists

  • Aaliyah25


    Hip hop music, Pop music

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

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