When adding examples, please keep in mind that Alice simply having covered Bob's song isn't this trope. Examples should be added to the main list sorted by song name, but for ease of reference there are also two lists sorted by musician name. If Alice has covered a lot of songs, add examples of this to the "by covering musician" list. If Bob has been covered a lotnote and he has, add examples to the "by covered musician" list. Finally, make sure the song isn't already on the list somewhere.
And one final note: Fan Myopia runs quite high when it comes to music, so please avoid the "quick, what band do you think of when you hear X?" cockiness, because chances are not everyone will have the same answer as you.
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"1985" is probably Bowling for Soup's greatest hit, but it is in fact, a cover of a song by SR-71, featuring slightly different lyrics.
"99 Problems" was originally the name of a rap song released in 1993 by Ice-T and Brother Marquis. In 2003, Jay-Z borrowed the title and the hook, "I got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one", and recorded his own track called "99 Problems", which far overshadowed the original in terms of popularity. In 2010, Hugo Chakrabongse, a Thai "gangsta-rock" singer signed to Jay-Z's label, borrowed the hook and title again and recorded a bluegrass song called "99 Problems", which has done quite well in alternative rock playlists. Hugo's arrangement was itself covered by The Voice contestant Tony Lucca, who hit the Hot 100 with it in 2012.
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The Specials didn't write "A Message to You Rudy" or "Monkey Man". That was Dandy Livingstone and Toots & the Maytals, respectively.
Some people think that "Pressure Drop" is a Specials original. Slightly better informed people think that they were covering The Clash. In fact, the original is by Toots and the Maytalls.
The Sweet's "AC/DC," by Joan Jett. At the very least, it sounds less brazenly offensive coming from her. The Sweet version seems to be on the radio a lot more, at least on Alice Cooper's radio show.
Billy Ray Cyrus' debut single "Achy Breaky Heart" was first recorded by an obscure act called the Marcy Brothers. Their version was called "Don't Tell My Heart." His daughter covered an unreleased Fefe Dobson song, "Start All Over" for her first non-Hannah Montana solo album, Meet Miley Cyrus. Another unreleased Dobson song, "As A Blonde", was covered by Selena Gomez and the Scene a few years later.
Whitney Houston's "All The Man I Need" was originally a Sister Sledge song.
Heart's "Alone" was originally recorded in 1983 by its songwriters, Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, under the name I-Ten.
A rather convoluted example: Country music fans know "Always on My Mind" as a song by Willie Nelson, while pop music fans know it as a song by the Pet Shop Boys. However, both artists were covering Elvis Presley's version of the song... which itself was not even the original version. The song was first performed by Brenda Lee, and obscure country singer John Wesley Ryles had a #20 hit with it before Nelson's version (under the title "You Are Always on My Mind"). And gamers know it as the song from Silent Hill.
The Bacharach/David composition "Always Something There to Remind Me" is often associated with its well known cover by 80's new wave duo Naked Eyes, but it was recorded quite a few times, initially by Dionne Warwick in 1963 (that version went unreleased, and she re-recorded a slightly better known version in 1967). In 1964, a re-recording was a UK #1 hit for Sandie Shaw.
"Amarillo by Morning" was first recorded by one of its writers, Terry Stafford. It's been covered several times, including the best-known version by George Strait.
Perry Como had a big hit with his cover of "And I Love You So," which was written and first performed by Don McLean. McLean himself had a hit with "Crying" by Roy Orbison.
"Angel of Mine", by Monica. Betcha didn't know it was originally by a British girl group called Eternal.
"At Last" is now universally associated with Etta James, who recorded it in 1961, but it was written in 1941 for the Glenn Miller Band. Many people might associate it with Christina Aguilera or Beyoncé's covers.
"At Your Best (You Are Love)" was originally an Isley Brothers song dedicated to their mother before Aaliyah covered it 14 years later.
"The Awakening" is the name of a bass break that Les Claypool of Primus likes to throw into live versions of their song "Tommy The Cat." But originallly it was its own song, written by the 1980's funk group, The Reddings.
The Blake Babies' version of "Baby Gets High" is probably better known than the original by Madder Rose.
McFly, "Baby's Coming Back", covering Jellyfish. This mainly has Covered Up status in the UK - In America neither version is too well known.
"Joining A Fan Club", an album track from Jellyfish's Spilt Milk album, was later covered by J Pop band Puffy Ami Yumi. Interestingly enough, Jellyfish's vocalist/drummer Andy Sturmer is one of Puffy AmiYumi's producers and writers.
"Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" was originally written by rockabilly artist Moon Martin in 1978. It has been covered numerous times, but Robert Palmer's cover from 1979 was by far the most successful and is still the version that just about everyone associates with the song.
In a particularly odd aversion, a number of songs which Jim Steinman wrote for Meat Loaf were initially declined by him, and instead recorded on his solo album Bad For Good or by a pet project band of Steinman's called Pandora's Box. Meat Loaf himself eventually recorded a number of these songs, including the title track of "Bad For Good". Guess whose version is more widely known?
Taking it to an even further degree, Steinman's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" was written for Meat Loaf, first recorded by Pandora's Box, was later covered by Celine Dion (whose version hit #1 on the US charts), and was eventually covered in turn by Meat Loaf on Bat Out Of Hell III. Dion's version is probably the most familiar in America; Meat Loaf's version, however, a duet with Norweigan singer Marion Raven, made #1 in her home country, where the Dion version never charted.
George Thorogood ended up covering himself with "Bad To The Bone". He wrote the song for Bo Diddley (its riff was based on his old song "I'm A Man"), but Bo decided not to record it. George then tried to have Muddy Waters record it, but Waters was in-between recording labels at the time.
Thorogood: I literally could not peddle it, so I was my own third option. And it became the song I'm probably best known for.
Some younger viewers of Wayne's World may think that the last song that Cassandra's band plays, "Ballroom Blitz", was written for the movie. It's actually a cover of a song from the band Sweet, and it was a big hit back in the 70s. (Far fewer think that Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" was made for the movie.)
"Barbara Ann" was first performed not by The Beach Boys, nor even by The Who, but by The Regents, which was easily the most popular version of the song.
The Moody Blues loves "Bessie Banks".
Gary Allan's "Best I Ever Had" was first recorded by Vertical Horizon. Despite virtually no non-country music airplay, it outpeaked the original on the Hot 100 (51 vs. 58).
"Bette Davis Eyes" was written and first recorded by Jackie DeShannon. Kim Carnes's version is the most famous.
"Better by You, Better Than Me" was originally by Spooky Tooth; most people have only heard the Judas Priest version.
At least some Counting Crows fans were surprised to learn that "Big Yellow Taxi" was written by Joni Mitchell — and that her version was a third as long as the cover, which shifted the emphasis from the general theme of loss ("Big yellow taxi/took my old man away") to the more specific (and already predominant) environmental message. Like "Misirlou" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)", the song is one of the most frequently recorded non-traditional pieces.
This happens to Mitchell a lot. She also wrote and recorded "Woodstock" and "Both Sides, Now", but the hit versions were by Crosby Stills & Nash and Judy Collins, respectively.
With "Both Sides, Now", she gave Collins first dibs, since at the time Collins was signed with a label and Mitchell wasn't yet.
In turn most subsequent covers of "Woodstock" are based on the Crosby, Stills & Nash arrangement.
Although the version that was a British #1 by Matthews Southern Comfort took a different tack altogether.
Ditto "This Flight Tonight" covered by Nazareth.
It was interpolated by Janet Jackson in "Got 'Til It's Gone", from 1997.
"Be Near Me", covered by Ernest Kohl in 2010, was originally recorded by ABC in 1985, and is one of their less remembered songs.
"Big In Japan" was not originally performed by the Guano Apes (it's an Alphaville song). In addition, both Tom Waits and a punk-era band named Big in Japan have done completely different songs with the same name.
"Big Ten Inch Record" was a quarter-century old by the time Aerosmith got a hold of it.
American music fans know "Billy Don't Be a Hero" as a song by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods; however, the song was originally a UK hit for the band Paper Lace. Paper Lace wanted to have a U.S. hit with it, but Donaldson's version beat them to the top.
"Black Betty" has been covered up to the point where it's barely visible. Many Australians think Spiderbait wrote it. Others think Ram Jam wrote it in 1990, but that version was a remix of that band's hit version of the song from 1977. Most people will associate it with the original Ram Jam version. It was associated with Lead Belly in the early 20th Century, but, like much of his repertoire, it predates even him. It may have existed in some form as far back as the 18th Century.
How many think "Blame It On The Boogie", a 1978 hit for the Jacksons, was written by Michael Jackson? It was, but not THAT Michael Jackson. An Englishman (Mick Jackson) wrote it (along with his brother David and Elmar Krohn), recorded it first and his version made the UK charts at around the same time as the (US) Jacksons version, but only the latter is remembered today.
Rascal Flatts' immensely popular hit "Bless The Broken Road" was first sung by Marcus Hummon, and in between by Melodie Crittenden and Sons of the Desert. Interestingly, Crittenden ended up inverting this when she recorded a new version with Selah in 2006.
"Blinded by the Light" was written and sung by Bruce Springsteen. Manfred Mann's Earth Band made it famous — they also added one of the most infamous mondegreens in music, "wrapped up like a douche". (The real lyric is "revved up like a deuce [coupe]", and they could have avoided it if they kept Springsteen's original, "cut loose like a deuce".)
Manfred Mann also covered "For You" by Springsteen. And "Spirit in the Night" as well. Manfred Mann really liked covering Bruce's songs.
Also, Springsteen wrote "Because the Night", which singer/poet Patti Smith made into a hit after gender-flipping his lyrics. It was most famously covered in the early 90's by college-rockers 10,000 Maniacs on their MTV Unplugged performance.
Springsteen has been on the other side of this as well. "Jersey Girl" a hit for Springsteen was originally a Tom Waits song.
"Blood on Fire", better known from the Eurobeat version by Go2 & Christine, was originally by the Japanese rock group AAA, used as the opening for the Japanese dub of the Live-Action Adaptation for Initial D. Similarly, John Desire's version of "Hot Limit" is more famous than the TM Revolution original, particularly due to appearing in Dance Dance Revolution and the animutation "We Drink Ritalin".
"Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" was written by Fred Rose to be recorded by his friend, legendary country singer Roy Acuff (the ubiquitous "Acuff-Rose" Publishing company of many classic country songs), and was covered several years later by Hank Williams Sr. However, by far the most famous version is Willie Nelson's 1975 cover from his Red Headed Stranger concept album.
Many of the younger generation seem unaware that Blue Monday, covered by Orgy in 1998, was a cover of New Order's hit from 1983.
A number of songs by the King himself (Elvis Presley) are covers — for example, "Blue Suede Shoes".
His classic "Love Me Tender", while the lyrics were new, borrowed the tune of "Aura Lee" (published in 1861) note-for-note.
Quite a few Elvis songs borrowed their tunes from older songs while having original lyrics. Other examples are "It's Now or Never" ("'O Sole Mio", published 1898) and "Wooden Heart" ("Muss I Denn", published 1827).
"Hound Dog" is another, first recorded by blues singer Big Momma Thorton. There's a reason Elvis is sometimes known as "The Prince of Thieves."
His first single "That's All Right (Mama)" was originally performed by blues singer Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup.
Elvis's Can't Help Falling In Love With You received a very popular cover by UB 40, it was a wedding reception favorite in the early 90's.
Most people don't even realize "Bobby McGee" was originally female, in the song by Kris Kristofferson. Janis Joplin, her personal life notwithstanding, made him a man. It's generally accepted that Kristofferson, who was Joplin's lover for a time, wrote the song about her; that is, when Joplin sings about "Bobby McGee," she's singing about herself!
The Ataris' cover of "The Boys Of Summer" (by Don Henley) was thought by so many Ataris fans to be an original that their lead singer started wearing a "Who The Fuck is Don Henley" shirt to shows.
"Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder, covered by Unique II, Max-a-Million, and more recently Blue Lagoon, and interpolated in P Diddy's "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down." None of the covers have become bigger hits than the Wilder version.
"Bring the Pain" is a song by Method Man, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan; however, many Mindless Self Indulgence fans are far more familiar with the band's cover of the song from Tight.
"Broken Arrow" was written by Robbie Robertson, formerly of The Band, and first recorded on Robertson's first solo album. Several years later it became a huge hit for Rod Stewart.
Three artists released "Butterfly Kisses" in the same year: Bob Carlisle, Raybon Brothers and Jeff Carson. Carlisle's (the original) was a big hit on adult contemporary and pop radio but didn't enter the Billboard Hot 100 due a chart quirk involving a lack of physical single release; as a result, only the Raybon Brothers' cover made it into the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100. Given that both artists were One-Hit Wonder (although Marty Raybon was previously a member of the successful 1990s band Shenandoah), this is an especially unusual case of covering up.
"The Candy Man" was originally performed by Aubrey Woods in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but for a time the song was more famous for Sammy Davis Jr.'s cover. Davis actually could have sung the song in the film - he expressed interest in the role of the candy store owner, but was turned down. The original version became better known than the Davis' cover as time went on because changing musical tastes meant the film continued to be broadcast long after Davis' version stopped receiving airplay.
"Can't Get Enough Of You Baby" was not originally by Smash Mouth. The Toys were the first to record it way back in 1965, and the 4 Seasons and ? and the Mysterians (whose better-known hit, "96 Tears," has a similar opening stinger) soon after that. Those who came of age in the 80's will also remember the version by British new wave band The Colourfield.
Smash Mouth covers lots of 1960s rock music, most notably The Monkees' "I'm A Believer", to the point that it's hard to get mad at them for it, since they obviously love the source material.
That would be Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer".
Seether's cover of George Michael's "Careless Whisper" has mostly displaced the original nowadays.
Fear Factory's "Cars" has Gary Numan as featured artist, however Numan originally recorded the song, which became a hit in 1979.
"Cat's Eye" by Anri is the opening song from the anime series Cats Eye from 1983. Younger people may be more familiar with the cover from 2000 by E-Rotic, with the lyrics rewritten in English, especially because this cover was included in several Bemani games (including Dance Dance Revolution 4th Mix Plus and 5th Mix, Dance Maniax 2nd Mix, and Dance Dance Revolution Music Fit). Likewise, several other popular DDR songs are translated cover versions of J-Pop songs, such as Bambee's "17" and Judy Crystal's "God of Romance (Romansu no Kamisama)".
In 1982, just after he left The Babys, John Waite reached #16 on the US chart with "Change," originally written and performed by Spider, a band that few remember. Spider also gave us Anton Fig, drummer for the band on Late Night with David Letterman.
Eric Clapton's famous little acoustic tune "Change the World" is awesome. It's also a Wynonna Judd cover.
