Covering songs is as old as rock and roll itself. Elvis covered countless songs written and performed by other people and throughout the ensuing decades, others have done it as well. Some have been good, a few even better than the original, and some have been awful. I've compiled a list of what I feel are the 50 Greatest Rock Covers of all-time. Some of these are obvious covers, many of them I had no idea that they weren't original songs. Click on the links to see and hear the differences in the songs from over the years. We are down to the final ten songs, and this is how I rated them:
I included several versions of the cover of this song. My personal favorite is Nugent's live version, but I figured including several of them would show the evolution of this song over the years. This has been one of the most covered songs ever. Its blues roots trace back to Big Joe Williams who originally wrote it in 1935. It has also been covered by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, MC5, The Doors, Gary Glitter, Zakk Wylde and many more.
Quiet Riot's singer at the time, the late great Kevin DuBrow, initially did not want to record the song for their landmark Metal Health album. It all worked out, though, because it turned out to be their biggest radio hit. They also covered Slade's "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" successfully.
This is one of those songs where I definitely prefer the original. But, one of the unique things about this song is a reversal of sorts. Most of the covers on this list so far have originally been written by some of America's greatest black blues players and covered by early rockers that would become rock legends. This showed the reality that rock and roll music's roots can be traced directly back to those great delta blues players of the twenties and thirties. This song was the flip of that. Creedence Clearwater Revival introduced the rock song with much success. This time however, Ike & Tina Turner re-recorded it as a funk-rock song, thus reuniting many with the rock and roll roots that many black musicians had left during the peak of blues music.
This song has been covered a lot of times. Faster Pussycat scored a minor hit with it during their peak as well. Manson owns the best cover of it though. As he has done with the many songs he has covered, Manson made it his own. It sounds and feels like a Marilyn Manson song, and he even got some help from Johnny Depp as well.
Bob Dylan has been covered so many times throughout his career, namely because of his contributions as a lyricist. Jimi Hendrix covered numerous songs throughout his all-too-short career. His cover of this Dylan song was the best. What he did with the electric guitar was second to none.
Columbus' adopted sons from West Virginia, Bobaflex, did a stellar cover of this Simon & Garfunkel classic. They turned the melodic tune into a modern hard rock hit without disgracing the original. Add in the fact that they used a scene from Rock on the Range in their official video and you've just got icing on the cake.
The Irish folk group The Dubliners are given credit with being the first band to have commercial success recording this song. With that being said, though, its origins can't be verified as it had been a local folk song for centuries prior, with versions of it reaching as far back as the 1700's. Thin Lizzy's version kept more of the Celtic vibe while Metallica made it into one of the most popular metal songs of our time.
Both versions of this song are gold. The original by Lynyrd Skynyrd is the highlight of every Skynyrd show behind Free Bird. Shinedown's brilliant cover is so strong because of the performance of lead vocalist Brent Smith. Powerful stuff.
Probably The Who's greatest song, in my opinion, especially when it came to showcasing Roger Daltrey's vocal power. Eddie Vedder and company didn't miss a beat on their 2007 recording for the Adam Sandler movie Reign Over Me. It isn't the original, but that would have been impossible to replicate.
Johnny Cash was one of the founding fathers of the fusion of country and rock music. The Southern rock genre wouldn't have existed without the contributions of those that fused elements of country, blues, gospel, rock, and folk music. Johnny Cash was the best and so it was when he covered Hurt. The powerful video that accompanied it showed a worn man and shortly afterwards he died. Johnny Cash contributed so much to music but it was his swan song at the end that showed him at his best and his worst. It was that real life presence and vulnerability that connected him and his music to generations of fans.
Well, there you have it. That was the 50 Greatest Rock Covers of all-time. What did you think? Love my list? Hate my list? Who should have made it instead? Opine below as I'd love to read healthy debate. Thanks for reading, and if you haven't subscribed to my articles for free yet, please do by clicking the link at the top to the right of my name. Rock on!