I know there are people who say they don’t like covers. Those people are crazy.
In fact, saying you don’t like covers is sorta like an admission that you have literally no idea what in the hell you’re doing when you listen to music. Yes, some covers are terrible, but some covers are incredible. Some covers take a song to a whole new level. You know, sorta just like everything else in music.
For example, I love Feist’s “A Limit To Your Love” but James Blake’s version is some serious stare-up-to-the-heavens-as-if-the-explanation-for-how-awesome-this-is-can-be-found-there type shit. I’ve listened to it so so many times and that arrangement melts my mind. Every. Single. Time.
Side note, if you don’t like Blake’s version of that tune: you’re just not listening to it loud enough.
Obviously, we’re fans of covers here. After all, we did just launch a vinyl-only covers service called SOUNDS DELICIOUS. You remember. It’s the one where The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Kristin Kontrol are covering Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever in its entirety (i.e. Free Fallin’, I Won’t Back Down, et al) and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado will be reinterpreting Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run from front to back. Other bands participating include Quilt, GEMS, Skylar Spence, Yumi Zouma, Salt Cathedral, and Mutual Benefit (with more announcements to come soon). By the way, those records can be pre-ordered here.
Now that I got that shameless plug out of the way, I’ve considered hammering away at my computer for the rest of the day rattling on about why covers are great – but really you either get it or you don’t. If you’re not into covers, that’s cool. Keep passing out your fliers and having your little secret meetings. For everyone else, here is a list of 27 of our favorite covers of all time.
But, first, a brief (and entirely necessary) FAQ (because works of this magnitude always require a FAQ section):
Did I intentionally omit your favorite cover? Probably. After all, my mind is an encyclopedic compendium of every song ever recorded or performed live and I spent minutes (many of them) compiling this list from the top of my head.
Jack White said that ______ was the best cover ever and it’s not on this list. What’s up? This is clearly the definitive list of the best covers of all time and all other opinions are both wrong and dumb. Except Jack White’s opinion, of course, which wasn’t so much wrong as he just clearly forgot about all of the covers on this list. Nonetheless, I won’t be offended if you feel compelled to remind me of a cover you really like in the comments.
Is this list ranked? This list is not ranked. Unless, that is, you happen to detect some brilliance in the seemingly arbitrary listing of these songs – in which case – yes, the order was very very intentional.
You said “of all time” does this include covers recorded for SOUNDS DELICIOUS? Don’t be pedantic. Obviously all recordings for SOUNDS DELICIOUS will be better than everything that came before them.
1) Aretha Franklin – Respect (Otis Redding Cover)
2) James Blake – A Limit To Your Love (Feist Cover)
3) St. Vincent, Beck, Liars & Os Mutantes – Never Tear Us Apart (INXS Cover)
4) Gallant – Learn To Fly (Foo Fighters Cover)
5) Spoon – I Am The Key (La’s Cover)
6) FKA Twigs – Elastic Heart (Sia Cover)
7) The xx – You Got The Love (Florence And The Machine Cover)
8) Daughter – Get Lucky (Daft Punk Cover)
9) Talking Heads – Take Me To The River (Al Green Cover)
10) Ryan Adams – Wonderwall (Oasis Cover)
11) Otis Redding – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Rolling Stones Cover)
12) Widowspeak – Wicked Game (Chris Isaak Cover)
13) The Night VI – Drops (Jungle Cover)
14) Radiohead – Nobody Does It Better (Carly Simon Cover)
15) Elliott Smith – Jealous Guy (John Lennon Cover)
16) Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen Cover)
17) The White Stripes – Jolene (Dolly Parton Cover)
18) Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights (Postal Service Cover)
19) The Beatles – Twist & Shout (The Isley Brothers Cover)
20) The Clash – I Fought The Law (The Bobby Fuller Four Cover)
21) Johnny Cash – Hurt (Nine Inch Nails Cover)
22) The Weeknd – Dirty Diana (Michael Jackson Cover)
23) Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats (The Knife Cover)
24) BASECAMP – All That She Wants (Ace of Base Cover)
25) Four Tet – Iron Man (Black Sabbath Cover)
26) Feist – Inside & Out (Bee Gees Cover)
27) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Laid (James Cover)