"Chicken Fried" by the Zac Brown Band had a circuitous history which ends up being an interesting defiance of this trope. Although they had played it for several years, they gave the song to another group called The Lost Trailers in 2006. Zac Brown then changed his mind about giving them the song, so the Trailers' version was withdrawn. ZBB then released "Chicken Fried" as their major-label debut in 2008.
"China Girl" is best known for David Bowie's 1983 hit version, but it was first performed by Iggy Pop (and co-written with Bowie) in 1977. The covering up was ultimately pretty beneficial to the original artist, which may have been the point: Iggy Pop was nearing bankruptcy at the time, and receiving substantial royalties for the Bowie version helped him out financially.
"Cinderella" has been performed by artists such as Play, Tata Young, and most famously The Cheetah Girls. It was written and first sung by a relatively unknown girl group i5.
"Close to You" was first done by Richard Chamberlain. The only version that matters, apparently, was performed by The Carpenters. And written by neither, but by Burt Bacharach/Hal David.
"Common People" was written and first performed by the indie band Pulp but it was popularized in the USA by a cover version done by William Shatner. This is only in the USA however, as in the the UK and Ireland the original is still one of the most beloved Alternative Rock songs of the 1990's.
Patsy Cline's signature song, "Crazy", was in fact written by Willie Nelson, and later covered by him.
"Crimson and Clover", by Tommy James and the Shondells. Joan Jett covered it, keeping the gender lyrics (because 'clover' doesn't rhyme with 'know him'), so now you have a punk goddess singing a love song to another woman, added killer guitar riffs, and removed that warbly vocal thing. Her version is now better known in some circles(despite only reaching #7 instead of #1 like the original).
Speaking of Clapton, "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" were by J.J. Cale. As was "Call Me The Breeze," which most know as a Lynyrd Skynyrd song. How about "Behind The Mask"? That was by Japanese electro-pop group Yellow Magic Orchestra. There were some extra verses in Clapton's version that weren't in YMO's, however; those were written by none other than Michael Jackson! Michael's version of "Behind The Mask" was cut from the line-up of 'Thriller.' And of course, he Covered Up himself with the slow version of Layla, (though it's not as well-known today as the Derek & The Dominos version) which won him a Grammy.
At least in Europe, “Crying in the Rain” is an a-ha song. Who are the Everly Brothers anyway.
Cream's "Crossroads" was originally "Cross Road Blues" by Robert Johnson.
Quiet Riot's covers of "Cum On Feel The Noize" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," both by '70s British rock band Slade.
Quiet Riot covered these up in America, but the Slade versions were two of the best-selling singles of the 70s in Britain.
The semi-satirical Queer Romance ballad "Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other" was originally penned in 1981 by Ned Sublette, but was largely unknown until covered by Willie Nelson. Ironically, some people think that the covers by either The Lost Dakotas or Pansy Division was the original version, when in fact Nelson was familiar with the original long before the making of the film Brokeback Mountain and had been singing it in live performances for decades before recording it.
Toploader’s 2000 hit “Dancing in the Moonlight” was originally a hit for King Harvest in 1972. But the original version was by a band called Boffalongo, who released their version in 1970. King Harvest's version remains the most known in the U.S., however.
Led Zeppelin have a few of these. "Dazed and Confused" was written by Jake Holmes, a folk-pop musician best known for writing commercial jingles, including the "Be All That You Can Be" jingle for the U.S. Army. (Aside from "I've been dazed and confused", Jimmy Page entirely discarded Holmes' lyrics and wrote new ones for the Zeppelin recording.) "Whole Lotta Love"'s lyrics come from a Willie Dixon song, and the arrangement the group used was based on a cover by the Small Faces. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" was written by an early 60s folkie named Anne Johannson Bredon (and erroneously credited as a traditional song when Zep recorded it). "When the Levee Breaks" was by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. "In My Time of Dying" was a Blind Willie Johnson song. "The Lemon Song" contains elements of Robert Johnson's "Travellin' Riverside Blues" and Muddy Waters' "Killing Floor". "How Many More Times" was a Howlin' Wolf song. "Gallows Pole" is an old English folk song.
It doesn't help that Led Zeppelin themselves are the kings of doing covers without giving credit to the originals, or doing so inconsistently. They were sued several times over this.
Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy didn't write "When The Levee Breaks", it's a folk-blues standard that describes the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
Does this really count? It's more like, "Led Zeppelin were plagiarists" rather than that everybody thinks they wrote songs that they're really performing as covers. Their songs just take parts (occasionally large parts) of other songs, they're not covers.
Clint Black's "Desperado" may be one of the most-played country songs not to reach the Top 40, with a #54 peak. It's a cover of an Eagles song that is fairly well known despite not being a single.
Bruce Springsteen's "Devil with a Blue Dress On" is based on Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels' uptempo version of the 1964 Shorty Long original. It wasn't always a medley with "Good Golly Miss Molly".
Bertolt Brecht's "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", the opening piece from his Threepenny Opera, was translated to English nearly 30 years after its composition as "Mack the Knife", whereupon Louis Armstrong (and later Bobby Darin) made it into a hit.
While we're on the subject of Brecht, a song from Brecht and Weill's The Rise and Fall of the State of Mahagonny was covered by the Doors as "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)".
The Living Tombstone's remix of the Odyssey song "Discord" has overtaken the original to the point that it has over 5 million more views on YouTube than the latter.
The Wiggles' 1994 children's hit "Do The Monkey" was originally recorded by the Cockroaches 5 years earlier. Since two members of The Wiggles originally played together in The Cockroaches, they sort of covered themselves up.
Insomuch as one can cover up a song they wrote with a different band: "Do Ya" was first written by Jeff Lynne as a late single by The Move - it later got much more exposure when he remade it with Electric Light Orchestra. Similarly, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks first recorded "Crystal" before they joined Fleetwood Mac.
"Don't Cha", by the Pussycat Dolls? Also a cover — of a song first recorded by Tori Alamaze, one year before the Pussycat Dolls performed it.
You probably know "Don't Leave Me This Way" from the disco version by Thelma Houston or the Hi-NRG version by the Communards. The original was by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.
The Animals didn't write "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". It was first performed by Nina Simone. Even the Animals version has been forgotten by some fans of the later Santa Esmeralda cover, especially after Kill Bill.
Many often linked "Don't Turn Around" to Ace of Base when their "version" in 1994, note version because American singer, Tina Turner, did her version of the song in 1986... 8 YEARS before the Swedes did!
Spoon's "Don't You Evah," the second single from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, is a cover of "Don't You Ever" by The Natural History, which appeared on an album that came out several months afterGa Ga Ga Ga Ganote the Natural History's third album was recorded in 2004, but was held back until 2007 due to Executive Meddling. Spoon were kind enough to include the original on the EP single release of "Don't You Evah", however.
"Do Wah Diddy Diddy" was originally recorded by a forgettable girl group called The Exciters. The slightly altered cover by Manfred Mann is much more popular.
"Dreamland" a song made famous by Bunny Wailer in 1971 (and other recordings), is actually a cover of El Tempos' "My Dream Island". Not only was the original obscure, but Bunny credited himself as the songwriter (and continues to do so). As a result, it took many years before anyone discovered the original. El Tempos have never been paid royalties for the song.
"Drift Away" was written by Mentor Williams (brother of famed composer Paul Williams) and first performed by John Henry Kurtz. Dobie Gray's version is the most famous, although Uncle Kracker's cover (in which Gray still gets credit) is also well-known.
The Oak Ridge Boys' "Elvira" was first recorded by its writer, Dallas Frazier, back in 1966, and was a minor single for Rodney Crowell before the Oaks' version became a big country crossover hit in the early 1980s.
"Emotion", best known nowadays as a hit for Destinys Child, is a cover of an old song by The Bee Gees. (Well, technically, Samantha Sang featuring the Bee Gees, but anyhow...)
"Every Other Time" is actually a parody of LFO's "Every Other Time". A lot of people thought it was a Bob Ricci original song, even though the LFO version was more successful.
"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" by the Eli Young Band is a cover of Will Hoge.
"Everlasting Love" was first performed by Robert Knight in 1967. Since then, it has been covered by practically everyone under the sun. Some of the most famous covers were by Love Affair (in 1968), Carl Carlton (in 1974), Rex Smith & Rachel Sweet (in 1981), and Gloria Estefan (in 1995).
The Cascada song, "Everytime We Touch," is known by a good majority of America. Not nearly as many know it was by Maggie Reilly. Cascada only used the chorus of the song; bands such as Trixiana, Lacara, and Trinity have done full covers of the song that are not nearly as prolific.
For Eurobeat fans, "Livin' in the Night" by Pamsy, which predates Cascada's version, uses a Suspiciously Similar Song variant of the original melody, as well as using elements of Trinity's version.
The '80s ballad "Everytime You Go Away", made a hit single by Paul Young, was written and first performed by Hall and Oates. All of Paul Young's American hits were covers, although the aforementioned song is the only one most people likely remember.
Electric Youth's "Faces" (2009) is a remake of a little-known Italo-disco gem by Clio (1985). Similarly, "Flame" by Tiziana Rivale is a remake of another nearly-unknown song by Luna & Black Connection.
Great White's "Face the Day" was originally by the criminally underrated Australian band The Angels (known in the U.S as Angel City).
Some people don't know that "Family Man" by Hall & Oates is a cover of Mike Oldfield. May be a bit justified since Oldfield isn't well known in the U.S. aside from "TubularBells."
"Fancy" was written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry in 1969; then covered by Reba McEntire in 1990, accompanied by a popular music video.
Come to think of it, McEntire seemed to love covers in the early 90's. "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" was written in 1972 by songwriter Bobby Russell. He didn't care for the song, but his wife at the time, comedian/actress Vicki Lawrence, was convinced it had hit potential and recorded it for her debut album. It was covered in 1991 by McEntire, along with a similarly popular music video.
Ironically, when Bobby Russell was finally convinced of the song's potential, the artist he first pitched it to was Cher. However, Cher's then husband and manager, Sonny Bono, convinced her to turn the song down, fearing that the song would offend her southern fans.
"Father and Son" is by Cat Stevens, not by Ronan Keating or Boyzone.
"Feel Good Time" is kind of an odd case, as the original version was never officially released: It was written by Beck and William Orbit for a scrapped collaboration-heavy Orbit solo album, but it became a hit when Pink ended up performing it for the Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle soundtrack. The producers of the soundtrack wanted the Beck version, but he didn't want to appear on the soundtrack himself, though he didn't mind the song being covered. The backing track for her version is in fact exactly the same as what would have been the Beck version, but with his vocals and guitar part mixed out.
William Orbit leaked the Beck version himself, with Beck's permission.
"Fields Of People" was originally written and performed by American art-rock group Ars Nova, however, their career flopped so badly that the people who know of the song most likely have only heard the version performed by British pop group The Move.
The Space Jam soundtrack features examples from both ends: Seal covered up "Fly Like An Eagle" (Steve Miller Band; still the better-known version today), while All For One's "I Turn To You" only became well-known after a version by Christina Aguilera.
"Fly Me to the Moon" didn't originate from Neon Genesis Evangelion. It was originally a cabaret song in waltz time called "In Other Words". The version that all performances since copy is from Frank Sinatra (And The Count Basie Orchestra)'s "It Might As Well Be Swing", where Quincy Jones changed the time signature and gave it a swing rhythm. Small Reference Pools. Realistically, it's what this trope is all about.
In the USA, "Flying Without Wings", arguably mostly made famous by its use on American Idol by Ruben Studdard, was by Westlife, and featured in the film Pokémon: The Movie 2000.
Australians have recently enjoyed Youth Group's rendition of "Forever Young", without realizing it belongs to German synthpop-menschen Alphaville.
Don't forget Jay-Z (although his version is titled "Young Forever.")
Bette Midler's version of "From a Distance" is much better known than the first recording by Nanci Griffith.
Power metal band Gamma Ray covered "Gamma ray", from Hoodoo Man by Birth Control.
"Get Together" is best known for the 1967 version by The Youngbloods, but was first recorded in 1964 by The Kingston Trio (under the title "Let's Get Together"). Neither artist actually wrote the song - it was written by Chet Powers, best known for founding Psychedelic Rock group Quicksilver Messenger Service (under the Stage Name Dino Valenti).
"Georgia on My Mind" was written and performed by Hoagy Carmichael. No one thinks it's anything but a Ray Charles original today. Well, except for those who think of it as a Willie Nelson song.
You might know that Milli Vanilli weren't the first to sing of "Girl You Know It's True". (You're more likely to know that they didn't sing it at all.) But few remember the original performers, Numarx.
While "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" is typically thought of as a "girl power"-type song because of Cyndi Lauper's success with the song, some might be surprised to learn that it was written by a man (Robert Hazard) and was originally sung from a male perspective. A younger generation might know the song from its revved-up Miley Cyrus version from Breakout.
The Shadows of Knight cover of "Gloria" was a much bigger hit (and gets much more radio play) than the original recording by Van Morrison and Them, at least in the US.
This was mostly due to the original's too-suggestive lyrics "she comes in my room". Nowadays, everything has flip-flopped.
Arguably, the live version by The Doors is the best-known nowadays.
A number of Laura Branigan's hits ("Gloria" and "Self Control", for example) were covers of Italian pop songs.
"God Gave me You," made famous by Blake Shelton, was originally released by Christian musician Dave Barnes.
"God Gave Rock and Roll to You" was originally by Argent. That the Kiss version is generally better known (not to mention the fact that they changed some of the lyrics and added their own names to the writing credit) annoys Rod Argent no end.
In certain circles (primarily religious ones), the Petra versions (1977 and 1984) are better known. They feature different lyrics from both the Argent original and the Kiss cover. Petra lyricist Bob Hartman mentioned fans asking him "why they let Kiss cover their song." He would laugh and gently inform them that both were covers.
The lyrics of "God Save The King" were rewritten for the song "America" (which is more commonly known as "My Country 'Tis of Thee"). Thus the jarring experience, for Americans, of hearing the British playing (usually without lyrics) what they think of as an American song.
It's even more jarring when you remember that it's the British National Anthem.
"Got My Mind Set On You" was made famous by George Harrison in 1988, but it was written by Rudy Clark and performed by James Ray in 1962.
The "Weird Al" Yankovic parody even kind of rips on Harrison for his lyrical ability (or lack thereof) with the line, "Couldn't think of any lyrics. No, I never wrote the lyrics."
Who remembers George Benson's version of "Greatest Love of All", since Whitney Houston?
"The Green Manilishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown)" was a Fleetwood Mac song from back when Peter Green was the singer and lead guitarist, but today most people only know the Judas Priest version.
