Photo: via Tumblr

rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
14.2k votes 1.7k voters 56.5k views Embed

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
428 233
Ranker Video
David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

The Sexiest Women in Rock History, Ranked All Popchip Flavors, Ranked Best to Worst

2
507 324
Ranker Video
The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

3
526 347
Ranker Video
Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

4
276 189
Ranker Video
The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

5
238 160
Ranker Video
The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

6
245 167
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
262 191
Ranker Video
Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

8
268 203
Ranker Video
Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

9
235 211
Ranker Video
Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
186 162
Ranker Video
The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
260 249
Ranker Video
Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

12
178 159
Ranker Video
Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

13
239 236
Ranker Video
Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

14
203 196
Ranker Video
Bob Marley Reggae

15
144 139
Ranker Video
Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

Rock Stars Who Have Aged Surprisingly Well 15 Songs That Don't Mean What You Think They Do

16
162 165
Ranker Video
Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

17
139 146
Ranker Video
James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
168 198
Ranker Video
Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

19
173 209
Ranker Video
The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

20
128 151
Ranker Video
Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

21
27 22
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

22
147 191
Ranker Video
Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

23
104 131
Ranker Video
Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

24
80 101
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AllyStevensPike added Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

25
110 144
Ranker Video
Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

26
104 136
Ranker Video
Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

27
124 166
Ranker Video
Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

28
121 162
Ranker Video
Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

29
108 144
Ranker Video
Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

The Best Frontmen in Rock Fun Jobs That Pay Well

30
72 93
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
8 1
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Alice Cooper Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

32
94 127
Ranker Video
Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

33
41 50
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Black Sabbath Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

34
33 41
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
simkat399 added Carole King Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

35
21 24
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

36
11 10
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

37
74 105
Ranker Video
Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

38
87 126
Ranker Video
Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

39
29 39
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

40
18 24
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

41
63 93
Ranker Video
Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

42
3 3
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs Novelty song

43
3 3
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

Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely The Best Budget Hotel Chains

44
19 28
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Misfits Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

45
7 10
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

46
14 22
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

47
1 3
Eddie Cochran is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Eddie Cochran Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll

48
1 3
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

49
17 31
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
12 24
Yes is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
alecorrado2 added Yes Rock music, Experimental rock, Pop rock