The Best Cover Versions in Musical History

Categories: Music

NoDoubt1.jpg

I'm not interested in the paint-by-numbers ones designed to make a quick buck.

Here are the six cover tunes that I feel brought the most originality and fresh energy to standard tunes, making it more than worth the effort to do the remaking.


6. "It's My Life" by No Doubt (2003)

Gwen Stefani gave the old Talk Talk song both a defiance and a girliness which made it spunkily endearing -- her trademark, after all. A lovely dance hall surprise.


5. "I Say a Little Prayer" by Aretha Franklin (1968)

This was supposed to be the B-side of Aretha's "The House That Jack Built," but it went top 10 all on its own. As opposed to Dionne Warwick's relatively breezy version, this one is sexy and passionate, and is given an extra twist in the way Aretha pretty much sits out the choruses, letting the Sweet Inspirations do the huffing and puffing.


4. "Walk on By" by Isaac Hyes (1969)

Again, Warwick got remade, and this time, Hayes added a deeply felt hurt, along with some soulful riffing, that makes it a unique take on an abandonment classic. It almost feels like a whole new song.


3. "Kiss" by Tom Jones, with Art of Noise (1988)

The gyrating Welsh singer was a perfect match for this erotically needy Prince tune. Jones gives it a hormonal oomph, singing it in a guttural, throaty belt far removed from Prince's wispy falsetto. Some people find this version camp. I find it genius.


2. "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell (1981)

Redoing Gloria Jones's hit, Soft Cell benefits from a throbbing synth beat and Marc Almond's piercing wail. The song lashes at you like a whip, Almond belting out in serious retribution. A great cover version that's a surefire dance-floor winner through eternity.


And the best cover of all ...

1. "A House Is Not a Home" by Luther Vandross (1981)

Luther remade this wrenching Bacharach/David ballad into a three-act opera filled with dramatics, scat eruptions, and one very dramatic pause. By the way, it's another cover of a Dionne Warwick song (though Brook Benton's version beat her to the charts by two weeks)! And I happen to adore all of Dionne's versions, too. The woman just happened to spawn great covers!



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52 comments
Johnmcgrath6827a
Johnmcgrath6827a

the best cover listed here is well earned :)although luther made covers his own,one of my favorite covers is glen hansards cover of britneys 'everytime'

Katherine
Katherine

Luthur Vandross was truly a visionary. One of my all time favorite covers is Australian band Circle's cover of Big Star's hit September Gurls.

Chsvillage
Chsvillage

 Greg Laswell's contemplative take on Lauper: 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun'

latenitebump
latenitebump

and number 6 whitney houston i will always you!

Dlance
Dlance

Sly Stone's "Que Sera Sera."

addi
addi

for me one of the greatest cover versions is Celine Dions "All by myself"

billie
billie

 X's cover of Soul Kitchen produced by none other than Ray Manzarek.

Country Boy
Country Boy

Wanda Jackson's cover of Bob Dylan's "Thunder on the Mountain." 

Barkley
Barkley

Until a few years back I always thought Marc Almond wrote "Tainted Love" - the original wasn't a hit in the U.S. 

Paul van der Heu
Paul van der Heu

Actually, the best covers are those few know they are.. Like Now that we found love by Third World.. Like the o'Jays original better though..

violet pecqueur
violet pecqueur

luther vandross ain't no stopping us now another classic by luther

Mick
Mick

Japan, 'Aint That Peculiar' - liquid ice new wave android funk workout - beyond weird, beyond Smokey, better!

latenitebump
latenitebump

grace jones private life sylvester one night only donna summer macarthur parkchaka khan funny valentine (frank sinatra)luther vandross superstar

Clint
Clint

Bryan Ferry's "Slave to Love" hit the right spot

BHPO
BHPO

Gwen & No Doubt don't make the list for me. Replace them with Talk Talk's single "Talk Talk" which is a remake of a 1977 track "Talk Talk Talk Talk" by The Reaction. It's hard to believe anyone heard anything in the original worth covering.  Talk Talk's version is certainly a synthpop classic.

Herb Lore
Herb Lore

Anything Ray Charles ever recorded, you poor lost souls.

guest
guest

Jimi's version of 'All Along the Watchtower'

Dingle
Dingle

 Cher: "I Still Havent Found What I'm Looking For"

Barkley
Barkley

Kim Carnes' "More Love" has a livelier arrangement, production and a more heartfelt vocal than Smokey's.   Likewise Cher's "Walking in Memphis."

MPP
MPP

Dionne Warwick, the woman who spawned most of these covers has a new album of mostly standards called "Only Trust Your Heart." She is returning the favor and covering jazz tunes made popular by Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, and demomstrates that she can truly hang with the best of  them, as if there were any doubt!

