25 of the best cover songs ever

It’s pretty hard to proclaim the best cover songs of all time — there have been so many great covers performed in the studio and in a live environment. So that’s why we’re framing this as “25 of the Best Cover Songs Ever”. This list is not as hyperbolic as we prefer to be, but our top 10 is pretty damn solid.

Some prescribe to the theory that a cover song has to be better than the original to be great, or considered one of the the best. I don’t believe this to be true. There are cases in this list where the cover song does not surpass the original in greatness (see #25 for example). But if a cover song attempts to be different and successfully recreates a track to make it original and timeless in its own way, credit should be granted.

What did we miss? Leave us a comment with a YouTube link.

25. Chromatics – “Into the Black”
Originally by Neil Young

24. Guns N’ Roses – “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
Originally by Bob Dylan

23. Bob Dylan – “Train of Love”
Originally by Johnny Cash

22. Johnny Cash – “I’m on Fire”
Originally by Bruce Springsteen

21. Bruce Springsteen – “Trapped”
Originally by Jimmy Cliff

20. Birdy – “Skinny Love”
Originally by Bon Iver

19. Sublime (featuring Alex Grenwald) – “Scarlet Begonias”
Originally by the Grateful Dead

18. Grateful Dead – “Morning Dew”
Originally by Bonnie Dobson

17. Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – “Trampled Rose”
Originally by Tom Waits

16. Santana – “Black Magic Woman”
Originally by Fleetwood Mac

15. Sharon Jones – “It’s a Man’s World”
Originally by James Brown

14. Radiohead – “The Headmaster Ritual”
Originally by The Smiths

13. Eric Clapton – “Coccaine”
Originally by JJ Cale

12. Tina & Ike Turner – “Proud Mary”
Originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival

11. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Originally by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

10. The White Stripes – “Jolene”
Originally by Dolly Parton

9. Joe Cocker – “With a Little Help from My Friends”
Originally by The Beatles

8. The Beatles – “Twist & Shout”
Originally by The Top Notes, made famous by The Isley Brothers

7. Nirvana – “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
Traditional song; arranged by Lead Belly

6. Janis Joplin – “Me and Bobby McGee”
Originally by Kris Kristofferson

5. Phish – “Remain in Light” LP in it’s entirety
Originally by Talking Heads

4. Talking Heads – “Take Me to the River”
Originally by Al Green

3. Aretha Franklin – “Respect”
Originally by Otis Redding.

2. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
Originally by Bob Dylan.

1. Johnny Cash – Hurt
Originally by Nine Inch Nails.


  1. Cherry Bomb by Scary Cherry and the Bang Bangs is awesome!!

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbgKJlxrzf0
    Pass the dutchie with mechanical orchestra

  3. R. STEVIE MOORE Chantilly Lace. Look it up on Itunes …you will but it.

  4. groovyman67 says:

    purty good list, Watchtower has to be best I agree
    other for consideration:
    Everyday -James Taylor
    you can’t hurry love – Phil Collins
    Higher Ground – Chili Peppers
    I will always love you – Whitney Houston
    Byrds – Tambourine Man
    Manic Depression – King’s X

  5. Juliette Forges says:

    Call Me Maybe by Breakfast at Your Place !

  6. Urm, how is Jeff Buckleys Hallelujah not in here?

  7. Bob Dylan is quoted saying that Jimi’s version is the way he intended the song to sound, but could never do it himself.. If Bobby D. says that about his own song then that deserves #1 spot.. Sure Cash’s version is cool in that he was about to die and all, but it is no where close to being iconic as “Watchtower”. most people have never heard that Cash cover. Everyone has heard Jimi’s “Watchtower”… rant over. carry on

  8. It was such an appropriate swan song for Cash, and Trent Reznor even stated that he cried when he saw the “Hurt” video the first time. He also realized it wasn’t his song anymore.

  9. Kevin Raos says:

    BOLD call with Hurt, but I like it. Cash’s rendition of that song brought new meaning to that song, and gave the world one final glimpse into one of the greatest American singer-songer writers of all time.

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