Top 10 Iconic Cover Songs
When a band or artist covers a song, we’re often to keen to point the finger and disregard it. However, in some instances the cover versions of a song have proven to be just as good as, if not better than the original.
We take a walk down memory lane and bring you ‘Top 10: Iconic Cover Songs’ – ten incredible cover songs that really surprised us….
Johnny Cash – Hurt (Originally by Nine Inch Nails)
In 2002, Johnny Cash released ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’ his 87th studio album. This would be the final album that Cash would release in his lifetime and would include three covers in total. The single, a cover of Nine Inch Nails ‘Hurt’ allegedly brought NIN, frontman Trent Reznor, to tears when he first heard it. Film director, Mark Romanek took creative control of the music video for Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’ and the music video has since been recognised as one of the best of all time – topping the NME list of 100 most iconic.
Kate Bush – Rocket Man (Originally by Elton John)
In 1991 artists including Eric Clapton, the Beach Boys, Tina Turner, George Michael and Sinead O’Connor contributed to the album ‘Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin’. The eclectic compilation saw iconic singers and songwriters re-invent much-loved songs. However, the Kate Bush cover of Elton’s 1972 release ‘Rocket Man’ really stood out, with Kate Bush’s idiosyncratic vocal style taking on one of Elton John & Bernie Taupins biggest hits. If you haven’t heard it, it’s certainly worth a listen!
Jose Gonzales – Heartbeats (Originally by The Knife)
Alternative/Dance act The Knife released the single ‘Heartbeats’ in 2002 – packed with synths, electronica and pop beats. However, it would be the humble cover from folk-singer Jose Gonzales which would gain immense popularity. Gonzales took a completely different approach to the song and produced a version which was sincere and emotive. Jose Gonzales cover was awarded a BPI Gold Disk for it’s sale of over 100,000 singles in the UK.
Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World (Originally by David Bowie)
Nirvana’s MTV unplugged performance in 1993, remains a significant event in the history of music. Nirvanas stripped down versions of their own songs, alongside covers of Lead Belly, Meat Puppets and Vaselines, went against the grain of the conventional MTV unplugged format. Despite incredible performances, it was their cover of David Bowies ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ which really stood out. Cobain passed away before the recording of ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’ was released but David Bowie commented “I was simply blown away when I found that Kurt Cobain liked my work, and have always wanted to talk to him about his reasons for covering ‘The Man Who Sold the World….it was a good straight forward rendition and sounded somehow very honest. It would have been nice to have worked with him, but just talking with him would have been real cool”
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (Originally by Leonard Cohen)
When Leonard Cohen released ‘Hallelujah’ on his 1984 album ‘Various Positions’ it initially received very little success. However, inspired by an earlier cover of the song by John Cale, Jeff Buckley released his own version on his only complete studio album ‘Grace’ (1994). The album went Platinum in the USA, UK, Italy and Australia. Buckley’s cover of ‘Hallelujah’ has returned to the US and UK charts, several times since it’s release and reached No.1 in the US charts in 2008.
Metallica – Whiskey in the Jar (Originally by Thin Lizzy)
‘Whiskey in the Jar’ is a traditional Irish song, set against the Southern Mountains of Ireland. With its heritage unknown, the song has been recorded by many artists including The Grateful Dead, The Dubliners and Thin Lizzy (who made it internationally famous). When Metallica released ‘Garage Inc.’ a compilation album, consisting of cover songs in 1998 – a cover version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ seemed a little gimmicky. However, Metallica surprised everyone when the song came in at No.1 on the US single chart and the album went 5x Platinum. Who knew that James Hetfield’s voice could lend itself so well to an Irish Folk song?
Ryan Adams – Style (Originally by Taylor Swift)
In 2015, singer-songwriter Ryan Adams released a song for song cover album of Taylor Swifts multi-platinum album ‘1989’. Adams took a different approach to Taylor Swifts eighties inspired album and channeled folk and rock influences into the poppy tunes of ‘Shake it Off’, ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Welcome to New York’. However, it has to be Ryan Adams take on the chic ‘Style’ which makes a nostalgic nod to the music of The Smiths and Bruce Springsteen, which was the shiny crown on a fantastic album.
Fugees – Killing Me Softly (Originally by Lori Lierberman)
Originally recorded by 1970’s folk-rock singer Lori Lieberman and later Roberta Flack, ‘Killing Me Softly’ was a huge-hit in 1997 for American hip-hop group Fugees. Fugees injected elements of soul and reggae into their cover, as part of their agenda to embrace and promote black empowerement and equality for refugees. ‘Killing Me Softly’ was the best-selling single of 1996 and sold over 1,360,000 copies worldwide.
Faith – Limp Bizkit (Originally by George Michael)
When nu-metal band Limp Bizkit covered George Michaels’ iconic ‘Faith’ – it had huge potential to go terribly wrong. Fred Durst approaches the cover with every ounce of metal induced aggression. Heavy riffs, industrial style electronica and screaming vox make it a refreshing take on the 1980’s super-hit. Love it or hate it, this is a cover you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
The Futureheads – Hounds of Love (Originally by Kate Bush)
Kate Bush may have already featured in our list of Top Ten Covers but this time, the shoe is on the other foot. Kate Bush has a way of making every song, completely unique to her – which makes it an incredibly mean feat to conquer a cover of a Kate Bush song. When English post-punk band The Futureheads released a cover of ‘Hounds of Love’ in 2005 – you had to think twice before comparing it to the song of the same title by Kate Bush. This cover version took on a completely different life with an indie beat, which made the dark & brooding song an upbeat hit. The Futureheads claimed that they were initially reluctant to introduce the song as a single, but after a recording session, they released it and ‘Hounds of Love’ returned to the charts once more, becoming a top 10 hit for the band.