Who doesn’t love a good cover song? I personally love to hear an artist’s take on a song that’s not their own. Not all covers are created equal, there are some that just completely ruin the original. Every now and then, you can find a cover that’s as good or better than the original. This is a list of cover songs that I feel are as good or better than the original version.
“Higher Ground” – Red Hot Chili Peppers (originally by Stevie Wonder)
Now I’m not going to say the Red Hot Chili Peppers’s version of “Higher Ground” is better than Stevie Wonder’s, but it’s pretty close. The Chili Peppers’s version just has this energy about it. There’s something special when you hear Flea’s bass tone hit those opening notes. I think Anthony Kiedis does a good job vocally, but his voice is one you either like or you don’t. John Frusciante’s guitar tone is great as always. Chad Smith does a good job on the drums. The track as a whole just sounds bigger than the original to me. It also helps that this cover is the first Chili Peppers song I ever heard. Don’t get me wrong–the Stevie Wonder version is great—but, if I have to choose, I’m taking the RHCP version.
“All Along the Watch Tower” – Jimi Hendrix (originally by Bob Dylan)
To be honest, I didn’t even know this was a cover for the longest time. I’ve always thought of this as a Jimi Hendrix song. When I found out it was originally by Bob Dylan, I gave the original a listen and it’s not bad. Hendrix just had a way of making this song his own. I mean, who doesn’t love to hear Jimi Hendrix play guitar? His tone is legendary. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of Hendrix’s vocals, but on this cover everything just goes together perfectly. Again, Hendrix’s cover just had more energy with his guitar playing. It just brings the song to life for me. I don’t think there’s ever a time that I’d pick the Bob Dylan version over Hendrix’s version. Maybe it’s because that’s the version I hear first, or maybe it’s just better.
“Blank Space” – I Prevail (originally by Taylor Swift)
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift. I think she writes really catchy songs, but her music just isn’t for me. Any time a band takes a pop song and turns it into a rock song, I’m a fan (See all the Punk Goes Pop albums I have). That’s what I Prevail did with “Blank Space.” This cover pretty much launched their career. I know it introduced me to the band. There’s just something I love about hearing Taylor Swift’s lyrics being sung over heavy guitar riffs and punchy drums. To be honest, there are a ton of pop songs covered by rock bands that I could add to this list, but this one just stands out to me because of how viral it went.
“Killing Me Softly with His Song” – The Fugees (originally by Roberta Flack)
This is another time where the cover was the first version of the song I heard. In the 90s, this cover was everywhere. You just couldn’t get away from it, and why would you want to? Lauryn Hill’s voice is phenomenal. Hill’s vocals mixed with Wyclef Jean and Pras’s riffing just makes this track so enjoyable. I don’t know anyone who knows this song and doesn’t love Wyclef’s “One time, two times” parts. Even though everything works so well together in the song, it’s Lauryn Hills vocals that shine. I mean she has one of those voices that she could sing the phone book and it would sound good.
“Simple Man” – Shinedown (originally by Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Now, I know I’m gonna catch some flack for this one, especially being from Alabama where Lynyrd Skynyrd is worshipped. But to me the version that Shinedown does is just so much better than the original. It’s better for one reason and one reason only–Brent Smith’s vocal ability. I’ve always said that he has one of the best voices in rock music, and it shows on this track. This cover just shows you don’t need three guitar players and a long guitar solo to make a great track. Shinedown’s cover is just Brent Smith singing over Jasin Todd’s guitar and I would choose the Shinedown version over Lynyrd Skynyrd’s any day of the week.
Now, there are a lot more songs I could add to this list, but I wanted to keep it to five. Here are some honorable mentions:
“Hurt” – Johnny Cash (Originally by Nine Inch Nails)
“Whiskey in the Jar” – Metallica (Originally by Thin Lizzy)
“Leopard” -Skin Pill-Box Hat – Beck (Originally by Bob Dylan)
“Dazed and Confused” – Led Zeppelin (Originally by Jake Homes)
“Hallelujah” – Jeff Buckley (Originally by Leonard Cohen)
“I Love Rock ‘N Roll” – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Originally by The Arrows)
Below is an Apple Music playlist of the original songs and the covers. Take a listen and see which one you like better.
Brad is a tech and music know-it-all who has probably seen whatever band you’re currently listening to. He’s also the graphic designer for The Citizen.