Jeff Buckley's cover of "Hallelujah"; the original is by Leonard Cohen. Other than the film version of Watchmen, no other medium uses the original. Either the Buckley or the KD Lang fans can lead you in a non-Cohen direction
Even more curiously, Buckley's version is really a cover of John Cale's, which is significantly different from Cohen's original. Just about everyone's cover is based on the Cale version, either directly or via Buckley. And it was covered up again in the UK by The X Factor 2008 winner Alexandra Burke's version. With a few notable exceptions, such as the U2 version, or Bob Dylan's live cover.
More recently, k.d. lang's version (which she performed at the 2010 Olympics) is considered the definitive one, at least in Canada.
Although between the release of Shrek and the 2010 Olympics, the Rufus Wainwright version was considered definitive.
Let's take this one further and just say anything by Leonard Cohen in general has been Covered Up. Has something to do with the fact he's a mindblowingly fantastic songwriter but only just adequate as a performer (a few songs notwithstanding).
Not the case with the Flying Lizards cover of "Suzanne" which sounds as if they used malfunctioning Cybermen for session musicians.
Let's not get started on Justin Timberlake's version...
One of James Taylor's best hits, "Handyman", released in 1977, was originally written by singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell back in 1959.
"Hanging on the Telephone", a very popular Blondie song, was originally released in 1976 by a little-known Power Pop band called The Nerves.
"Hard Sun", the 2007 single from Eddie Vedder'sInto The Wild soundtrack, was originally performed in 1989 by singer/songwriter Indio, aka Gordon Peterson. The covering up is pretty understandable: the original was only a small hit in it's time, and was from Indio's only album, Big Harvest.
"Heart and Soul" was written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, and first recorded by Exile. The Bus Boys also recorded it, but the version by Huey Lewis and the News is the most famous and the only one which hit the top 10 on the Billboard singles chart.
Jose Gonzales found fame through the use in a commercial of his acoustic cover of electropop song "Heartbeats" by The Knife.
"Heaven" by DJ Sammy & Yanou featuring DO; originally by Bryan Adams.
Whitesnake actually covered themselves with the song "Here I Go Again." They released the original as a European-only single in 1982 and it peaked at #34 in the UK. In 1987, at the urging of their record label, they re-recorded a more polished and up-tempo version of the song and put it out as a single again. This "cover version" shot to #9 in the UK and #1 in the United States, and became the version that everyone knows and radio stations still play - the original has been largely forgotten by everyone but hardcore Whitesnake fans.
In an Argentinian example, the band Metropoli recorded the song "Heroes Anonimos", but were the band Catupecu Machu the ones who popularized it.
Jimi Hendrix's first hit, "Hey Joe", was written by... some obscure Californian folksinger dude named Billy Roberts. A Dutch book about the stories behind songs traced the history of "Hey Joe", it's amazing how much it changed between Billy and Jimi. It also travelled all across the US before it got to him. Also, "All Along The Watchtower" was originally by Bob Dylan.
"Hijo de la luna" was originally recorded by the Spanish band Mecano. In Germany, however, it's pretty much only known as a pseudo-Christmas song by the Dutch singer Loona.
Dwight Yoakam's "Honky Tonk Man" seems to be more well known than Johnny Horton's original; for some reason, most of Johnny's non-historically-themed songs (e.g. "Sink the Bismarck", "North to Alaska", "Battle of New Orleans") seem to be long forgotten.
Most people are more familiar with the Blue Swede version of "Hooked on a Feeling"—you know, the one with the "ooga chaka"s—than the earlier performance by B.J. Thomas. It was made even more well-known as the "Dancing Baby" song, featured in Ally McBeal. Blue Swede itself borrowed "ooga chaka" from an earlier version by Jonathan King.
Averted with Blue Swede's other hit, "Never My Love," still mostly "associated" with The Association. This is pretty much why they are remembered as a one-hit wonder.
If you type "Hot Cherie" in the search box for Google or YouTube, you will inevitably find the Hardline song first. This was a cover of a song by Streetheart. The song was covered by Danny Spanos as well, which is also more popular than Streetheart's version, but still not as popular as Hardline's.
When "Hot Rod Lincoln" is mentioned, most probably think of the best-selling version by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, rather than the original by Charlie Ryan and the Livingston Brothers or the first hit remake by Johnny Bond. Somewhere, four cylinders pulling the titular Model A were lost, in the process of covering by various artists.
"Hound Dog" was not originally done by Elvis Presley; it was originally written for and performed by a singer named Big Mama Thornton.
"House of the Rising Sun" was not written by The Animals. It's a folk song from the United States, and the oldest known recording was made in 1933. And in the original version, the singer is female. Puts a different spin on things, no?
In a case of people getting things half right, they are often accused of taking it...from Bob Dylan, whose version was recorded only 2 years earlier and itself, of course, a cover. They may have borrowed certain aspects of the arrangement he played—but Dylan himself borrowed that arrangement wholesale from his friend, Dave Van Ronk.
"How Am I Supposed To Live Without You", from 1989, one of Michael Bolton's most well-known songs, was a cover of the 1983 Laura Branigan song of the same name.
"Hurdy Gurdy Man": while most of the people who know this song are aware that it was first written and performed by Donovan (Leitch), Steve Hillage's cover version has reached a larger audience and enjoyed a greater popularity since the mid-70s.
Many fans of the early goth band Alien Sex Fiend will rave about how great the song "Hurricane Fighter Plane" is, unaware that it's a cover of a song by Red Krayola, a 60's psychedelic band.
Younger audiences are often more familiar with Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt," released in 2002, than the original Nine Inch Nails song released in 1994, though the Nine Inch Nails song still receives frequent radio play. Because of Cash's long career, some journalists also assume that Cash's version is much older than it really is, and that the Nine Inch Nails version is the cover.
"NIN closed the night with a slow and smoky cover of Johnny Cash's 'Hurt,' which earned nonstop cheers from the crowd." —Associated Press
"Hush", written by Joe South and first recorded by Billy Joe Royal, is probably most famous as covered by Deep Purple (1968) or by Kula Shaker (1997).
"Hide Your Heart" is a complex example. The KISS version is the best-known, and it was in fact co-written by Paul Stanley. However, the KISS version came out a year after the original recording by Bonnie Tyler. The KISS version also came out the same month as a version by former KISS member Ace Frehley, one month before a version by southern rock band Molly Hatchet, and the same year as a version by Bonnie Tyler-esque rock diva Robin Beck.
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The Soviet song "I Am Glad, 'Cause I'm Finally Returning Back Home" is best known as the "Trololo song" thanks to a now famousYouTube video of singer Eduard Khil performing a non-lexical vocable version of the song. Good luck finding the original version with the actual lyrics.
Gloria Gaynor's famous disco number "I am what I am" is so popular that most people forget that it was originally from the Broadway musical about gay pride called La Cage aux folles. Leading to a lot of Fan Dumb from people complaining about "How the gays stole this song for their pride parades".
Chris Cagle's biggest hit, "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out", is a cover of a song first recorded by David Kersh.
The original version of "I Can't Stand The Rain" is not Seal's from 2008. Nor Tina Turner's from 1985. Nor did Tina cover Eruption's 1978 disco version. It's the one recorded by Ann Peebles in 1973.
Written by Diane Warren, Edwin McCain's version of "I Could Not Ask For More" released in 1999 to significant radio play, but it has been almost completely forgotten in the wake of the country cover, released the very next year, by Sara Evans. She even took the song to a higher position on the Billboard Hot 100 than he did, and McCain is today remembered pretty much only for his first hit "I'll Be."
The Clash's version of "I Fought the Law". Even Bobby Fuller's 1964 version isn't the original. The song was written by Sonny Curtis, the same man who performed "Love Is All Around" from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", in 1959.
For younger listeners, it's likely to be the Dead Kennedys cover they remember best. Or perhaps the Green Day version, which closely followed the arrangement of The Clash.
"I Go Blind" by Hootie and the Blowfish is a cover of a song by 80's Canadian alternative rock group 54-40.
How many people can tell you that Paul Davis was the first singer to do "I Go Crazy"?
Most people remember "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" as sung by Marvin Gaye and later covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fewer people remember the original hit by Gladys Knight & the Pips.
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles recorded it first, but their version wasn't released until 1998.
The Isley Brothers fit in this song's history somewhere, too, between the Miracles and Gladys Knight. Norman Whitfield, the co-songwriter along with Barret Strong, loved to pass his songs around from artist to artist on the Motown roster.
"I Need a Lover" is probably just as famous, if not more so, as a Pat Benatar song than as being by John Mellencamp, despite the fact that Mellencamp's version was his first top 40 hit—and that he wrote the song to begin with. Interestingly, the article for the song on That Other Wiki lists it as being a Mellencamp song first and foremost, with only one sentence mentioning the Benatar cover.
"I Only Have Eyes for You" seems to be most remembered in a version done by the Flamingos in 1959, but it was a Busby Berkeley Number from the movie musical Dames (where it was sung by Dick Powell).
"I Think We're Alone Now" by Tommy James And The Shondells has been covered several times, most famously by Tiffany. Also, their song "Mony Mony" is pretty much Billy Idol's now.
To add to the oddity, the two covers were #1 hits consecutively.
And then, both covers were parodied on "Weird Al" Yankovic's album Even Worse, along with two other then-recent covers.
Nowadays everyone thinks of "I Want Candy" as a Bow Wow Wow song, when in fact is was written two decades earlier by The Strangeloves, even though only the original hit the top 40.
While "I Will Always Love You" will probably be forever connected to Whitney Houston, it was first a Dolly Parton song. (In fact, Dolly's version topped the country charts twice.)
Dolly's not the only one Whitney displaced via The Bodyguard soundtrack: "I'm Every Woman" was originally a soul hit for Chaka Khan.
Josh Turner defied this with his cover of Don Williams' "I Wouldn't Be a Man". Nearly every piece of media related to the album went out of its way to mention that it was a cover. (However, most people are unaware that Billy Dean also put out a cover in 1997.)
Mark Chesnutt's #1 hit "I'll Think of Something" was a top ten hit for Hank Williams, Jr.. in his earlier days (you know, before all the chest-beating "party" songs).
"I'm Henery [sic] the Eighth, I Am" was not written by Herman's Hermits. It is significantly Older Than They Think, having been penned in 1910 and first recorded by Harry Champion.
The hit version of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" is by The Monkees, but the song was first recorded by Paul Revere And The Raiders. To be fair, both of those versions came out in the same year, The Monkees' version was just the one that became a hit. Punk fans are more likely to associate the song with either The Sex Pistols or Minor Threat. In fact, Ian MacKaye admitted that when Minor Threat started doing their version of the song, they thought it originated with The Sex Pistols.
Also, "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees was originally written (and recorded) by Neil Diamond, then it was covered by Smash Mouth.
If you asked people who sang "I'm Going Down," most people would probably say Mary J. Blige, not Rose Royce.
You may recall "I've Told Every Little Star" in Linda Scott's 1961 hit version, especially if you're of a certain generation or have seen Mulholland Dr.. This cover version is very different from its original use as the theme song of the Kern & Hammerstein musical Music in the Air.
Van Halen's "Ice Cream Man" was first performed by blues musician John Brim.
"If You Leave Me Now" (not to be confused with the Chicago ballad), recorded in the late 90's by Stevie B. and Alexia Phillips (not to be confused with the Italian singer Alexia), was originally by a forgotten late 80's singer named Jaya. Ironically, Stevie B. also co-wrote and did the backup vocals in the original.
"Ievan Polkka" is mix of Covered Up and Memetic Mutation. The song was written in the 1930's by Eino Kettunen, and performed many times since then, but most non-Finnish internet users were introduced to the song by Loituma's a cappella cover version—specifically, the 27-second portion of the song used in the Leekspin flash video. The kicker is that this clip was a Scat Singing intermezzo that Loituma added. Naturally, several cover versions since (including Hatsune Miku's version, the Holly Dolly version, and one Russian cover) have copied Loituma's improvised nonsense verbatim, more-or-less ignoring the real lyrics of the original song.
Most people are familiar with "If You Asked Me To", written by veteran songwriter Diane Warren, as one of Celine Dion's first English-language hits. Few are aware that it was first recorded by Patti LaBelle, and even played over the end credits of the James Bond movie Licence to Kill.
It appears that "If You Knew Susie" was written for Al Jolson to sing in the Broadway musical Big Boy, but the song didn't go over well for him and the show. It then became one of the songs most associated with Eddie Cantor, his popular rival.
Think of the song "Iko Iko". You're probably thinking either of the version used in Rain Man, of Dr. John's version, or the Grateful Dead's. Or Cyndi Lauper's. Or maybe even the 1965 version recorded by The Dixie Cups which most people believe was "the original." They are all pre-dated by a 1953 recording by James "Sugar Boy" Crawford, who himself adapted a bunch of Mardi Gras parade chants into a song that he called "Jock-a-mo". The Dixie Cups' version came when the singers were on a break during recording and just started singing it — one band members' grandmother was a fan of the Crawford song — and didn't know that the producers were recording them.
After hearing Vitas's performance of "Il Dulce Suono", a listener declared that she didn't like his rendition of the opera from The Fifth Element and that you can't perform Sarah Brightman's music without screwing it up. (A common fan mistake: Brightman was not in The Fifth Element.) The music piece comes from the opera Lucia de Lammermoor, which debuted in 1835.
While everybody knows "In The Army Now" as one of the major Status Quo hits, very few people know it's a cover. The original version was sung in 1981 by the dutch duo Bolland and Bolland who, in mid-80s, became producers and worked with people as Falco or Samantha Fox.
dc Talk's hit worship song "In The Light" from Jesus Freak was originally by Charlie Peacock, who even provides guest vocals at the end of the more well-known version.
Most people are familiar with "In The Street" as the theme song for That 70's Show. If they are aware it's a Real Song Theme Tune at all, it's likely because they noticed it being credited to Cheap Trick in the end credits, or have their full version on a Cheap Trick greatest hits album or a That 70's Show companion album. In fact it was first performed by cult Power Pop band Big Star in 1972, two years before Cheap Trick formed. Because Cheap Trick are the more well known of the two Seventies bands, people tend to assume it's an early Cheap Trick song, when in fact their cover was specifically recorded for the show.
Madness' "It Must Be Love" is a cover of a Labi Siffre song recorded ten years previously. Interestingly, he makes a cameo in the music video for the Madness version. Madness' "One Step Beyond" is also a cover. Prince Buster did it first.
A different "It Must Be Love" was a hit for Alan Jackson in 2000, but first it was a hit for Don Williams in 1979.
"It's A Fine Day" may have been made famous by Opus III, but they weren't the first to record it. It was written by Edward Barton, and sung a cappella by his girlfriend Jane Lancaster. In a bizarre twist, a remix of Jane's version was released six years after Opus III's cover.
No Doubt killed any chance of hearing Talk Talk's original version of "It's My Life" on the radio for a few years, though the latter seems to be slowly regaining its prominence.
Björk's single "It's Oh So Quiet" is a renamed cover of the less well-known Betty Hutton song "Blow A Fuse".
Which itself was a cover of the Austrian song "Und jetzt ist es still", performed by Horst Winter in 1948, written by Austrian composer Hans Lang and Erich Meder.
"It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" is one of Boyz II Men's signature tunes. Few of the group's fans would know of the 1975 original by G.C. Cameron. And nearly all of them only because of the song's presence on the Cooley High soundtrack.
"It's Not Funny Anymore", originally by Hüsker Dü, was covered by Lifetime on their "Hello Bastards" record. Since the song is prominently in the middle of the record, and fits in so well that it's a cover is usually completely unknown to anyone who hadn't heard the Hüsker Dü original, which is quite a few as it's one of their more obscurish tracks from a rather ignored era. (Not to mention that "Hello Bastards" is today considered a melodic punk classic while Hüsker Dü's "Metal Circus" was greatly eclipsed by their later works.)
It Was A Very Good Year was not originally recorded by Frank Sinatra, but rather by Bob Shane of The Kingston Trio.
Mariah Carey's "I Want To Know What Love Is" was originally by Foreigner.
"Jet Airliner" was written and preformed by Paul Pena, but the album was shelved by his record label and only released 27 years later, in 2000. Steve Miller heard a bootleg of the song and recorded a cover with the Steve Miller Band, which became a massive hit.
Brian Setzer's hit "Jump Jive An' Wail" was a cover of a 1957 song by Louis Prima.
About half the songs by the Brian Setzer Orchestra are covers, which is to be expected when your genre is a "revival" of a style that was popular 50 years ago.
Danielle Brisebois co-wrote and performed "Just Missed The Train" for her 1994 debut album, but the song is usually associated with American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson.
"Just Got Paid" is better known by the younger generations from *NSYNC's version, but Johnny Kemp did it first in 1988.
"Just One Person" was written for the Peanuts stage adaptation, Snoopy!. However, it is now completely associated with Jim Henson considering it was used as the eulogy song for him both at his funeral and the television tribute to him which declared that the genius' legacy would continue.
"Kids In America" by Kim Wilde has had various covers throughout the years. One such cover was featured on the dub of the DigimonMovie, performed by Len (notTHAT Len!), and another was featured in Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, performed by No Secrets. There is also the Jonas Brothers cover "Kids of the Future", made to tie in with Meet the Robinsons (hence why it mentions the Robinsons multiple times during the song), and the Bloodhound Gang's version. Slightly older kids in America might remember the cover by The Muffs, which was used in the opening sequence of Clueless and subsequently featured in Rock Band 2.
Roberta Flack's cover might be the most famous version of "Killing Me Softly" for those who knew it before the Fugees, but it was first performed by Lori Lieberman.
"Knock On Wood" by Eddie Floyd, better known from the Amii Stewart version (and later, Mary Griffin's version on the Studio 54 soundtrack). And no, Donna Summer never sang it.
"La Bamba", made famous by Richie Valens, was originally a Mexican wedding dance song. The video of the Los Lobos cover of "La Bamba" (which they in turn did for the soundtrack to the Richie Valens bio-pic) ends with the band starting to play the traditional song on acoustic guitars. It's kinda nifty.
The version of "Lady Marmalade" recorded for Moulin Rouge!!. It wasn't even done by LaBelle first; that honor goes to the Eleventh Hour.
"Lambada", the worldwide hit by Kaoma, is an unauthorized cover of the song "Llorando se Fue" by a bolivian band named Los Kjarkas, who successfully sued Kaoma for copyright infringement.
An odd example: The best remembered version of "Land of 1,000 Dances" is neither the first version (by Chris Kenner) nor the highest charting version (by Wilson Pickett), but a low-charting version by the otherwise obscure band Cannibal and the Headhunters — which was, significantly, the first version to use the "na-na-na-na" chorus.
Show of hands: who knew that Disturbed's "Land of Confusion" was by Genesis? All of us who are older than 25 (and some of us who aren't). Possibly doesn't belong here, as it was a minor hit for Disturbed, but an enormous hit for Genesis.
"Last Christmas" has been covered so many times by so many artists it would probably be better off listed as a "traditional" song. Its original artists were Wham!, who had a huge hit with it in the UK in 1984.
Nowadays it's more common for people to think of it as being from a female POV, despite the original being sung by a man.
"Last Kiss" was first recorded in 1962 by its author, Wayne Cochran. The first hit version was released in 1964 by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. Then Pearl Jam covered it after Eddie Vedder found a copy of the 45 single at a flea market.
Although, really, is it not obvious that it's a 60's song? Particularly since it's very much in the "Dead Teenage Lover" genre that was so popular at the time.
"The Last Saskatchewan Pirate" by The Arrogant Worms is pretty well-known in Canada (and pretty much anthemic in Saskatchewan), but the rock cover by Captain Tractor (i.e. the one with the flute solo) is the one most people think of. The Worms are better known overall, leading many to mistake the cover version for their own.
"Leaving on a Jet Plane" was written and performed by John Denver, but it didn't become famous until it was covered by Peter, Paul and Mary.
"A Lesson in Leavin'," a 1999 country smash by Jo Dee Messina (which famously was held out of the No. 1 spot for seven weeks by the even more popular "Amazed" by Lonestar, before falling to No. 3 the same week "Amazed" fell from No. 1) was a No. 1 country hit by Dottie West in 1980. Except for oldies stations, West's version is forgotten.
Many people know "Life is a Highway" best as a song sung by Rascal Flatts for the 2006 Pixar movie Cars. It was originally sung by Tom Cochrane in 1991.
"Like Toy Soldiers" by Eminem is based on "Toy Soldiers" by MARTIKA, just hip-hopped enough to make a good theme song for John Cena.
Roxette's "Listen to Your Heart" was eclipsed by DHT's version.
For a long time, "Little Boxes" was thought of by many people as a Pete Seeger song, until Weeds brought Malvina Reynolds' original back into the public eye.
"Little Bit O' Soul" was originally recorded in 1965 by an obscure Birmingham, UK band called the Little Darlings. Two years later American garage-rockers the Music Explosion covered it and took it all the way to #2 on the Billboard chart.
Kris Allen neither wrote nor originally recorded "Live like we're Dying". That was The Script.
"Lonely Women Make Good Lovers" was released by an obscure country singer named Bob Luman in 1972, and later covered up by Steve Wariner in 1983. In an odd aversion of this trope, both Luman's original and Wariner's cover went to #4 on the country charts.
Bananarama's "Look on The Floor" covers the chorus of the 80's italo-disco song "Hypnotic Tango" by My Mine.
"Lotta Love" was originally written and performed by Neil Young. Young's backup singer Nicolette Larson turned it into a huge hit.
"Louie Louie" was not written by the Kingsmen. Nor was it improved or rescued from obscurity by them. It was written and recorded in 1956 by Rick Berry and the Pharaohs, and was very popular in the rock and roll community around Seattle and Tacoma (and in those communities, the Kingsmen's version wasn't even the most popular - it was the one by the soon-to-be-famous Paul Revere and the Raiders). All the Kingsmen did was to make it visible to the white youth market across the US, and slur the vocals so much that the lyrics could not be understood, making it sound naughty and subversive.
The slurring was unintentional: They recorded the song using one microphone mounted on the ceiling, Jack Ely's voice was shot from taking part in an all-night Louie-Louieathon (and he was wearing braces at the time) and, while aware that they had to record in one take, the band didn't know that the tape w is a cover of a Labi Siffre song recorded ten years previously. Interestingly, he makes a cameo in the music video for the Madness version. Madness' as running and thought they were doing a rehearsal play through. The FBI actually investigated the "obscene" lyrics with the aid of analysts and linguists and, after 18 months, declared it "unintelligible at any speed", proving themselves unable to determine the authorship of a published song! And while they questioned a number of people in the course of the investigation, for some reason Jack Ely was never brought in and asked to repeat what he had sung. (Nor, apparently, did they notice the actual profanity that a member of the band shouts after missing a cue 53 seconds in.)
More than likely because The Kingsmen were reluctant to admit that they'd forced Ely to quit the band, but were still using his vocals anyway during "live" performances.
In, ah, certain circles, the tune is much more famous in the form of "Pharaoh, Pharaoh, whooooa baby, let my people go ..." Many churchgoing children are surprised to first hear "Louie, Louie."
Nirvana's song "Love Buzz" is a Gender Flipped cover version of a 1969 song by Shocking Blue, a psychedelic band from the Netherlands whose other hit, "Venus," was covered up by Bananarama.
Remember the song "Love Hurts" by Nazareth? How about the original version by The Everly Brothers, or the subsequent cover by Roy Orbison which also predated Nazareth's? Or the Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris duet? Didn't think so.
Phil Vassar's "Love Is a Beautiful Thing" was previously a single for Paul Brandt under the title "It's a Beautiful Thing."
Whitney Houston's "Love is Like A Butterfly" which many Brits will know from the programme "Butterflies" back in the 70s.
Which used as its theme tune the original version by Dolly Parton.
"Love You Down", from INOJ album Ready For The World, was originally by... the band Ready For The World.
"Love is Alive" by Gary Wright; covered up by 3rd Party, and later Anastacia.
Jerrod Niemann's "Lover, Lover" is probably the first time that most Americans have heard this song. Australians, however, probably know it better through Sonia Dada's original, which was titled "You Don't Treat Me No Good." The strange thing here is that Sonia Dada was an American band!
Canadian example: It's almost certain that more people know the Barenaked Ladies' softer version of "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" rather than the original, performed by Bruce Cockburn. Ironically, the song was first released in an album called Kick at the Darkness, a Bruce Cockburn tribute album.
"Love Has Fallen Down on Me" is best known for the version by Chaka Khan, and 27 Dresses has only reinforced this. Two things are not often known: first, this is a cover of a song by psychedelic soul band Rotary Connection (best known for a Soprano named Minnie Riperton); second, the cover version is virtually a note-perfect remake of the original arrangement by noted Record Producer Charles Stepney.
Harris's version is still fairly well remembered, however. It's usually one of the first songs mentioned whenever the topic of musical Narm is discussed. Made better by the fact that, when asked what it was about, he basically said that he had no idea and in fact didn't care, since it was just a job to him.
The Gary Jules version of "Mad World" (made for the Donnie Darko soundtrack, used in a commercial for Gears of War and part of the in-game soundtrack for Gears Of War 3) is much more well-known (to today's kids) than the Tears For Fears original.
Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson's duet "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" was a minor hit for its writer, Ed Bruce, three years before the Waylon/Willie version.
Randy Newman did "Mama Told Me Not to Come" before Three Dog Night (and way before the Tom Jones and Stereophonics version). Newman wasn't the first to perform it either, as he wrote it for Eric Burdon and The Animals, though comparatively speaking the Animals' version is rather obscure.
Barry Manilow's "Mandy" was originally called "Brandy", and it was written and performed in 1971 by Scott English and Richard Kerr. The title change was to avoid confusion with "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)", an unrelated song by Looking Glass that was a hit around the same time.
"Me and Bobby McGee" was written by Kris Kristofferson, first recorded by Roger Miller, and covered by tons of other artists. But it seems a pretty safe bet that the song will always be identified with Janis Joplin.
Lil' Suzy's "Memories" was by the Eurodance group Netzwerk. Scott Brown also did a happy hardcore remix of the original artist's version.
"Midnight Train to Georgia" was made famous by Gladys Knight & The Pips. However, it was first recorded by Cissy Houston (The mother of Whitney) a year earlier.
Iconic surfer song "Misirlou" has its origins in folk dance; Dick Dale had learned it from his uncle, a Lebanese folk musician, and adapted his version, at greatly-increased tempo from the original, on a bet that he could play an entire song on a single guitar string. It began as a Greek rebetiko song in 1927, as performed by Michalis Patrinos (cite The Other Wiki). True authorship is unknown, as is the case with most rebetiko songs. Nowadays, credit is given to either Patrinos or Nicholas Roubanis (who created a jazz arrangement in 1941), and S. Russell, N. Wise and M. Leeds who wrote lyrics. It's also been covered in various other styles, including Klezmer. And now, of course, a lot of people think of it as "The Pulp Fiction Theme". It was also Sampled Up by the Black Eyed Peas in "Pump It".
"Mona Lisa", best known as a Nat King Cole hit, was originally written for the forgettable (and forgotten) 1950 movie, Captain Carey, USA. Ironically, it was never sung or played all the way through in the movie.
Many more people are familiar with Cyndi Lauper's cover of "Money Changes Everything" than the original by The Brains.
The original theme for Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, "Moonlight Densetsu," is a cover of "Sayonara ha Dance no Ato ni" from the '60s. The second theme avoided this trope by being written by Naoko Takeuchi herself.
Cat Stevens covered "Morning Has Broken" which had English lyrics added to it by Eleanor Farjeon from a much older song (see most modern hymnals).
"Move It On Over" was written and recorded by Hank Williams Sr. before being covered in the 70's by George Thorogood.
"Mr. Bojangles", originally by Jerry Jeff Walker, became a massive hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
"My Island Home" was not originally by Torres Strait Islander Christine Anu, but by Warupmi Band, an Aboriginal group from the Northern Territory, penned by member Neil Murray. Anu started out as their backing singer, and was encouraged by Murray to sing it.
Brooks & Dunn's version of "My Maria" is seemingly much more well-known than B.W. Stevenson's original. Even worse, Stevenson was a One-Hit Wonder.
It wasn't the first time it happened to B.W. Stevenson either. Just as his version of "Shambala" started gaining momentum, Three Dog Night released theirs and had a Top 10 hit with it.
"New York City" was a song written and performed by an obscure indie band from Vancouver named "cub" in 1995. Of course, if you heard the 1996 They Might Be Giants new wave version of the song first, you would likely not even know that it was a cover.
"New York Groove", a song written by Russ Ballard and originally recorded by UK glam rock band Hello in 1975, was Covered Up three years later by Ace Frehley on his solo album.
Lampshaded by Liza's Arrested Development character Lucille Ostero when Tobias starts singing the song.
"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", originally recorded by The Band in 1969, became the sole Top 10 hit for Joan Baez two years later. Somewhat inverted, however, in that you're far more likely to hear the original these days. And Baez's version contains a notorious Mondegreen as well.
"No More I Love You's", by an obscure 80s band The Lover Speaks, didn't become famous until it was covered by Annie Lennox.
