A cover song can just be a bad rip off of the original, but sometimes, if well done, it can really breathe new life into a dated song and can become a classic in its own right.
Respect, Aretha Franklin. Original performed by Otis Redding
Otis Redding is widely considered to be one of the greatest vocalist of all time. Before his tragic death at the age of just 26, the Love Man recorded (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay, Try a Little Tenderness and Respect. So it is a remarkable feat that Aretha Franklin’s version of the latter is often thought of as the definitive version. Through her raw power and stunning tones, Franklin makes the classic soul song her own.
All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix. Original performed by Bob Dylan
Jimi Hendrix is well known for his pioneering sounds and inventive techniques, however, one of his greatest works was a cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower. Hendrix took the original with all its folky charm, stripped it down and re-layered it with psychedelic effects and whirlwind vocals
Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley. Original performed by Leonard Cohen.
Every now and again, an artist makes a cover version that completely obliterates the original, the late Jeff Buckley did just that with his recording of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Buckley’s genius was not to add to the song but to take away from it. In a world of fancy new technology, where making music is often less profitable than to sell iPod touch type gadgets, the California-born singer took the 1984 version of the song and rearranged it, removing the backing choir to focus attention on the raw, anguished melody and make an austere, impassioned classic.
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor. Original performed by The Family
Nothing Compares 2 U is so synonymous with Sinead O’Connor that it’s hard to imagine that anyone else could’ve written the song, however, it was originally recorded by The Family, a band fronted by Prince. The Irish singer-songwriter well and truly put her stamp on the song in 1990 with an emotional version, and video which became an iconic in the growing MTV scene.
Tainted Love, Soft Cell. Original performed by Gloria Jones
Tainted Love has been covered so many times that it can get difficult to keep track of who penned the original. It was first written and recorded by soul singer Gloria Jones, however, Soft Cell take the credit as being the band who did the original cover. The duo did such a good job, that when the song is recovered now it’s usually the version by the synth pop collective that’s being redone.