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rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
14.9k votes 1.9k voters 57.2k 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
591 334
Ranker Video
The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

2
460 255
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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

3
560 356
Ranker Video
Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

4
285 202
Ranker Video
The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

5
293 210
Ranker Video
Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

6
255 177
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
277 200
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

8
245 171
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

9
253 215
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
197 168
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
273 255
Ranker Video
Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

12
261 242
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

13
215 202
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Bob Marley Reggae

14
178 164
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

Rank the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

15
170 168
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

16
146 144
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

17
187 201
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

18
144 150
Ranker Video
James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

19
41 23
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

20
184 212
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

21
138 156
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

The Best Catholic Authors

22
155 192
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

23
109 133
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

24
117 145
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

25
127 163
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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

26
83 102
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AllyStevensPike added Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

27
108 139
Ranker Video
Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

28
12 5
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Alice Cooper Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

The Best R.E.M. Albums

29
112 148
Ranker Video
Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

30
126 169
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

31
75 96
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Howlin' Wolf Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

32
37 42
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
simkat399 added Carole King Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

33
97 129
Ranker Video
Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

34
15 11
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

35
42 55
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Black Sabbath Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

The Greatest Songs by One-Hit Wonders

36
23 27
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

37
75 107
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

38
89 129
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

39
66 95
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

40
30 42
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

41
5 5
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Joy Division Punk rock, Post-punk

42
19 27
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sex Pistols Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

Every Schoolhouse Rock! Song, Ranked Best to Worst

43
9 12
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Hank Williams, Jr. Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

44
21 31
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
2 4
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

46
3 6
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs Novelty song

47
14 24
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

48
59 97
Ranker Video
Neil Diamond Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

49
18 32
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
1 5
Eddie Cochran is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Eddie Cochran Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll