Did you catch the story about Kelly Clarkson, and how she did several cover songs at a recent Los Angeles concert?
That got me thinking, what are some of the best cover songs of all time?

I want to make it clear, before I go listing some of my favorites, that I am not much of a fan of covers, because I expect the second time around to be at least as good as the original. Otherwise, why bother? I simply hold remakes to a higher standard, probably to make up for the lack of originality it takes to “borrow” a song from someone else. I can probably share a much longer list of my least favorite, like Madonna’s version of the Don McLean classic “American Pie”, or Hillary Duff covering The Who’s “My Generation”, or Motley Crue doing Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock”. But let’s try and stay on the positive side for now. Here’s my top five cover songs:

#5."When A Man Loves A Woman", Michael Bolton

I know. It changed the qualification rules for The Grammy Awards after Bolton won for Song of the Year and failed to credit Percy Sledge, who had the original hit in 1966. But whether you love him or hate him, Michael Bolton did a fine job reworking this timeless classic. I’m still a little in shock that it made my list.


#4. "Big Yellow Taxi", The Counting Crows feat. Vanessa Carlton

I love Joni Mitchell, and there’s a part of me that wishes she had a part in this cover, but Vanessa Carlton and Adam Duritz’ voices work together very well, and the 2000 version of this classic from 30 years earlier makes for a good listen. It’s a catchy pop song that isn’t over sweetened.


#3. “To Make You Feel My Love”, Garth Brooks

Any Bob Dylan cover – first and foremost – needs to focus on the emotion the song conveys. Garth Brooks nails it. He allows himself to just be an instrument to the lyrics, rather than trying to force feelings into the song. As is the case with so many Dylan songs, this is proof that sometimes less is more.


#2. “Hard to Handle”, The Black Crowes

This southern rock cover of an Otis Redding classic put The Black Crowes on the map. Swapping the horn section for electric guitar, and the smoothness of Otis for the raw attitude of Chris Robinson’s vocals made this one great. If you didn’t know any better, you may not realize it’s even a cover.


#1. “Hurt”, Johnny Cash

This song, originally an industrial rock ballad done by Trent Reznor with Nine Inch Nails, was taken for a spin by country music legend Johnny Cash, and he showed NIN how to do it. Not only is this a great cover, it absolutely buries the original. Trent Reznor was the first to admit this fact, and called Cash covering his song the biggest honor of his career.


There’s an honorable mention to my top 5. A few songs were just too close to making the list to leave them off completely:

"When You Say Nothing At All", Alison Krauss, covering Keith Whitley
“Nothing Compares 2 U”, Sinead O’Connor, covering Prince
“Wild Night”, John Mellencamp and Meshell Ndegeocello, covering Van Morrison
“Thing Called Love”, Bonnie Raitt, covering John Hiatt
“Killing Me Softly With His Song”, The Fugees, covering Lori Lieberman
“Easy”, Faith No More, covering The Commodores

There are plenty cover songs out there to choose from, so what's your favorite of all time?

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