11 cover versions actually better than the original

31 January 2019, 17:19

Cover versions
Picture: YouTube

By Tom Eames

Cover versions can be a delicate task. Do you simply copy a song or make it totally your own?

Every artist has attempted a cover version of some kind during their career, and we've picked the times where they arguably improved up on the original:

  1. Aretha Franklin - 'Respect'

    Originally by: Otis Redding

    Aretha made this song her own so much, that it's easy to totally forget she didn't record it first.

    Redding's version was a call from a desperate man who will give his woman anything she wants, as long as he gets his respect when he brings money home.

    However, Aretha's version was a from a strong, confident woman, who knows that she has everything her man wants, and demands his "respect". She also added the 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T' chorus.

  2. Whitney Houston - 'I Will Always Love You'

    The Story of... 'I Will Always Love You'

    Originally by: Dolly Parton

    Country legend Dolly Parton wrote the song in 1973, for her one-time partner and mentor Porter Wagoner, from whom she was separating professionally after seven years.

    In 1992, Whitney Houston recorded a new arrangement of the song, for the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, her film debut. It became one of the biggest hits of the 1990s.

    Dolly later said: "The way she took that simple song of mine and made it such a mighty thing, it almost became her song. Some writers say, 'Ooh, I hate the way they've done that to my song or that version wasn't what I had in mind.' I just think it's wonderful that people can take a song and do it so many different ways."

  3. Tina Turner - 'Proud Mary'

    Originally by: Creedence Clearwater Revival

    Creedence Clearwater Revival first recorded this as a rock song in 1969, but it is arguably better known for Tina's cover versions.

    In 1970, she first covered with with her husband Ike, transforming it into a funk soul rocker. She later re-recorded it for the 1993 movie What's Love Got to do With It, and it has become one of her signature songs.

  4. Joe Cocker - 'With a Little Help from My Friends'

    Originally by: The Beatles

    It's not often that someone can cover The Beatles and actually improve on them, but that's what Joe Cocker did with this previously jaunty track sung by Ringo Starr.

    Cocker transformed it into an incredibly powerful soul anthem, immortalised by his perfect performance at Woodstock in 1969.

  5. Gary Jules & Michael Andrews - 'Mad World'

    Originally by: Tears for Fears

    The original Tears for Fears track was a truly brilliant dark synthpop tune, but Gary and Michael's haunting take on it 20 years later was a masterstroke.

    Recorded for the Donnie Darko soundtrack and later a UK Christmas number one, this was arguably the song that inspired countless piano covers used in adverts and movie trailers ever since.

  6. Eric Clapton - 'I Shot the Sheriff'

    Originally by: Bob Marley

    Bob Marley and the Wailers first released this reggae classic in 1973, and tells the point of view of a narrator who admits to having killed the corrupt local sheriff, but is also falsely accused of having killed the deputy.

    A year later, Eric released a rock-tinged cover version, and it became an even bigger hit than the original.

  7. Jeff Buckley - 'Hallelujah'

    Originally by: Leonard Cohen

    Leonard Cohen first released this song in 1984, and while you can't discount its excellence, it doesn't quite have the beauty of Jeff Buckley's version.

    Buckley was himself inspired by a cover by John Cale three years earlier. It has since been covered by many other artists, including a Christmas number one for Alexandra Burke in 2008 (with Buckley coming second that year after a fan campaign).

  8. Soft Cell - 'Tainted Love'

    Originally by: Gloria Jones

    We all may know and love Soft Cell's huge 1981 synthpop classic, but this song was originally a Northern Soul anthem by Gloria Jones in 1964.

    Marc Almond's group slowed down the tempo, brought in the synths, and it became hugely more famous and popular than the original.

  9. Cyndi Lauper - 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun'

    Originally by: Robert Hazard

    Amazingly, this song was originally written from the male perspective about women in the bedroom by Robert Hazard in 1979.

    Four years later, Cyndi's version carried a totally different feminist attitude, portraying that all women really wanted was to have the same experience that men could have. It went on to become one of the biggest hits of the 1980s.

  10. Johnny Cash - 'Hurt'

    Originally by: Nine Inch Nails

    Originally an industrial metal track by Nine Inch Nails in 1995, it was covered in 2002 by Johnny Cash, a year before his death.

    Its accompanying video, featuring images from Cash’s life and directed by NIN collaborator Mark Romanek, won several awards. Reznor became a fan of Cash’s version once he saw the music video: “Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… wow. I felt like I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore.”

  11. Eva Cassidy - 'Songbird'

    Originally by: Fleetwood Mac

    Eva Cassidy covered many songs throughout her far too short life and career, but arguably her greatest was this beautiful version of an already-brilliant Fleetwood Mac song.

    While Christine McVie's original is also fantastic, Eva's version has even more subtle beauty, and is made all the more poignant by her life ending too soon.

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