Sunday, January 17, 2010

Greatest Cover Songs of All Times

Back in my college radio DJ days, one of my shows fell on a Tuesday. (I usually had two or three shows per week - some solo, some with an on-air partner.) All of us Tuesday DJ’s got together at the beginning of every semester and decided to have our respective radio shows (each three hours long, each with a different type of music) every Tuesday a “Two for Tuesday” show.

Our radio station had an unspoken rule: Once a song was played on your radio show, you could NEVER play it again. Because of this, by the end of the semester, I was coming up with very creative ways to present my “Two for Tuesday” shows.

The very last show of the semester became “Reverse Two for Tuesday” shows – meaning that instead of two songs by the same artist, I would play the same song by two different artists. This out-of-necessity creation became a hit, and was anticipated by my audience every semester until I finished the semester’s shows with another edition.

I was thinking of that today because I was listening to Killer Queen: A Tribute To Queen, that Carlos got me for Christmas. It has some great cover songs on it, and thought I’d start making a list of the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time.

Here is what I have come up with so far – in random order.

We Are The Champions (originally Queen) – Gavin DeGraw
Though listening to the song, I thought it was Jonny Lang singing

Totally Hooked (Boston’s More Than A Feeling reworked and remixed) – DJ Peter Presta

Billy Jean (originally Michael Jackson) – Cobra Starship

Rehab (originally Amy Winehouse) – Paolo Nutini

Smooth Criminal (originally Michael Jackson) – Alien Ant Farm

Baker Street (originally Gerry Rafferty) – Foo Fighters

We Can Work It Out (originally The Beatles) – Tesla
Going back to the 1980's, I have always been a closet Tesla fan.

Hey Jude (originally, well, you know) – Wilson Pickett
This is my favorite Beatles cover - even considering Aretha Franklin's "Let It Be" and Stevie Wonder's "We Can Work It Out".

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (originally Anne Briggs, then Joan Baez) – Led Zeppelin

This may be my all-time favorite Zeppelin song.

Blinded By The Light (originally Bruce Springsteen) – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

Hazy Shade of Winter (originally Simon & Garfunkel) – The Bangles

I Heard It Through The Grapevine (originally Gladys Night & The Pips) – Creedence Clearwater Revival or Marvin Gaye

Both are great versions. The video is of Marvin Gaye’s version.

Stand by Me (originally Ben E. King) – John Lennon


Interested in remakes / cover versions? Here is the best web site about the subject that I have found.


This post looked at newer cover songs. Especially early in their careers, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream and other bands rerecorded old blues songs. There are tons more remakes for me to explore.

That’ll be in a future post.

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