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rock Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers  

Adam Tyler
15.3k votes 2k voters 57.7k views

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.

1
653 336
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The Beatles Pop music, Rock music, Pop rock

2
476 266
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David Bowie Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Electronic music

3
578 360
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Bob Dylan Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

4
310 213
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Prince Hip hop music, Synthpop, New Wave

5
292 206
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The Kinks Music hall, Pop music, Rock music

6
259 179
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
252 174
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The Clash Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave

8
282 204
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Leonard Cohen Synthpop, Pop music, Spoken word

9
260 217
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Johnny Cash Outlaw country, Christian music, Americana

10
211 168
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The Who Popular music, Pop music, Rock music

11
272 244
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Led Zeppelin Blues-rock, Classic rock, Rock music

12
279 256
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Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock

13
222 203
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Bob Marley Reggae

14
184 165
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Ramones Pop punk, Rock music, Classic Punk

8 TV Actors Who Turned Out Just Like Their Characters

15
175 168
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Simon and Garfunkel Pop music, Worldbeat, Rock music

16
146 147
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Tom Waits Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music

17
146 150
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James Brown Hip hop music, Doo-wop, Pop music

18
44 24
Elton John is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
edward1111100 added Elton John Pop music, Rock music, Piano rock

19
188 203
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Pink Floyd Rock music, Space rock, Experimental rock

20
186 214
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The Rolling Stones Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk

21
142 159
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Depeche Mode Synthpop, New Wave, Electronic music

The Best Songs on The Who's Album Who's Next

22
161 192
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Elvis Presley Christian music, Pop music, Rock music

23
118 146
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Neil Young Rock music, Experimental rock, Grunge

24
109 135
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Van Morrison Skiffle, Blue-eyed soul, Pop music

25
112 140
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Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues

26
129 164
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Michael Jackson Motown Sound, Rock music, Electronic music

27
16 7
Alice Cooper is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
oldschoolrockisthebest added Alice Cooper Glam metal, Experimental rock, Shock rock

28
102 130
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Bruce Springsteen Americana, Blues-rock, Heartland rock

The Best Rockumentaries of All Time

29
116 150
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Nirvana Rock music, Grunge, Alternative rock

30
84 105
Bee Gees is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
AllyStevensPike added Bee Gees Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul, Disco - pop music

31
77 97
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
126 171
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Stevie Wonder Motown Sound, Psychedelic soul, Pop music

33
27 29
AC/DC is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
arthur-mann added AC/DC Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music

34
37 45
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
15 13
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
gnicholls added Gordon Lightfoot Pop music, Rock music, Folk music

The Best Google Nexus 7 Apps

36
44 57
Black Sabbath is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Black Sabbath Doom metal, Blues-rock, Power metal

37
33 43
Iron Maiden is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
RobinGallego added Iron Maiden New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Heavy metal, Hard rock

38
90 131
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Kiss Glam metal, Rock music, Heavy metal

39
75 109
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Joni Mitchell Pop music, Folk music, Folk jazz

40
21 28
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
5 4
Pixies is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Pixies Experimental rock, Grunge, Noise

42
66 97
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Dolly Parton Ballad, Country pop, Pop music

Easy Songs to Play on Guitar

43
10 13
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
6 7
Joy Division is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Joy Division Punk rock, Post-punk

45
22 33
Misfits is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Misfits Horror punk, Heavy metal, Classic Punk

46
4 7
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 3
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Thomas R Moore added Thrice Rock

48
2 5
Eddie Cochran is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Eddie Cochran Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll

49
15 26
Dead Kennedys is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Dead Kennedys Psychobilly, Anarcho-punk, Skate punk

50
19 33
Iggy Pop is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Artists Who Have Inspired the Best Covers
punksnotdead added Iggy Pop Punk blues, Garage rock, Protopunk