Country music singer Kevin Sharp's only #1 hit was "Nobody Knows", by Tony Rich. While Rich's was his only big hit, Kevin at least got two more Top 5 country hits after his somewhat more well-known cover.
"Nothing Compares 2 U" is one of Sinéad O'Connor’s more famous songs. Originally written by Prince for his band "The Family".
"Not In Love" was originally performed by 80's new wave band Platinum Blonde. A 2010 cover by indie electronic band Crystal Castles featuring Robert Smith of The Cure on vocals proved to be a sizable hit on American alternative radio.
"(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I" has been around the block. It was first released in 1952 by Hank Snow, but Elvis Presley's 1959 cover was a big pop hit in the US and UK. And on top of that, there's another cover by Baillie & the Boys in 1990 that got almost as high on the country charts as did Hank Snow's version.
The "Nyan Cat" song, known officially as "Nyanyanyanya". The most popular version of it is sung by Momo Momone. But how many people known that the original version was sung by Miku Hatsune?
"Obsession" was first performed not by Animotion, but by Michael Des Barres and Holly Knight. Animotion's was the first to appear on the charts.
"Ode to Billie Joe" by Bobbie Gentry had originally been released by Margie Singleton, whose version was climbing the charts when Bobbie's was released.
"(Oh) Pretty Woman", a hit for Roy Orbison, was subsequently turned into a hard rock success by Van Halen and later parodied by 2 Live Crew.
On classic rock radio, the recording of "Oh Well" from the 1980 Fleetwood Mac album Live, with Lindsay Buckingham singing, is the definitive version of the song. One would hardly be aware that the original recording dates to 1969, was sung by Peter Green, and includes a 6-minute acoustic instrumental outro that rivals Layla in its awesomeness.
Blake Shelton's signature song "Ol' Red" was first recorded by George Jones, and had been covered by Kenny Rogers before Blake got to it.
"Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You" is one of the rare variants where the Dolly Parton cover is the better known. Joe Sun cut the original. (Interestingly, it was written by Kesha's mother well before Kesha was born.)
In an odd subversion, Edyta Gorniak was the original artist of "One and One" although the Robert Miles/Maria Nayler version was released first.
"One Day at a Time". Originally recorded by Marilyn Sellars, whose version was a #19 country and #37 pop hit in 1974. In 1977, a version by an Irish singer named Gloria went to #1 in her native country; two years later, Lena Martell had a #1 with it in the UK. Country music audiences probably know it best through Cristy Lane's 1980 cover, which went to #1 on the country charts.
"One (Is The Loneliest Number)" was made famous by Three Dog Night, but was written and first recorded by Harry Nilsson. Aimee Mann's later cover for the Magnolia soundtrack is notable for hewing much closer to Nilsson's arrangement of the song than the Three Dog Night version.
Three Dog Night had a penchant for recording definitive versions of other people's songs.
"One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer", a well-known George Thorogood song, was written by Rudy Toombs for Amos Milburn, but first recorded by John Lee Hooker. The George Thorogood version actually combines this song with another John Lee Hooker song, "House Rent Boogie".
"One Tin Soldier" was first recorded by The Original Caste, not Coven.
Most people seem to associate the song "Only Hope" with the movie A Walk To Remember where Mandy Moore sings it, and some even credit her as writing it. Even those who notice that the song was written by a guy named Jonathan Foreman generally don't know that Jon Foreman is the lead singer of the band Switchfoot, the first performers of the song.
Nightwish's "Over the Hills and Far Away", not to be confused with the 18th century or Led Zeppelin ones, is a cover of an earlier one by Gary Moore.
"Pancho and Lefty" was a '70s signature song for cult folk singer Townes Van Zandt; however it's best known for being the title track to a 1983 collaborative album by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, the number one country album for most of that year.
Everyone knows the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone". The group's singer Dennis Edwards even got angry at songwriter Norman Whitfield because the song opens "It was the 3rd of September [...] The day my daddy died" (Edwards' father had died on that date), thinking that Whitfield was getting too personal. Edwards, like most people, was at the time unaware that the song was not written with him in mind and was in fact first recorded by lesser-known Motown artists The Undisputed Truth.
The live cover by George Michael is also well known.
"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by Neil Young, covered by St. Etienne.
Bob Marley's "One Love (People Get Ready)" is much more famous than The Impressions' original "People Get Ready". Marley wisely used the original title in brackets.
Remember Duran Duran's original "Ordinary World"? If you're of the younger generations, you likely know it from the 2000 trance cover by Aurora, featured in DDRMAX.
"Perfect Moment", made famous by Martine McCutcheon, was originally by Edyta Gorniak.
Alison Krauss & Union Station's' song "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps". The song was originally "Quizás, Quizás, Quizás", written in Spanish by a Cuban composer in 1947. Doris Day wasn't even the first to sing it in English: that honor goes to one Tony Bavaar. The Spanish original has been sung by practically every ballad / Bolero singer ever, to the point that no one remembers who sang it first.
"Pesenka", by Russian group Ruki Vverkh, was covered in English by ATC as "Around the World". When Be Four did their own English version with different lyrics than ATC's, titled "Magic Melody", many accused them of ripping off the ATC song.
"Piece of Heaven" by Akira was originally by A7 (not to be confused with Avenged Sevenfold, whose common acronym is A7X), which had some off the same producers. Dune also did a Suspiciously Similar Song version called "Heaven", which was banned from release (along with, in effect, the entire album it was supposed to be on) due to a plagiarism lawsuit.
"Piece of My Heart" may be a contender for grand prize winner, as Faith Hill herself didn't know it was a cover song when it was selected for her to perform. Of course, it also fits the trope in that the most famous version, by Janis Joplin, eclipsed awareness of the original by Erma Franklin (sister of Aretha).
A Clash favorite, "Police on My Back", was first recorded by reggae rock group The Equals (best known for having a pre-"Electric Avenue" Eddy Grant as its guitarist) and released as a single in 1968.
Though neither song is terribly well remembered these days, when people think of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Hasten Down the Wind," they're more likely to think of Linda Ronstadt than Warren Zevon.
In country circles, when they hear the former they think of Terri Clark rather than Linda Ronstadt.
"Popcorn" was first preformed by Gershon Kingsley, but was made famous by Hot Butter's cover.
Some of us know it from the old arcade game Pengo...
Not to mention Crazy Frog, with the recent generation.
The Kingsley version of Popcorn is also slightly different from how Hot Butter performs it.
"Puttin' on the Ritz" was famously Covered Up several times, including a techno-pop version by One-Hit Wonder Taco in the 1980s. Taco's version was a homage to Fred Astaire, who merely introduced the familiar version of the Irving Berlin song (with lyrics about "Park Avenue" rather than "Lenox Avenue"). In turn, Shiny Toy Guns did a cover based on Taco's version. And, of course, there's the segment of the population who know it best sung by Frankenstein.
Of course, it's perhaps best that Taco and subsequent artists covered Fred Astaire's version, considering the original version nowadays suffers from a bad case of Values Dissonance
Q - T
Keith Urban's "Raining on Sunday" was previously recorded by Radney Foster on his album See What You Want to See, and "Making Memories of Us" was first recorded by Tracy Byrd (and by its writer, Rodney Crowell, as a side project involving his backing band, The Notorious Cherry Bombs).
Another cut from See What You Want to See, "I'm In", had been covered up by The Kinleys (coincidentally, with Radney Foster producing) before Urban got to it in 2010.
Weird version: in Brazil, the success of The Elite Squad brought much attention to the opening theme, a 90's song called "Rap das Armas". Yet somehow people mostly played a cover which was not in the film (which even was remixed by European DJs and became a hit in the Netherlands and Scandinavia).
No, "Reason to Believe" was not written by Wilson Phillips. Rod Stewart released that one in 1971, before any of the members of Wilson Phillips even started school (two were born in 1968, the other in 1969). The Carpenters recorded it as an album track in 1970; it was written by Tim Hardin.
Neil Diamond first wrote and released the acoustic ballad "Red Red Wine" in 1968. Fifteen years later, UB 40 took it, gave it a reggae spin based on Tony Tribe's 1969 cover, added a toasted "rap" section, and turned it into the megahit you know today. In fact UB40 was unaware of the Neil Diamond version.
"Rockin' All Over the World" is perhaps Status Quo's most famous post-1960s song, with them memorably opening the Live Aid concerts with their megahit version of it in London in 1985. It had originally been written, recorded, and released by John Fogerty ten years earlier.
"Rosalie", written by Bob Seger in tribute to a Windsor, Ontario radio executive and first recorded for his Back in '72 LP, but much better known in Thin Lizzy's rendition for their live album Armed and Dangerous.
It probably doesn't hurt that Seger himself has kept Back in '72 out of print since the '70s due to Old Shame.
Placebo's "Running Up That Hill" and Maxwell's "This Woman's Work" have both managed to eclipse the original versions by Kate Bush in the U.S.
McBride & the Ride's biggest hit, "Sacred Ground," was released by Kix Brooks two years before he became one-half of Brooks & Dunn.
"Safe in the Arms of Love". Originally recorded by Gail Davies as part of Wild Choir in 1986, followed by Baillie & the Boys in 1989 and Kennedy Rosenote Mary Ann Kennedy and Pam Rose, who wrote the song with Pat Bunch in 1994. Then in 1995, Martina McBride released a successful version in the US, while Michelle Wright did likewise in Canada.
"Sailing" is probably best known to younger generations as an *NSYNC song. It was originally written and performed by Christopher Cross, who had a hit with it in 1980.
"Saving All My Love for You" was originally performed by Marilyn McCoo. The hit version was by Whitney Houston.
"Sea of Love" is not originally by Cat Power nor by the Honeydrippers nor, for that matter, LedZeppelin. It was by Phil Phillips from way back in the Fifties.
"Scarborough Fair", known worldwide thanks to Simon and Garfunkel, is a traditional British folk song. Paul Simon learned the song in London from English folk singer Martin Carthy. To the annoyance of Carthy and other English musicians, only Simon and Garfunkel were credited for their version, without any mention of "traditional". (They did, however, write the antiwar song "Canticle" sung in their version as a countermelody.)
A year before Pat Benatar recorded "Shadows of the Night", lesser-known vocalist Helen Schneider produced the song originally. Schneider's version though has different lyrics, and a much different "theme" than Benatar's, which is mostly a song about a couple facing the world, Schneider's version seems to be about the fear of becoming your parents.
Three Dog Night's "Shambala" was originally done by a country singer named BW Stevenson.
The 1946 song "Shaving Cream" by Benny Bell was covered by the reggae/soca group The Fabulous Five in the 1970s, and still is considered a classic soca song in the West Indies, while the original has mostly been forgotten.
"She's All I Got" was first a hit for One-Hit Wonder Freddie North before Johnny Paycheck sent his cover to #2 on the country charts. Later on, Tracy Byrd had a big country hit with his version, which still gets played on the radio to this day, making this another example of a cover-up of a cover-up.
"She's the One", best known as a #1 UK single for Robbie Williams in 1999, but originally recorded by World Party on their 1997 album Egyptology. Robbie Williams' version is so close to the original that World Party singer/songwriter Karl Wallinger has remarked "The only difference between my version and Robbie's is that I know who 'she' is."
"Shivers" is quite probably the biggest single the Australian band Screaming Jets ever produced. It's probably best known as a Nick Cave song, which, just to add insult to injury, also gets the lyrics wrong ("All alcohol and cigarettes" becomes the totally inexplicable "Our love could hold on cigarettes"). In fact the song was written and first performed by Rowland S. Howard and The Young Charlatans in 1977. It was then recorded (covered, technically) by Howard's later band The Boys Next Door two years later. It was also covered by Divine Fits on their 2012 debut album.
Most people don't know the song "Shout 2000" by Disturbed is a cover of the Tears For Fears song "Shout". Yes, the same people who gave us "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" made a song later covered by Disturbed.
"A Simple Game" is usually associated with the Four Tops, but was originally the B-side of The Moody Blues' single "Ride My See-Saw".
The swing classic "Sing, Sing, Sing" was made famous by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra but it was originally a song with lyrics sung by Louis Prima.
"Sky High" by Jigsaw is better known through either the Eurodance version by Newton, or DJ Miko's version, which was featured in the Dance Dance Revolution series.
"Sloop John B", made famous by the Beach Boys, is a West Indies folk song dating back to at least 1917 (as "Wreck of the John B"). The band did rework the tune pretty radically, however, so it could almost count as an original composition. (In fact, Brian Wilson is the only songwriter credited for the tune.)
Before the Beach Boys, the Kingston Trio also had a fairly prominent version.
"Slow Jam" by Gyrl is better remembered as a Usher and Monica collaboration.
The song "Stay" by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, although a top-charting record, is often better known nowadays for the (considerably longer) Jackson Browne cover. To confuse the issue, "The Load Out", which segues into the cover of "Stay", actually was written by Jackson Browne, but they're played together so often that people don't even realized they're technically two separate songs.
Sublime's "Smoke Two Joints" was originally by The Toyes.
"Smokin' In the Boys' Room" was a hit for the Blues Rock band Brownsville Station in 1973. The 1985 cover by Mötley Crüe is probably better known; the video has been a staple of "best of the eighties" retrospectives on music channels for years and the original was a One-Hit Wonder while the Crue version was their first top 40 song.
Unless you're a Country Music fan, you might very well associate "So Help Me Girl" with Gary Barlow (of Take That fame) instead of Joe Diffie. Particularly if you're British.
Somewhere over the rainbow, known from the Wizard of Oz has been, ever since Israel Kamakawiwoʻole the massive mountain man of Hawaii been covered up. If you see someone singing / playing that song nowadays, you can bet your bottom dollar it's usually with a guitar (or a ukulele) and sung softly with "ooooh's" in it.
The theme tune to Star Fleet (a Japanese 1980s sci-fi TV show originally called 'X-Bomber' and redubbed for UK transmission with a new theme song) was Covered Up when Brian May of Queen recorded it with some friends, including Eddie Van Halen and released as a mini-album called "Star Fleet Project". Consequently it's often thought that Brian May wrote the song, despite him stating clearly on the sleevenotes to the record that it was originally by Paul Bliss.
Queen released "Stone Cold Crazy" in 1974; the song was played often live but didn't become well known. In 1990, Metallica released a cover that won them a Grammy and got them an invitation to the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (where lead singer James Hetfield did the song with Queen backing him up).
An interesting subversion. "Stir It Up" Which everyone knows as a Bob Marley song was originally performed by Johnny Nash, though it was written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh for Nash, as they worked for him as songwriters before they became famous on their own. They later both covered their own song.
"Strawberry Letter 23" by Shuggie Otis. The version you may recognize is by Brothers Johnson.
DragonForce's "Strike of the Ninja" is a version of "Feel the Fire" by DragonForce side project Shadow Warriors.
