Some songs are synonymous with the artists who sing them; some songs start and then define an artist’s career. These are songs that you can’t imagine anyone else singing, and then one day you read an article and you find out your whole life has been a lie and that song is in fact a COVER!
Here’s a list that we came up with of 10 of those songs. We apologize for any hurt we may cause.
The Tide Is High – Blondie (Originally by The Paragons)
While the original by The Paragons was a hit for the ska/rock steady group from Jamaica in 1966, Blondie made it their own and brought it more attention to the masses. In Blondie’s version, they still kept the feel of the original but made small changes by adding a horn part and changing the lyrics to be presented from a female perspective. Blondie’s cover ended up taking the top of the US charts in 1980, 14 years after the original version came out, and became one of the group’s biggest songs to date.
Respect – Aretha Franklin (Originally by Otis Redding)
Although Otis Redding was and still is an R&B legend in his own right, it was Aretha’s take on the classic song that put it into the public conciousness. While Otis’ version is coming from a man expecting respect from his love as long as he’s supporting her, Aretha turned it into a feminist anthem by making the song about a independent woman who demands respect from her man, knows she’s a good woman, and doesn’t owe him anything. With that simple but powerful change, along with an incredibly well-produced and performed song, it resonated with the masses and has become not only one of Aretha’s best known songs, but has been considered one of the greatest vocal tracks and performances of all time.
Torn – Natalie Imbruglia (Originally by Ednaswap)
It’s rare that a breakout hit for an artist tends to be a cover so when Natalie Imbruglia did it, no one seemed to realize it wasn’t an original song. Originally written by members of the alt-rock group Ednaswap, it was first translated and recorded by Danish pop star Lis Sørensen and renamed “Brændt” (Danish for “Burned”). Two years later, Ednaswap would finally record their version of the song they originally wrote. It wasn’t until 1997 where Natalie Imbruglia would take on the song and give it an upbeat, poppy feel compared to Ednaswap’s slower, overdriven, guitar-heavy version. Natalie’s cover became an international number one single which led to a memorable music video and has been comedically pantomimed by comedian David Armand.
Girls Just Want To Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper (Originally by Robert Hazard)
The song started off as a simple new-wave style demo Robert Hazard recorded in 1979 that sounds more like an Elvis Costello track than the version most of us are used to. When Cyndi Lauper decided to put her spin on it, she changed the perspective about women just wanting to be treated equally to men. Her version up the ante of the originally by incorporating synthesizers and more background vocals giving it a poppier, danceable version. Additionally, with the launch of MTV in 1984, the music video for the song would end up getting constant play on the channel making the song and her a household name.
Tainted Love – Soft Cell (Originally by Gloria Jones)
Gloria Jones recorded Tainted Love in 1964 and released it on 1965 as the B-Side to her song “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home.” Neither song was successful. Jones re-recorded Tainted Love and released it as a single when the song had a small come back in the UK, playing in underground clubs. The English duo Soft Cell heard the song while hangout in the clubs and they began to play it live at their shows. When they eventually recorded the song themselves, they added synthesizers instead of instruments and changed the key and the tempo, making it an 80s hit.
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor (Originally by Prince)
Nothing Compares 2 U sounds like a song of longing for a loved one, but in reality Prince wrote the song about his assistant Sandy who had to take time off from her job when her father died. Instead of releasing it himself he gave it to The Family, a band he created to help get more of his own music out into the world. Prince himself would later perform the song as a duet and then as a solo, it was the 1990 version by Sinead O’Conner that would catapult the song to fame though. Released in 1990 the song would go onto become the third best selling song of that year and 82nd of the 90s.
In 2016, radio stations across the United States, played Nothing Compares 2 U, 7 Hours and 15 days after his death to pay homage to Prince.
Hound Dog – Elvis (Originally by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton)
Hound Dog, originally recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in 1952 and released in 1953, has been recorded more than 250 times. Thornton’s version was her only hit and was named one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However in July 1956 , Elvis Presley recorded what would become the most successful version of the song. It topped pop, country and R&B charts. It is one of the most best selling songs of all time and Elvis’ best selling song of his career. This song is so quintessential Elvis that some would argue that it shouldn’t be considered a cover at all.
Blinded By The Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (Originally by Bruce Springsteen)
Manfred Mann made a career out of covering other people’s songs and making them hits. In the 60s he covered Mighty Quinn and If You Gotta Run by Bob Dylan and made them both #1 hits. In 1977 he did the same thing with Blinded by the Light by Bruce Springsteen; giving The Boss his only #1 hit as a songwriter. Manfred Mann re-wrote the song a little, changing the line “Cut loose like a deuce” accidentally to “Wrapped up like a deuce.” Not wanting to think too much about the original version Mann didn’t over listen to it and some how the new line came to be.
(They Long To Be) Close To You – The Carpenters (Originally by Richard Chamberlin)
Originally recorded by Richard Chamberlin (1963)
First recorded by Richard Chamberlin, Close to You was covered by music icons Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield in 1964 and 1965, respectively. It wasn’t until 1970, when The Carpenters covered it on their album of the same name, that the song became a hit. Recorded with The Wrecking Crew, the legendary LA studio musicians, the song went to number one in 1970 and one the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. Though they might not have been the first to sing it, The Carpenters put Close to You on the map and nobody does it better than they do.
It’s My Life – No Doubt (Talk Talk)
Recorded and released in 2003 to promote No Doubt’s Greatest Hits album; a cover was chosen because the band was on hiatus at the time of the release. No Doubt ironically had doubts about using a cover, but they opted to do so because writing and recording a brand new song would have been too time consuming, especially since lead singer Gwen Stefani was recording her debut solo album at the same time. No Doubt’s version of It’s My life was nominated for a Grammy at the 47th Grammy Awards and the song has been used in the video game Karaoke Revolution Vol. 2 and the Rock Band Series as well.