8 Cover Songs Better Than The Original

What blasphemy is this?! Only the original artist can claim the true greatness of a song, right? Well, not exactly. While some of the originators of beloved cover songs are impressive in their own right, at times it takes a different perspective to unleash a song’s true glory. Below are eight cover songs better than the original, blasphemy be damned!!


The White Stripes’ – “Death Letter” 

On this Son House classic and Stripes concert staple, Jack White proves his blues chops beyond a shadow of a doubt. Often, he’ll stretch the song to 7 or 9 minutes with thrashing epileptic solos and snippets of other songs. This easily qualifies among the greatest cover songs ever.

Aretha Franklin – “Respect” 

The Queen put her own stamp on Otis Redding’s immortal classic, leaping ahead of her time in a channeling of the track into a feminist anthem.

Amy Winehouse – “Valerie”

The song that put Amy Winehouse on the map is so completely owned by the late chanteuse that very few know it’s actually written by British indie group The Zutons.

Ministry – “Friend of the Devil”

The best damned hippie song relating to the Devil you’ll ever hear. A man on the run has no home or refuge but finds sanctuary and generosity in the Devil on his way. Sure, that same Devil will reappear and take everything he’s given at the worst possible moment, but nevertheless, “a friend of the Devil is a friend of mine.” Magic happens at the Bridge School Benefit, kids. That’s all I can say. 

Pearl Jam – “Baba O’Riley”

A very drunk Eddie Vedder led Pearl Jam through an incendiary rendition of their live-staple cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” at the Singles movie premiere party in 1992. The wild passion, the blistering intensity and overall sense of riotous fun makes this an unforgettable retelling of a classic track. Not to mention the fact that Eddie seems to be trying to tear down the entire stage before singing the last verse while being held up by the audience…

Led Zeppelin – “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”

This folk standard wasn’t written by Led Zeppelin, but rather by an American folk singer named Anne Bredon. She was not credited for the Led Zeppelin version until 1990, when her son brought it to the attention of the band. Jimmy Page was inspired by Joan Baez’s folk version – he and Robert Plant were both fans of Baez, and adapted the song for Led Zeppelin. He explains in Daniel Rachel’s The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters: “I worked out this arrangement using a more finger-style method and then having a flamenco burst in it. Again, it’s light and shade and this drama of accents; using the intensity of what would be a louder section for effect.”

Mötley Crüe – “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” 

Originally recorded by Brownsville Station in 1973 on their album Yeah!, this Crüe classic takes on a new life with the Aquanet & leather treatment. 

Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”

Originally a country gem by Dolly Parton in 1973, Whitney recorded the cover in 1992 for the film The Bodyguard, and became one of the most iconic covers of all time.