Rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
15.5k votes 2.1k voters 58.9k views 68 items

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
660 337
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Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

2
482 267
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Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

3
590 361
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

4
313 216
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Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

5
292 208
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Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

6
255 176
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Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

7
261 182
The Velvet Underground is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Noise rock, Blues-rock, Rock music

8
284 206
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Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

9
264 217
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Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
213 169
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Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
277 246
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Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

12
281 257
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

13
223 204
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Reggae

14
185 167
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Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

15
41 10
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

16
176 170
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Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

17
148 152
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Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
146 150
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

19
189 205
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Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

20
45 26
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

21
145 160
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Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

22
186 216
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Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

23
163 194
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Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

24
110 136
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Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

25
118 148
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Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

26
130 166
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Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

27
112 143
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Rock music, Blues, Country blues

28
86 107
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AllyStevensPike added Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

29
118 153
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Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

30
102 132
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Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

31
77 99
Howlin' Wolf is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
Clark Benson added Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

32
126 173
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Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

33
28 31
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

34
38 46
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
simkat399 added Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

35
45 59
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

36
15 15
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

37
67 97
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Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

38
75 110
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Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

39
33 46
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

40
90 135
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Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

41
21 29
Sex Pistols is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Rock music, Anarcho-punk, Punk rock

42
5 5
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

43
10 14
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Outlaw country, Country rock, Country

44
6 8
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Punk rock, Post-punk

45
22 34
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

46
4 8
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
1 4
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Thomas R Moore added Rock

48
61 100
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Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

49
15 27
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

50
19 34
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Punk blues, Garage rock, Protopunk