Louis Armstrong recorded the song "St. James Infirmary" back in the late 1920s. If that sounds old to you, keep in mind that the song ultimately derives from an English folk song that dates back to, at the very latest, 1531 - that's when the original St. James Infirmary (a leper hospital for maidens and nuns) was torn down. It probably dates back a few decades earlier at least, and may therefore predate the discovery of the New World.
The Isley Brothers cover of "Summer Breeze" probably counts. Ernie Isley adding a Epic Riff and ending on a Bad Ass three minute guitar solo. It went from a folk type tune by Seals and Crofts and turned into psychedelic funk/rock/soul track. Most people think this is the original version... which is ironic as the cover version didn't chart as big as the original.
REM covered an obscure song by The Clique, "Superman", on one of their albums, and many people think it's by them, to the point where people yelled at them for selling out... when someone else covered it again and it was used in a commercial.
Luther Vandross' "Superstar" wasn't the first version, nor was the Carpenters' — Richard decided to cover it after hearing Bette Midler sing it on The Tonight Show; it was written by Leon Russell.
"Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen is a combination of two songs by The Rivingtons: "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" and "The Bird's the Word".
Though Al Jolson recorded the definitive version of "Swanee" and performed the song in one of his touring productions, it had been introduced before in an obscure Broadway show by a female singer. Many decades later, musical arrangements from that show were exhumed and recorded for the CD Broadway Showstoppers.
"Suzie Q" is probably best remembered as a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, but the song was originally penned and performed by Dale Hawkins and the Astronauts. CCR did extend the song to over eight minutes, something that John Fogerty said was due to the cover being made for a Prog Rock radio station. It has also been covered numerous other times as well, including one by The Rolling Stones that came out two years before the CCR version.
The Holidaymakers' "Sweet Lovers" dominated the New Zealand charts and music awards in 1988. It's a cover of a 1985 Bill Withers single.
You might know the blues standard "Sweet Home Chicago" from the Blues Brothers version, or perhaps Eric Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughan. But the very earliest recorded version is by Robert Johnson, although he didn't exactly write it (don't ask).
Some have attributed "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," a historic Negro spiritual, to Beyoncé.
"Tainted Love", often thought of as a song about AIDS, first came out in 1964. Ed Cobb wrote and Gloria Jones sang the original version. (Thank you, The Other Wiki!) Soft Cell, of course, immortalized the song, with Marilyn Manson's cover likely the second best known.
Talking Heads' cover of "Take Me To The River", by Al Green and Mabon Hodges. Also covered by The Woodshed, The Radiators, Ratdog, Grateful Dead, God Johnson, Escape Goat, Diesel Dog, Day By The River, Bockmans Euphio, Annie Lennox, Max on the Rox, Dave Matthews Band, Bryan Ferry, Mana, that funny singing fish that also does "Don't Worry, Be Happy", and others. It's a popular song.
"Tear-Stained Letter", one of only two big hits for Cajun-country singer Jo-El Sonnier, is a cover of the Richard Thompson song. Most Americans, at least, are probably completely unaware that it's a cover.
Similarly, "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" was originally by Richard as well- Del McCoury topped the bluegrass charts with it, changing "Box Hill" to "Knoxville."
Meanwhile, "Dimming of the Day" is by neither Bonnie Raitt or Alison Krauss, it's RT again.
"Tennessee Flat Top Box", a #1 hit for Rosanne Cash, was previously a #11 hit for her father. You know, Johnny Cash. Even she didn't know that her own father wrote the song until after she recorded it.
The Grammy for Song of the Year for 1986 went to the Gladys Knight, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick version of "That's What Friends Are For". How many people realize this is a cover of a song recorded four years earlier by Rod Stewart for the movie Night Shift.
Most people think of "The City of New Orleans" as either an Arlo Guthrie song (if they're folk fans) or a Willie Nelson song (if they're country fans). The song was in fact written by folksinger Steve Goodman.
"The First Cut Is The Deepest" has been covered so many times, no one remembers it was originally Cat Stevens.
One for the Irish: "The Galway Girl" was not written by Mundy, or Sharron Shannon, or any other Irish singer song writer you might have confused Mundy with; it was written by Steve Earle
For some, Cake's "The Guitar Man" (by Bread).
"The Lady is a Tramp," from the musical Babes in Arms, is most famous as a Frank Sinatra song. It doesn't help that the well-known movie version didn't include the song. Also, the licensed version of the show changed one line in the song to say, "For Frank Sinatra I holler and stamp."
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" did not originate with Tight Fit, nor with The Tokens. It started out as a song named "Mbube" by South African singer Solomon Linda and his group, The Evening Birds, in 1939. In 1951, Pete Seeger and his band, The Weavers, released their own version, renamed "Wimoweh" (based on misheard lyrics), whereas The Tokens recorded their own version based on the Weavers' version, now named "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", with the now familiar lyrics, in 1961. All three versions of the song have been covered multiple times, and quite a few versions (particularly the ones based on the Tokens' version) have become hits.
Blondie's "The Tide Is High" is a gender-flipped cover of a Paragons song from 1967. Apparently it's been covered since and accredited to Debbie Harry in one of the newer versions.
Most people think of "The Power of Love" as a Celine Dion tune, but it was written by Jennifer Rush and recorded by her as well as by Air Supply and Laura Branigan.
The Train Kept A-Rollin' was originally a jump blues song by Tiny Bradshaw that has been covered numerous times, with the most famous being by Aerosmith.
Jennifer Rush's original was massive in the UK; it topped the charts for several weeks in 1985.
"Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" was a pop hit for One-Hit Wonder act The Casinos in the 1960s. One year after its release, Eddy Arnold had a #1 country hit with it, and Neal McCoy sent a cover to #4 in 1996. But before all that, its writer, John D. Loudermilk, recorded it.
"There She Goes" by The La's. A peculiar case as The La's version and the version by the Boo Radleys appear in So I Married an Axe Murderer... yet the main one anyone knows is the Sixpence None the Richer version, which was included in every single Freddie Prinze Jr. movie ever made.
"The Twist", the song that started the whole Twist dance craze, wasn't originally by Chubby Checker, who is so strongly associated with the dance that it's almost all he's known for. The original version was recorded a year earlier by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.
"They Don't Know" by Tracey Ullman, covering Kirsty MacColl. The "Baby!" after the musical interlude in Ullman's version is actually Kirsty MacColl, as Ullman couldn't reach the note; MacColl also performed backing vocals on the Ullman version.
"Think Twice", covered by Alana Dante and M.G., and performed live by Kelly Clarkson, was originally by Celine Dion.
Billy Joel's "This Night" from An Innocent Man is better known to Classical artists as Movement 2 of Beethoven's "Sonata Pathetique".
They are probably just denoting Marilyn Manson's cover of "This Is Halloween" on the new soundtrack accompanying the 3D release of the movie.
"This Wheels on Fire"...borderline case. While it's probably widely known it's by Bob Dylan & The Band, the version you most probably remember is the title melody of Absolutely Fabulous, by Brian Auger. (Which again isn't the version by Brian Auger&Trinity which climbed highest in the charts...Siouxsie & The Banshees, anyone?)
"This Woman's Work" by Maxwell is actually a cover of a 1989 song by the British singer Kate Bush.
"Time Is on My Side" wasn't composed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (in fact most of The Rolling Stones' first singles were blues covers).
Emmylou Harris' "Together Again" is so associated with her that many people forget that its writer, Buck Owens, had a #1 hit with it first.
"Too Lost In You" by the Sugababes is a cover of a Patricia Kaas song called "Quand j'ai peur du tout".
"Torn", as performed by Natalie Imbruglia, is a cover of a song written by the obscure band Ednaswap. (Many of Ednaswap's members were — and still are — successful songwriters that wrote for other performers.)
A whole bunch of different performers cut the song before Imbruglia - most of the versions (Ednaswap's and Imbruglia's included) were produced by the song's co-writer Phil Thornalley.
Furthermore, Natalie Imbruglia's version is upbeat and poppy, a 180 degree turn from the original, which is emotionally raw and more in line with the actual lyrics.
Travis Tritt hit the charts with the bar tune "T-R-O-U-B-L-E", which he also named his third album. The song was originally sung by Elvis.
This is a pretty obscure example, but the 4 Strings song "Turn It Around" is a cover of an earlier song also called "Turn It Around" and also produced by Carlo Resoort, performed by Alena.
"Tsubasa wo Kudasai", the insert song played at the end of Evangelion 2.0, is a Japanese folks' song from the 70s. A lot of people mistakenly assume it was taken from K-On.
"Turn The Beat Around", by Vicky Sue Robinson, covered up by Gloria Estefan.
There are quite a few people who don't know that The Byrds' enormous hit "Turn! Turn! Turn!" was written and first performed by Pete Seeger. Seeger liked what The Byrds did with the song, and began performing it in their style. Now, its a little jarring to hear any recording Seeger made before The Byrds' cover. In turn, all of the lyrics - bar a single line and the title refrain - come from a specific portion of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.
"Turn The Page" is originally by Bob Segar, but Metallica's version is just as well known, if not more so.
Another Jerry Jeff Walker song, "Trashy Women", was a popular hit for Confederate Railroad.
"Two Little Boys" is subject to multiple levels of this. People who only know it casually (British people, at least) think it's a Rolf Harris song. People who listen to the lyrics tend to think it dates from (and is about) World War One. In fact the modern version of the song was published in 1903, is probably about The American Civil War, and there are still earlier versions that probably date from the Napoleonic Wars.
U - Z
The most instantly recognizable version of "Unchained Melody" today is the Phil Spector-produced one by the Righteous Brothers (helped along by oldies radio and the film Ghost), but not only was it not the original, it was not even the first version of the song to become a hit — Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, and Roy Hamilton had all recorded top-ten hit versions of "Unchained Melody" in the US, and a British singer named Jimmy Young had a #1 cover of it in the UK. Also, the original version (for the movie Unchained) was Oscar-nominated for Best Song a full ten years before the Righteous Brothers recorded it.
Buffy Sainte-Marie recorded the first version of the Protest Song "Universal Soldier", which most people identify with the cover by Donovan.
"Valerie" was a Top 10 UK hit for indie rockers The Zutons in 2006. A cover by Amy Winehouse the next year reached #2 on the UK Chart and became an international smash hit.
Volare is of course a much-covered tune that most people associate with Dean Martin. The song's original title, though, was Nel blu dipinto di blu and was sung by Domenico Modugno (whose version topped the American charts, incidentally, 12 places higher than Dino's version).
Those in the South may be familiar with Old Crow Medicine Show's original version of "Wagon Wheel", but most people probably got their first mainstream exposure to it through Darius Rucker's cover in 2013. Still, the song has sold more than a million digital copies, which means it's not totally obscure.
Chances are, if you hear "Walking in Memphis" on the radio, most often it will be Cher's version instead of Marc Cohn's original.....unless you live in the U.S., where Cohn's version still reigns supreme.
Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" was written and first performed by Costello's producer, Nick Lowe.
And, ironically, most of the money that Nick's made from music came neither from his solo career, nor from Elvis' hit, but from a lesser-known cover of the song by the relatively-obscure Curtis Stigers...because it happened to be on the soundtrack to The Bodyguard.
"Waiting For Tonight", better known as a Jennifer Lopez song, was originally by 3rd Party.
Very few people know that two songs on Black Sabbath's first album, "Warning" and "Evil Woman", are covers of respectively The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation and Crow, never mind that the latter song hit the top 20 on the charts.
Rita Coolidge's recording of "We're All Alone" is probably the most commonly known, but the song was written and performed by Boz Scaggs for his album Silk Degrees in 1976. Coolidge's version came out a year later.
"What Hurts the Most". Which artist do you think of first? Jo O'Meara, Rascal Flatts or Cascada? If you're a country fan, probably Rascal Flatts. (But before all that, Mark Wills recorded it.)
"Whataya Want from Me", best known from Adam Lambert, was originally recorded by P!nk for Funhouse, but rejected there. The P!nk version was eventually released on her Greatest Hits Album.
Clay Walker's debut single "What's It to You" was first recorded by its co-writer, Curtis Wright.
"When The Stars Go Blue" was made famous on pop radio by The Corrs and on country radio by Tim McGraw, but Ryan Adams' version predates both of those.
Some country fans recognize the song "When You Say Nothing At All" as a beautiful song by Alison Krauss & Union Station, and are surprised to learn that its first release was on a tribute to the late Keith Whitley, who both wrote and sang it in the '80s, when country wasn't cool.
Most Europeans will never have heard of Alison Krauss but will have encountered Ronan Keating's version of the song, included on the "Notting Hill" soundtrack.
"Whenever You Need Somebody" is best known as a Rick Astley song. Most people don't know that it was first performed by O'Chi Brown.
"Where Do You Go", No Mercy's sole song of note, is actually a partial cover of an obscure La Bouche song (it uses the same chorus, but adds new verse lyrics).
A large mass of Fan Dumb on YouTube are all quite surprised that Russell Watson's performance of "Where My Heart Will Take Me" (used as Star Trek: Enterprise's theme tune) is a cover of Rod Stewart's "Faith of the Heart".
"Whiskey in the Jar" wasn't written by Thin Lizzy, nor the Pogues, nor Pulp, nor Metallica. It's an old Irish folk song. Metallica's version is actually a cover of Thin Lizzy's take.
Similarly, Thin Lizzy later stitched several Irish folk songs together into the guitar showpiece "Black Rose".
You probably know "Who Let The Dogs Out" by the Baha Men, right? You probably don't know the original version by Fatt Jakk and his Pack of Pets. Which itself was a cover of "Doggie" by Anslem Douglas.
"Who Knows Where The Time Goes" is better known as a Judy Collins song than a Sandy Denny song.
Jerry Lee Lewis' big hit "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" was originally performed by blues belter Big Maybelle.
"Why Baby Why" has been a #1 hit for Red Sovine (as a duet with Webb Pierce) and later for Charley Pride, as well as a Top 10 hit for Hank Locklin. The first version was by George Jones, whose version peaked at #4 (its chart run having been eclipsed by the Sovine/Pierce duet). Still, since Jones is by far the most famous person to have sung the song, this might be averted now.
The Rolling Stones song "Wild Horses" is a bit complicated. See, Mick and Keith wrote it back in 1969/1970 or so. Gram Parsons came around, heard it, liked it, asked if he could cover it. Mick 'n Keef said yes, so he puts it out on The Flying Burrito Brothers' debut album in 1970. Then in 1971, The Stones put their own version on Sticky Fingers. Cue much confusion as to who recorded it first.
And a later generation found the song due to it being featured in a third-season episode of Buffythe Vampire Slayer, performed by British group The Sundays.