Redalert_ny
Redalert_ny

Sonic Youth's haunting version of the Carpenters "Superstar" is amazing as is Blondies version of the song "Follow Me" from the B'way musical Camelot. Certainly "Dear Prudence" Siouxie!

Park
Park

 Right. Gwen Stefani's not talented enough. Negative Barkley strikes again. Say something nice and maybe we'll believe it.

Barkley
Barkley

Gwen's version of Talk Talk copies the original arrangement and production too much.  She's not talented enough to make it her own.  

Smartie
Smartie

Mari Wilson (the brit who at the time sported a real-hair skyscraping bouffant) covers and completely OWNS a bunch of Bacharach/David tunes on "Showpeople"

Erick1961
Erick1961

 Bohemian Rhapsody by We've got a fuzzbox

SassySquirl
SassySquirl

Stoney End -- Barbra

Jealous Guy -- Roxy Music

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds -- Natalie Cole (Elton's Version is hot too)Free Ride -- The Three DegreesIf I Were a Carpenter -- The Four TopsIt's a Shame -- Monie LoveSatisfaction -- DevoSuperstar -- Sonic Youth

Reg
Reg

 crack Dinosaur Jr's version of "Just Like Heaven" much? Doesn't sound like you do.

Adge
Adge

 The worst: Gloria Estefan's "Turn the Beat Around" and "Everlasting Love"

JoshBinSD
JoshBinSD

Can you cover yourself? I love U2/Bono and Mary J. Blige's version of "One."

JoshBinSD
JoshBinSD

lol @ Scat Eruptions... Oh, Musto!

tony adams
tony adams

LInda Ronstadt's (duet with Ann Savoy) cover of  Walk Away Renée was more exquisite and mournful than the Left Banke original, if that is possible.

Dana Owen/Queen Latifah's cover of California Dreamin' exceeded the original, and this from someone who worships the Mamas and the Papas.

davelog
davelog

Best cover ever: Walking in the Sand (Remember) originally by the Shangri-Las, covered by Aerosmith. Their interpretation of an already gut-wrenching song makes you want to sit alone in a dark room and drink the pain away. Incredible.

Terrence Aybar
Terrence Aybar

I'm not the biggest fan of Mariah Carey's ostritch ass but her Unplugged rendition of "I'll Be There" should be on this list.

Krl5858
Krl5858

George Michael and Mary J. Blige cover of Stevie Wonder's "As" - love it!

Guest
Guest

cowboy junkies' cover of the velvet underground's sweet jane

Tinman
Tinman

 Lulu's version of Bowie's "Man Who Sold The World" is great and I think Bowie lovs it.s "Man Who Sold The World" is great and I think Bowie lovs it.

Wimpette
Wimpette

Worst covers: Madonna's versions of "Fever" and "American Pie" and Britney's version of "Satisfaction."

MarilynLastman
MarilynLastman

 Dionne's sister Cissy (Whitney's mommy) was in the Sweet Inspirations.

Narf
Narf

 "Hound Dog" by elvis Presley. A cover version and a legendary one.

Barkley
Barkley

Hate her version of that, it's too histrionic.  Dolly's is better or Linda's even better. 

Barkley
Barkley

The song "Talk Talk" is NOT a remake of The Reaction song, that's a different song.  "Talk Talk" was written by M. Hollis the guy who founded the band and wrote all their songs.  Get your facts straight before posting !  

Barkley
Barkley

Are you sure "Talk Talk" is a remake?  I never heard that.   

Smartie
Smartie

 Can Dionne sing? yes. Is she nice? No, as demonstrated on Celebrity Apprentice if you bothered to watch. She took part in the "That's What Friends Are For" supersingle for AIDS ...and from what I understand took the money and ran to South America. Shame on her. She NASTY.

Barkley
Barkley

I stand by my assessment of Ms. Stefani, ever see her sing live? She sucks and she doesn't write.  She's more of a cosmetics pitchwoman than a singer.  I do enjoy some of the cuts from the Stephen Sprouse No Doubt cd however.

Redalert_ny
Redalert_ny

Thats what I thought about her version too. 

Johnmc68
Johnmc68

disagree my friend, stevies version in the definitive one, albiet George and Marys is wonderfully updated and george of course has the soulful voice, just my humble opinion :)

JoshBinSD
JoshBinSD

Don't forget Brit-Brits "My Perogative"

Barkley
Barkley

So I looked further and The Reaction was Mark Hollis' first band, so what he did was change the arrangement and production from angry punk (The Reaction) to moody synth rock (Talk Talk).  Original sounds a bit like The Buzzcocks.

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