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. So let’s kick things off with a half-dozen nominees:
Stevie Wonder’s “We Can Work It Out.” It’s pretty hard to top the Beatles, but Stevie brings the funk. His harmonica solo, too, is sublime.
The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.” The Hamburg years made The Fabs a pretty great cover band. Their version of this Isley burner is probably the one most folks remember.
The Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter.” They brought the snap, jangle and pop to the moody original.
Lake Street Dive’s “I Want You Back.” This street-side rendition put this band on the map. Sultry goodness.
Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Dylan tunes helped propel several careers (“Mr. Tambourine Man,” anyone?); but Mr. Hendrix just flat-out owns this one. (You could argue that Jimi’s cover of the “Star Spangled Banner” is transcendent, too, but that’s not exactly what we have in mind here.)
Ryan Adams’ “Shake It Off.” It earns its spot on the list, if only for the incongruity of covering Taylor Swift.
Photo Credit: Image of Jimi Hendrix courtesy of Pixabay.
[…] Messiah. More on that here. Plus, you may also enjoy our other song recommendations in these posts: Kick Ass Covers and YouTube Staycation – A Journey Through the 80’s and 90’s. […]
While I dearly love Billy Preston’s rendition of “You Are So Beautiful” (& he in fact wrote it), Joe Cocker’s cover is the definitive version. His is more sweetly pained & restrained than Preston’s wild, woolly take.
EW&F’s cover of The Beatles “Got to Get you into My Life”. Adds the perfect funky, R&B vibe that transformed this Beatles classic from Revolver. It was the first time I’d ever heard someone improve a Beatle’s original.
Wow, so many choices! Almost anything by Postmodern Jukebox would be good. But how about The Carpenters’ cover of Superstar? (Originally by Bonnie and Delany) Or all the covers of J.J. Cale and Laura Nyro?
Superstition covered by Red Hot Chili Peppers, probably the most mocking cover is Burton Cummings lounge version of BTO’s You Ain’t Seen Noting Yet, and Dave Mason proved he was no slouch with the axe on his cover of All Along the Watchtower.
and Santana’s cover of Black Magic Woman
Good on you for listing Johnny winter’s cover of jumping jack flash. You should have mentioned it in the article.
You need to check out Kevin Gilbert’s cover of Kashmir. Excellent!
Madeleine Peyroux does Dance Me to the End of Love; Henhouse Prowlers own Helter Skelter
Great article. So many amazing redos to choose from. Don’t want to raise anyones hackles but pretty much every Beatles cover I think was an improvement and that is in no way a slight to the original – think You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me. Also Creedence’s version of I Heard it Through The Grapevine and Rod Stewart’s version of The First Cut Is The Deepest. Lots and lots out there and always good to hear and compare. There are even some awesome covers of Beatles out there. Oh and I nearly forgot The Mona Lisa Twins, check them out if you haven’t heard them.
Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart always brought something magical to their broad array of covers. That said, the coolest cover ever has to be Jimi doing Like a Rolling Stone at Monterey Pop. Dig his swagger. “ ‘cuse me for a minute, just let me play that guitar, right?”
To be on this list, do you have to be a famous band or star covering another band or star? If not, may I suggest Hal Eisenberg and his many covers? Like his cover of the Beach Boys version of, “I Can Hear Music”, which is a cover of a cover of a cover. Ok, enough of that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eQUMTqg4S4