"Wild Thing" was written by Chip Taylor (brother of Jon Voight) and first recorded by the Wild Ones in 1965. A year later, the Troggs covered the song, it stormed to #1 on the charts, and the rest is history.
"Wild in the Streets" is known by many younger people today as a song by Circle Jerks, but it was previously a small Seventies hit by Garland Jeffreys.
"Wind Beneath My Wings" is most commonly associated with Bette Midler, who recorded it in 1989. The song, however, was written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley and recorded by many artists before Midler including Lou Rawls, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Gary Morris.
In fact, Gary Morris's version of "Wind Beneath My Wings" won Song of the Year at the Academy of Country Music awards in 1983, six years before Bette Midler covered it. Now he can't perform it in concert without someone complimenting his good job on "that Bette Midler song."
"Without You" is possibly Harry Nilsson's greatest hit. Mariah Carey also famously performed it. Most people have probably never heard the original version by Badfinger.
Of course, Nilsson dramatically re-arranged the song (the original is barely recognisable as the same tune). Mariah's version shamelessly rips the Nilsson arrangement and, since he doesn't have songwriting credit, he (or his estate, strictly speaking) doesn't get paid. Which always seemed unfair to me.
No, "Women in Uniform" is not an Iron Maiden original. The Australian band Skyhooks wrote and recorded this song first.
"Year 3000", made famous by Jonas Brothers in the US is a cover of a song by the defunct English boy band Busted.
While it wasn't a big hit for either, Olivia Newton-John's cover of "You Ain't Got the Right" is better-known than Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show's original version.
"You Better Run" is a song from The Rascals but is better known as its cover which was done by Pat Benatar.
"You Keep Me Hangin' On" was written by Motown's Holland/Dozier/Holland songwriting team and became a #1 hit for The Supremes in 1966, but many listeners nowadays are more likely to be familiar with Kim Wilde's cover (which also went to #1 in 1987), or even Reba McEntire's version (which hit #2 country in 1996). Vanilla Fudge's cover is also quite well-remembered
Debby Boone's huge hit "You Light Up My Life" was originally performed by Kasey Cisyk for the film of the same name.
Everybody and their uncle have probably heard Josh Groban singing "You Raise Me Up" (or if you're from Britain or Ireland, Westlife). Probably far fewer know that it was composed and performed by the Irish-Norwegian duo Secret Garden.
And the tune is a reworking of the Irish classic "Danny Boy" (or the Londonderry Air, for those Irish who don't care for those lyrics.)
Steve Goodman wrote "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" as a parody of country songs, though everyone today remembers the hit country version by David Allan Coe. In Coe's defense, he explicitly says that Goodman wrote the song in the spoken bit before the last verse, which breaks out all of the stops.
The Kinks have been known to introduce "You Really Got Me" as a Van Halen song when performing it live.
Five of the songs on the Queen of the Damned soundtrack were written and recorded by Jonathan Davis of Korn. Due to contract troubles, all five songs were covered for the official soundtrack, by the likes of Wayne Static, David Draiman, Marilyn Manson, Chester Bennington and Jay Gordon. Unless you've seen the movie (especially the music videos included as extras), most people think that the covers are in fact the original versions of the songs. And considering how hard it is to get a hold of the original versions, since they were never officially released, this doesn't look like it will change any time soon.
In the days of early rock and roll, R&B songs by black performers were not played on mainstream pop stations unless they were covered by white artists. However, this all changed in 1957, when a New York City disc jockey named Alan Freed invented a new type of music format called Top 40, which played all types and genres of music, as long as it was selling well.
Thanks to the proliferation of remixes and vocal arranges of the awesome library of Touhou music, numerous themes tend to get covered up from a fan's perspective.
For example, "UN Owen Was Her?!", Flandre Scarlet's theme, is often covered up by both hits like COOL&CREATE's version... or even the Ronald remix known also as the McRoll.
A more recent example would be "Bad Apple!!" - odds to evens you were thinking more of the Alstroemeria Records remix.
This trope has a life of its own in Asia. Many Mando-pop artists will take a hit foreign song (like Britney Spears's "Everytime," or Wild Cherry's "Play that Funky Music"), give it Mandarin lyrics and put it out.
A high percentage of hits by Dominican "Merengue-hip-hop" bands from early to mid 90s (like Proyecto Uno, Ilegales, and Sandy y Papo) were in fact covers from hip-hop Anglo artists. This was made worse because many of the songs they covered were One Hit Wonders or specialists' hits in English, but those groups made these songs extremely popular and mainstream.
There was an all-covers album called "Punk Goes Crunk," which featured various alternative music artists doing their own takes on various hip-hop and R songs. All Time Low did a cover version of Rihanna's "Umbrella." Now, it's debateable whether All Time Low's or Rihanna's version is better known, though there are a sizable number of people who seem to think All Time Low's version was the original.
This has occasionally happened in the trance genre. Ayla's "Liebe" and "Singularity" were remakes of Cosmic Baby's "Liebe" and Brainchild's "Symmetry", respectively. Kay Cee's "Escape" was based on 4 Voices' "Eternal Spirit".
Kandystand's "Empty Rooms" and "Black Pearl", originally by Gary Moore and Sonny Charles & The Checkmates, respectively.
A*Teens and B3 were groups covering ABBA and The Bee Gees respectively. Their versions were marketed at teenagers who, of course, didn't know squat about the original artists and believed that these highly successful versions were the originals. See also "How Deep Is Your Love" by Take That.
The Simpsons provides an instrumental example with the leitmotif for Sideshow Bob. Although Bob did not have any theme music in his first few appearances, the episode "Cape Feare" provided him with a slightly altered version of the main theme of Cape Fear as part of the episode's parody of the iconic film. The show continued to use the music in most of Bob's subsequent appearances. Over time, as The Simpsons continued to stay in the spotlight while Cape Fear faded into obscurity, many younger fans would know the song only as "Sideshow Bob's theme", not realizing that it was a homage to an older piece.
The 1978 album Dr. Heckle & Mr. Jive by England Dan & John Ford Coley is notable for containing a Covered Up song (their version of "Love Is The Answer", originally written by Todd Rundgren and recorded by his band Utopia, was a Top 10 hit in the US) and two songs that went on to be Covered Up by other artists ("Broken-Hearted Me" by Anne Murray, "What's Forever For?" by Michael Martin Murphey).
The evocative theme of the 1972 Solaris film is not composed by Eduard Artemyev, even though he performed it. It's a performance of a Bach piece, BWV 639.
When people unfamiliar with Japanese culture hear the song Inu no Omawari-san (the policeman dog), they tend to call it the opening theme of Frogger. Said song has actually been around longer than the game, being a traditional Japanese nursery rhyme.
Sorted by musician name
By Covering Musician
"In Pictures" was first recorded by Linda Davis.
Both Johnny Russell and Tom T. Hall (whose version is a duet with Earl Scruggs) released "Song of the South", barely scraping the charts with it before Alabama's version went to #1.
"Take Me Down" and "The Closer You Get" were first released by Exile. Both were hits for Alabama only a couple years before Exile reinvented itself, transforming from a one-hit wonder pop band to a successful country band.
"Touch Me When We're Dancing" was originally a pop and AC hit for The Carpenters. And before that, by a Muscle Shoals band called Bama. Confused yet?
"Amarillo Sky" was previously a single for McBride & the Ride, whose version was one of the first cuts written by Big Kenny and John Rich of Big & Rich.
"Johnny Cash" was first recorded by Tracy Byrd, whose style is very unlike that of the song's.
"Dirt Road Anthem" is somewhat unusual in that both of its writers (Country Rap artist Colt Ford and Southern rocker Brantley Gilbert) cut it first.
Brantly Gilbert also wrote and recorded Jason's mega-hit "My Kinda Party"
Although Bach's works have often been Covered Up by other musicians, Bach himself Covers Up some older musical pieces.
The myriads of Lutheran church chorales used by Bach for his chorale cantatas and chorale preludes have often been misattributed to Bach, except probably Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, a hymn by Martin Luther that is way too famous to be eclipsed by anything, even Bach's equally amazing chorale cantata based on that hymn.
The Beatles — some of the cover songs on their early albums and EPs were well known rock and roll and R&B hits, but many were obscure singles or album tracks which the band just happened to like:
"Anna (Go to Him)" , originally by Arthur Alexander.
"Twist and Shout", first recorded by the Top Notes. The Beatles' cover is only one of several (including The Isley Brothers' version, which many think was the original. It doesn't help, however, that the Top Notes' version has been disowned by song writer Bert Berns, who felt that they were not recording the song the way he wanted it to be recorded).
His career was launched by a cover: "The Dance" was written and first sung by little-known country artist Tony Arata.
"Friends in Low Places" was first recorded by Mark Chesnutt (though Brooks did the demo for the song, the last demo tape he'd ever have to make).
"To Make You Feel My Love", by Bob Dylan.
"Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House" had previously been a low-charting single for co-writer Dennis Robbins. Incidentally, the B-side to Robbins' version was "The Church on Cumberland Road", which itself was covered up by Shenandoah in 1989.
"Callin' Baton Rouge" was previously a minor hit for the New Grass Revival, who also back Garth on his version. But before that, it was recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys in 1978.
The rodeo tune "The Fever" is a full-on re-lyricized cover of the Aerosmith song "Fever". Steven Tyler and Joe Perry are given credit for the music.
Shel Silverstein had already released his own version of "A Boy Named Sue" before Cash recorded it.
"Folsom Prison Blues" was closely based on a Gordon Jenkins song called "Crescent City Blues"
"I've Been Everywhere" is now thought of exclusively as a Johnny Cash song, but it has a complex history. It was written by Australian songwriter Geoff Mack in 1959, using Australian place names. Then his publisher gave him an atlas and asked him to write a version with American names. Hank Snow recorded that version in 1962, and it became a country music standard. When Cash recorded it in 1996, his younger fans weren't familiar with the song.
"Ring of Fire" was first recorded by Anita Carter (June's sister)
Nick Cave echoed Trent Reznor's sentiment when referring to Cave's "The Mercy Seat".
"Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" was written by Kris Kristofferson and first recorded by, of all people, Ray Stevens.
"Sixteen Tons" was originally written by Merle Travis, and made popular by a cover by Tennessee Ernie Ford. George S. Davis claims it was based on "Nine-to-ten tons", an earlier song of his.
Two of The Dixie Chicks' hits were first recorded by other artists as well: "Some Days You Gotta Dance" by The Ranch (a short-lived band fronted by Keith Urban), "Cold Day in July" by Joy Lynn White. Interestingly, Urban also played guitar on the former.
Also, the Sons of the Desert were going to record "Goodbye Earl," but their record label said no.
And a few of the younger country fans might not realize that "Landslide" was originally a Fleetwood Mac song.
Probably half the Dropkick Murphys' songs sound like they're ditties passed down through generations. Of course, the fact that the other half of their songs are tunes passed down through generations (such as "Fields of Athenry" or "The Rocky Road to Dublin") doesn't help with clarity.
Except "Fields of Athenry" isn't a traditional song — it was written in the 1970s by Pete St. John, and most people know it from the Paddy Reilly cover, making it another example of this trope.
The Dropkicks have also recorded a few otherwise unrecorded Woody Guthrie compositions, such as "Gonna Be A Blackout Tonight" and "I'm Shipping Up to Boston". They didn't write them, but they were the first to perform them, thus causing some confusion.
Would you believe that the background music from Frogger is an example of this? No, really: it's a cover of "Rock River E", the Japanese theme song from the 1970s anime Rascal the Raccoon. Frogger's opening theme is a rendition of Japanese children's song "Inu To Omawarisan" ("Dog and Policeman"). Three other anime themes can be heard, although they're just snippets: "Oshiete" from Heidi, Girl of the Alps (the part being played is the second "yodeling" part), Hana no Ko Lunlun (from the show of the same name; split into two jingles), and "Ore wa Arthur" from Moero Arthur: Hakuba no Ouji. Later ports and remakes of the game featured entirely new music, presumably for this reason.
More confusingly, for the album Alternia there was a bonus song included called AlterniaBound. Later, on an album named AlterniaBound, this song was covered as Alternia, a song which went on to become much, much more famous than the original.
The Horrors, in their early days, tended to cover quite a few garage songs.
Screaming Lord Sutch's "Jack the Ripper"
The Syndicats' "Crawdaddy Simone"
Both "Count in Fives" and "A Knife in Their Eye" are partial examples; "Fives" underwent some controversy from the similarity of the intro and verse to "My Brother, The Man" by We The People, while "A Knife in Their Eye" has original lyrics by Horrors frontman Faris Badwan set to music by The Monks.
Aside from garage, the Horrors pay tribute to '70s electronic duo Suicide with the "Shadazz" half of the Shadazz/Radiation split EP, and in the encore of their sets in 2009 with "Ghost Rider".
"It Must Be Love" was a hit for Don Williams about 30 years before Alan Jackson's cover. Both versions went to #1; both this song, "Pop a Top", and "The Blues Man" were from a covers album.
"Mercury Blues" (y'know, Crazy 'bout a Mercury?) is a cover of a 1949 song by K.C. Douglas, and was originally called "Mercury Boogie". It's also been covered by the Steve Miller Band and Meat Loaf. Also by David Lindley, the version which appeared in an episode of Miami Vice.
"Murder on Music Row," his duet with George Strait, was first recorded by Larry Cordle.
"Pop a Top" was a hit for Jim Ed Brown in the 1960s.
"Song for the Life" was first recorded by its writer, Rodney Crowell, and had been recorded by at least five other artists before Alan released his version.
"Tall, Tall Trees" was co-written by Roger Miller and George Jones, both of whom recorded their own versions in the 1960s.
"The Blues Man" was an album track by Hank Williams, Jr.
"Who's Cheatin' Who" was a #1 hit for country singer Charly McClain in 1981.
"If Tomorrow Never Comes" previously a #1 hit for Garth Brooks.
"The Long Goodbye" is a curious one: Ronan Keating and Paul Brady co-wrote it for Brady's album Oh What a World and it was the lead single off that album; a year before Brooks & Dunn covered it. Ronan then claimed it back two years after that, his version being the best known in the UK.
As mentioned, "When You Say Nothing At All" by Keith Whitley, then Alison Krauss.
"We've Got Tonight", originally by Bob Seger (whose version was itself covered up by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton).
"She Believes in Me", a number 1 hit for Kenny Rogers.
"I Hope You Dance", originally by Lee Ann Womack.
"Father and Son", originally by Cat Stevens, who appears on the cover under his current name, Yusuf Islam.
Kirsty MacColl: Although an acclaimed songwriter in her own right, two of her biggest hits were Covered Up versions: "A New England", originally by Billy Bragg, and to a lesser extent "Days", originally by The Kinks. Her own song "They Don't Know" was in turn covered up by Tracey Ullman.
