18 Cover Songs That Transcend the Originals


(via Purple Clover) by Kevin Haynes

First released January 11, 1971, Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” redefined the limits of cover song success. Here, we celebrate Janis’ classic version and other artistic interpretations gone right.

‘Me and Bobby McGee’ — Janis Joplin

Kris Kristofferson’s vagabond road song was first recorded in 1969 by, appropriately enough, “King of the Road” Roger Miller. But Joplin’s only No. 1 hit, completed days before her death on October 4, 1970, is the ultimate trip down memory lane—a soulful, cinematic look back at love gone by.

Kristofferson, who’d been dating Janis, first heard her version of the song shortly after she died. “Afterwards,” he recalled in a recent interview, “I walked all over L.A., just in tears.”


‘I Shot the Sheriff’ — Eric Clapton

Slowhand played fast and loose with Bob Marley’s sly profession of guilt and innocence—hey, he didn’t shoot no deputy—propelling this reggae groove to No. 1 in September 1974.

‘Twist and Shout’ — The Beatles

The Fab Four didn’t just shake it up, baby, they incited a dance riot in 1963, a year after the Isley Brothers got the party started with their first Top 20 hit. (Bonus points if you knew the song was introduced in 1961 by the Top Notes.)

Kick Ass Covers


(via CultureSonar)

More often than not, the definitive version of a song is recorded by its writer(s), or at least the artist who did it first.

That’s not always the case, of course. Sometimes covers surpass the original. Or sometimes a great cover adds a whole new dimension to a song.

So, in the spirit of music geeks’ endless appetite for lists, let us humbly suggest a few covers that are, if not definitive, completely successful on their own.

We’re just getting the proverbial ball rolling. We’d love to add your own commentary. Read through to the end, and you’ll see a pretty cool new way to add to the playlist.

So let’s kick things off with a half-dozen nominees:

Read more: http://culturesonar.com/kick-ass-covers/

I Didn’t Know That Was a Cover!

Our mission in this little exercise it so uncover the covers–to reveal songs commonly mistaken for originals which were actually older songs given a second life. Let’s listen:



“Love Hurts”=Nazareth

As the above clip reveals, Nazareth’s 1976 top ten hit wasn’t new. In fact, the Boudleaux Bryant song had been recorded by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris as well as Roy Orbison. But the first to record the tune were the Everly Brothers in 1960, although their version was not a hit. Quite a contrast in styles.


“Tainted Love”-Soft Cell

Soft Cell’s only top 40 hit was a cover of a Gloria Jones song from 1964, although again the original version was not a pop hit. Certain lines (Once I ran to you, now I run from you) have a much more menacing feel when sung by a woman.



“The Tide is High”-Blondie

We probably should have been suspicious of a Blondie song with a Jamaican rhythm–not exactly the band’s forte. The song was written by John Holt and originally recorded by his reggae group the Paragons in 1967.



“Whatta Man”-Salt-N-Pepa w/En Vogue

This 1994 hit heavily samples–and is virtually a cover of–“What a Man”, a 1968 Linda Lyndell song that missed the pop charts.


“Can’t Get Enough of You Baby”-Smash Mouth

Smash Mouth’s #27 hit was the follow-up single to the #1 “Walkin’ on the Sun”. The song originally followed up another #1 single in 1966, Question Mark & the Mysterians’ “96 Tears”, which shares almost identical organ riffs with this song.


“Since You Been Gone”-Rainbow

The Ritchie Blackmore-led rock band’s hit was originally written and recorded by former Argent guitarist Russ Ballard and appeared on his 1976 Winning album.

Head East’s 1978 cover of the song actually charted higher (#46) than Rainbow’s 1979 version (#57) but Rainbow’s version is now widely considered definitive.



“El Condor Pasa (If I Could)”-Simon & Garfunkel

Originally composed as “El Condor Pasa” (“The Condor goes by” or “flies past”) by Peruvian Daniel Alomia Robles in 1913, drawing from traditional Andean folk melodies. Paul Simon heard a recording by a group called Los Incas and composed new lyrics for the melody. Interestingly he used the Los Incas instrumental version (which you hear here) as the backing track for the Simon & Garfunkel song, and did so without permission. He also failed to credit Robles, later claiming to have been misinformed that the song was an old traditional melody by an anonymous composer.

Robles’ son filed suit against Simon & Garfunkel, but all ended amicably. Simon ended up touring with Los Incas (later renamed Urubamba) and producing an album for them.

As a side note, Paul Simon was accused, after the release of his Graceland album, of stealing music from the band Los Lobos, who were invited to play on the record. Quoting Wikipedia:

The group Los Lobos appear on the last track, “All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints”. According to Los Lobos’ saxophone player Steve Berlin, Simon stole the song from Los Lobos, giving them no songwriting credit:

“It was not a pleasant deal for us. I mean he (Simon) quite literally–and in no way do I exaggerate when I say–he stole the songs from us…We go into the studio, and he had quite literally nothing. I mean, he had no ideas, no concepts, and said, ‘Well, let’s just jam.’…Paul goes, ‘Hey, what’s that?’ We start playing what we have of it, and it is exactly what you hear on the record. So we’re like, ‘Oh, ok. We’ll share this song.’…A few months later, the record comes out and says ‘Words and Music by Paul Simon.’ We were like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ We tried calling him, and we can’t find him. Weeks go by and our managers can’t find him. We finally track him down and ask him about our song, and he goes, ‘Sue me. See what happens.”

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/11/20/i-didnt-know-that-was-a-cover-part-2/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2016/06/11/i-didnt-know-that-was-a-cover-part-3/

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