To a lesser extent, "It Must Be Love" by Labi Siffre. More people know it as a Madness song, but the original still gets its share of airplay.
Siw Malmkvist has covered lots of American pop classics in Swedish, and in Sweden her covers definitely were more famous than the American covers when they first came out, and sometimes remain so to this day.
Everybody's Somebody's Fool was turned into *Tunna skivor.''
Ode to Billie Joe became Jon Andreas visa.
Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head became Regnet det bara öser ner.
"Breadfan" and "Crash Course In Brain Surgery" originally by Budgie
"Am I Evil", "Helpless", and "The Prince" originally by Diamond Head
"So What?" originally by Anti-Nowhere League
Achieved twice by Nazareth:
"This Flight Tonight", by Joni Mitchell
"Love Hurts", as mentioned above.
Nirvana's Unplugged in New York live album is also subject to this, as many people are apparently unaware that many of the songs are covers of anything from David Bowie tunes to old Christian standards... despite the fact that Kurt Cobain says so on the album itself.
"Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam"; Kurt Cobain jokingly introduces it a "rendition of an old Christian song, I think [...] but we do it the Vaselines way". It's not. It's an original song by the Vaselines that parodies an old Christian song called "I'll Be a Sunbeam".
Nirvana also covered up Devo's "Turn Around" - the fact that the original was a rare b-side to begin with probably doesn't help (although it's available on iTunes now).
Nirvana were prone to covering a lot of songs by the same artist. Examples include The Wipers' "Return of the Rat" and "D-7" as well as The Vaselines' "Molly's Lips", "Son of a Gun", and the above mentioned "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam". In an interesting take, Nirvana covered folk songs most famously played by Lead Belly but changed the titles to match the chorus ("In The Pines" became "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" and "He Never Said A Mumbling Word" became "They Hung Him On A Cross"). Nirvana's first single was also a cover being the song "Love Buzz" originally performed by Shocking Blue in 1969.
Eddy Raven. "I'm Gonna Get You" is a Billy Swan cover, and "In a Letter to You" is a Shakin' Stevens cover. Incidentally, the reclusive Dennis Linde ("Burning Love") wrote both. And as mentioned below, "Operator, Operator" is a cover as well.
"Try a Little Tenderness" was a big-band pop number from the Thirties, by the composer of "When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along)." Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke covered it as a straightforward soul ballad. Then Otis Redding picked it up from Cooke, made it build from a slow beginning to an explosive conclusion, and wiped every previous version from memory.
"Everybody's Everything" was based on the obscure single "Karate" by the Emperors.
"She's Not There" was originally by the Zombies.
"The Game of Love" was written by New Radicals frontman, Gregg Alexander, and Rick Nowels, featured vocals by Michelle Branch and won a Grammy. The original recording, however, was sung by Tina Turner; this version was not publicly released until 2007.
"Hold On" was written and first recorded by Ian Thomas.
Country Music singer Ricky Van Shelton practically built his career on covers:
"After the Lights Go Out" — by Warner Mack
"Backroads" — by Charlie Major, a Canadian singer who never had any form of success in the US
Not everyone may know that the "theme" from Spy Hunter is in fact the Peter Gunn theme. Indeed, for the Playstation 2 remake, the rock band Saliva did a "cover version" of "The Spy Hunter Theme" using their own new lyrics.
A video game called Domino Man used Scott Joplin's ragtime song "Maple Leaf Rag".
The main gameplay theme in Gyruss may sound pretty cool, but you may be surprised to know that it's an electronic rendition of a classical composition called "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach (and classical music typically isn't thought of as "cool"...). And wouldn't you know it, musicologists are now predominantly of the opinion that even this wasn't an original composition, but Bach's transcription from a version for string instrument by an unknown author. The "Toccata and Fugue" (well, the toccata part, anyway) is the most well known organ piece out there, and has been appropriated in this way ever since cinemas got organs.
The arcade game Bomb Jack uses the first ending theme of "Spoon Obaasan" (based on the classic book "Mrs. Pepperpot") was used as the first level theme. The second level theme is "Lady Madonna", one of the Beatles' number one hits.
Phoenix, for its intro, uses that Spanish-guitar classical piece "Romance de Amor". For the second and subsequent waves, the intro is Beethoven's "Für Elise".
Rainbow Islands uses Somewhere Over The Rainbow as its main theme. Clever. Similarly, its sequel Parasol Stars uses the Lambada as the boss BGM!
Darius's Zone A cave theme, "Captain Neo", is a cover of the attract demo theme from Metal Soldier Isaac II, a free-roaming shooter released a year before by Taito, the same developers behind the Darius series. Most people who have heard the song associate it far more strongly with Darius than with MSI.
Most people don't realize that the main theme of Lemmings is actually a chiptune rendition of a public-domain song, "March of the Mods".
Grand Theft Auto: the "Master Sounds" radio station from San Andreas is apparently a conscious attempt by the developers to reverse this trend — it plays only songs which later became vastly more famous when they were covered or sampled by more popular artists.
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" was first done in 1953 by the Four Lads. The song had been covered many times (most notably by Sha Na Na, who did nothing but covers) by the time TMBG did their famous version. Considering the song was written by Jimmy Kennedy, it is also likely a parody of "Puttin' on the Ritz".
"New York City" (originally by the all-girl indie rock trio Cub)
"Why Does the Sun Shine?" (an educational song from an album from 1959).
By Covered Musician
Songwriter/Actor Hoyt Axton's songs are no doubt more well known as covers.
"Joy to the World" and "Never Been to Spain" by Three Dog Night.
"The No No Song" by Ringo Starr. Residents of Saskatchewan, Canada growing up in the 90s may remember this song best as the commercial for Audio Warehouse ("where they said no no no no, don't wait anymore/no GST and no money down...").
And let's not forget "Greenback Dollar" by the Kingston Trio.
Some famous works by Johann Sebastian Bach are usually known only by their covers by other composers and performers.
The Air on the G String is actually the Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major. Violinist August Wilhelmj transposed and rewrote the Air in C Major in order to play it solely on the G string of the violin. Most recordings now list the work as the Air on the G String, even if the recording is of the original Orchestral Suite version.
"Sheep may safely graze" is the most famous movement of Bach's secular Hunting Cantata. In fact, the rest of the cantata remains obscure outside the realm of Bach fans and music scholars, while "Sheep may safely graze" is almost universally known. Even the original version of the movement is obscure, with its many arrangements taking the spotlight. Link to original "Sheep may safely graze"
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is among Bach's most famous works. What many people don't know is that the lyrics are not translated from Bach's originals. That's right, originals. The melody for Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring actually comes from the sixth and tenth movements of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life). The lyrics to Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring were actually written by Robert Bridges, who based his lyrics on the same hymn that Bach based the originals on. The piano transcription of the melody, by Myra Hess, also eclipses Bach's originals in mainstream fame.
The melodies of the two movements in question are themselves arrangements of a Lutheran chorale Covered Up by Bach.
The Beatles are believed to be the most covered artist in history ("Yesterday" alone supposedly has thousands of cover versions), and it's a testament to their artistry that for nearly all of their songs, the original versions remain the most famous versions. One notable exception, however: Joe Cocker's version of "With a Little Help from My Friends" became so iconic (helped by having been used as the theme song to The Wonder Years) that few realize it's a Beatles song at all, let alone that it was another song from Sgt Pepper. Even Across the Universe, which generally stuck pretty closely to the Beatles' arrangements of songs, made that one roughly 50/50 Beatles/Cocker.
Eddie Cochran was one of the great pioneers of rock. During his tragically short carreer he had several hits, many of which have been Covered Up by others. Cochran even used to be erroneously described on this very page as a "one-hit wonder".
"C'mon Everybody" by Led Zeppelin and Sid Vicious amongst many others, but the version best known in the UK is probably the John Lydon version.
"Somethin' Else", Led Zeppelin and Sid Vicious again — amongst many others, again.
"Summertime Blues" by Alan Jackson (see also the by covering musician list). Those who aren't country music fans will probably be more familiar with The Who's version, or even the Blue Cheer version.
Neil Diamond started out as a songwriter so a lot of his music has been recorded by other singers:
"Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" has been covered numerous times, most recently by Urge Overkill for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
The first and definitive version of "I'm A Believer" was released by The Monkees (Diamond actually recorded his own version first but it wasn't released until later). The same was the case for three other Monkees hits: "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)", "Love to Love" and "A little Bit Me, A Little Bit You". "I'm a Believer" has since been covered by Smash Mouth (for the movie Shrek, giving the song a significant Revival by Commercialization in the process) and Weezer.
"Red Red Wine" first covered by Tony Tribe and then in The Eighties by UB40, with UB40's version regaining popularity nearly 20 years after it was released. Neil Diamond later recorded a new version inspired by UB40's cover.
"Solitary Man" was Diamond's first hit (#55 pop) in 1966. It's been covered by Jay and the Americans, T.G. Sheppard, Chris Isaak, T.G. Sheppard (#14 country, #100 pop in 1976), Johnny Cash, and H.I.M.
Fefe Dobson wrote songs for an unreleased second album in 2007. Two of the songs from the project were made famous by Disney Channelalumni: "As A Blonde", by Selena Gomez + The Scene, and "Start All Over", by Miley Cyrus.
Bob Dylan is possibly this trope's biggest victim, which has been joked about, as in the video No Direction, Period, wherein it is "revealed" that, unbeknownst to the public at large, every popular song of the last 35 years was attributable to Bob Dylan. (Conversely, on spoof news comedy The Day Today, many of Dylan's hits are "revealed" to have been written by British Ukelele player George Formby in the 1940s; "Dylan, who is in hospital after eating a rotten wolf, has been unavailable for comment".)
Even though Dylan sang "All Along The Watchtower" more often than any other song he wrote, plenty of people still think Jimi Hendrix did it first. The confusion isn't helped any by Dylan saying that's how the song should have been played to start with, nor by Dylan altering his playing to be closer to the Hendrix version after Jimi died. Dylan himself wrote about Hendrix covering "Watchtower" in the liner notes of his Biograph box set:
"It's not a wonder to me that he did my songs; rather, that he did so few, because they were all his."
And "Make You Feel My Love," which has become something of a hit for Adele (not to mention Garth Brooks and Billy Joel)—and proved that Dylan's 90's repertoire is as ripe for pilfering as his older stuff.
His song "He's Gonna Step On You Again" was covered up (and made famous by) the Happy Mondays who retitled their version as "Step On". Years later, Def Leppard made their own cover in an arrangement more like the original
Taylor Swift, known for writing her own songs, actually did a cover on Fearless: Platinum Edition. Few would suspect that the soft ballad "Untouchable" originated as a rock song by the Nashville band Luna Halo. (To Taylor's credit, however, the song was sufficiently altered that Luna Halo allowed her to take co-writing credit for her version.)
Pretty much every track on his 1989 album Simple Life has been recorded by at least one other artist. Among those that were singles for someone else:
"Company Time" by Linda Davis in 1994.
"Southbound" by Sammy Kershaw in 1995.
A rather strange example is "Back Where I Come From". Mac's version made #13 on the country charts in 1990. Kenny Chesney recorded it for his 1996 album Me and You but did not release it as a single, included a live version on his first Greatest Hits Album five years later, and regularly sings the song in concert. Although Kenny never released it as a single, many radio stations play either of his versions while shunning Mac's.
Chesney also released a cover of "Down the Road" (which Mac originally recorded on that album and later included on Knots) in 2008, but had Mac sing and play guitar on it.
Mac also recorded "All These Years" on his album Live and Learn a few months before Sawyer Brown covered it.
"Smooth Sailin'" and "Last Cheater's Waltz", which Sonny released as a double-A-side. Both were covered up by T.G. Sheppard.
"Friday Night Blues" by John Conlee
Better known as a producer and songwriter, the New Orleans legend has had three of his songs as a performer Covered Up:
"Java", recorded as Al Tousan in 1958, became a Top 10 hit for Al Hirt in 1964.
"Whipped Cream", which Toussaint wrote and recorded with his band The Stokes in 1964 (partly to capitalize on "Java"'s success) became the title track of Herb Alpert's hugely popular Whipped Cream & Other Delights album the next year, in a note-for-note cover.
The title track of Toussaint's 1975 album Southern Nights became a #1 hit for Glen Campbell two years later (in a radically different arrangement).
Interestingly, Hirt's "Java" and Alpert's "Whipped Cream" are both better known now for being used by others: "Java" in a Muppet sketch, "Whipped Cream" on The Dating Game.
A particularly odious cover of "Downtown Train" by Rod Stewart in 1989 made it to #3 on the American pop charts, making it the highest charting version of a Waits song ever (Waits himself has no charting singles). A much better cover by Bob Seger was recorded that same year, but was not released until 2011 because Stewart's became a big hit.
Rod Stewart also covered Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues (Waltzing Matilda)" for his Unplugged album.
The Ramones covered "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (he has since covered two of their songs)
Thanks to The Wire, the Blind Boys of Alabama's version of "Way Down in the Hole" is now at least as famous as the Waits original... And it might even be better. The Waits version was used as the theme in Season 2, but the Blind Boys' was the theme in Season 1 and also played over a montage at the end of the final episode.
Then there is the matter of "Whistlin' Past the Graveyard", which was written by Waits, but was intentionally supposed to sound like it was written and performed in the manner of Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Then Hawkins covered it, and that version was used in a commercial.
Hank Williams: "Move it On Over": His first big top 10 hit, but more people now associate it with George Thorogood.
Trent Willmon: "The Truth" by Jason Aldean, and "There Is a God" by Lee Ann Womack. Both are on Willmon's Broken In album.
Larry Willoughby (cousin of Rodney Crowell) had this happen with two of his three singles. "Operator, Operator" was covered by Eddy Raven, and "Building Bridges" by Brooks & Dunn (Nicolette Larson also had a version).
Randy Newman started as a songwriter and essentially never stopped, even when he started recording. Notable examples include "You Can Leave Your Hat On", "I Think It's Going to Rain Today", "Mama Told Me Not to Come", and "Louisiana 1927" (a charity single by Aaron Neville after Katrina). Three Dog Night in particular loved covering his songs.
Ewen MacColl's song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is far better known as sung by other performers. His radio ballads, such as "The Shoals of Herring" and "Thirty-Foot Trailer" have such a traditional feel that there are singers who don't know he wrote them, much less give him credit.
Ewen MacColl is not the only victim of this trope in folk; A great many modern folksongs are thought to be traditional even though they are original compositions. Another well-known one is Jim McLean's "Glencoe Massacre."
ABBA has been covered by many artists and has tribute bands like Australian based, Bjorn Again… even lauded the original male members.