Sometimes the cover version of a song is better known than the original. Sometimes that’s how it turns into a hit. We have collected some famous covers.
When a song is covered, it actually means an award for the artist who wrote the original: someone else was so enthusiastic about his work that he wanted to sing it himself. However, some musicians will have been annoyed in retrospect. Because every now and then it happens that the cover becomes much more popular than the original and the actual inventor is forgotten.
We have collected some famous cover versions that have become real hits – and the originals of which hardly anyone knows.
1. “Hurt” (Johnny Cash)
Johnny Cash released the song in 2002, a year before his death. The story fits too well: an old man, already seriously ill, sings about his life. Even a short documentary about Cash was named after the song. “Hurt” doesn’t come from the country singer at all, but was actually first released in 1994 by the rock band Nine Inch Nails.
2. “The Man Who Sold The World” (Nirvana)
The song became world famous through the legendary MTV unplugged concert by Nirvana in 1993. Many fans associate him with Kurt Cobain. “The Man Who Sold The World” was just one of six cover versions that Nirvana played that evening. Originally, “The Man Who Sold The World” was the title track on David Bowie’s third album, which didn’t leave a huge footprint in the music world. Other cover versions of Nirvana’s Unplugged gig were “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” (Originally by The Vaselines), “Plateau”, “Oh, Me”, “Lake of Fire” (all from Meat Puppets) and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (Leadbelly), the latter song in particular also gaining great popularity thanks to Nirvana. Originally the text even goes back to the 19th century.
3. “Mad World” (Gary Jules)
Sometimes it takes a movie to make a song really big. “Mad World” was already a hit in several countries in the original Tears For Fears from 1982. Gary Jules knew how to improve it again when he re-recorded the song for the cult film “Donnie Darko” and turned it into a melancholy Weltschmerz ballad. “Mad World” reached number one in the British charts in 2003 and also made it to number three in Germany.
4. “Cat’s In The Cradle” (Ugly Kid Joe)
The original by Harry Chapin (1974) was a hit and was even nominated for a Grammy. In 1993 the song about a father-son relationship was reissued by the rock band Ugly Kid Joe and then celebrated chart successes in various European countries – the cover is therefore more familiar to many listeners in Germany.
5. “Behind Blue Eyes” (Limp Bizkit)
Originally by the British rock group The Who and in this version anything but a flop. The version of Limp Bizkit, released 30 years later, is especially popular with younger music fans. Fred Durst’s band also made quite extensive changes to the text.
6. “All Along The Watchtower” (Jimi Hendrix)
Jimi Hendrix was in a hurry: only nine months after Bob Dylan had released “All Along The Watchtower” on his album “John Weasley Harding”, he already presented his cover version. The original song was released as a single shortly after the cover. Still, Dylan wasn’t pissed off – on the contrary: he later even adapted his own performance of the piece to Hendrix’s psychedelic interpretation.
7. “Twist And Shout” (The Beatles)
Paul McCartney and John Lennon are arguably some of the greatest songwriting geniuses. But the Beatles also liked to use songs written by others, especially at the beginning of their careers. This is also the case with “Twist And Shout”, which originally comes from the US duo Top Notes. The song first became known through the Beatles and was then covered by numerous other musicians.
8. “Nothing Compares 2 U” (Sinead O’Connor)
The original was written by none other than Prince, in 1985 for his band The Family. The Family remained a relatively neglected side project and “Nothing Compares 2 U” only went through the roof when Sinead O’Connor took on the song in 1990.
Their version became a world hit and stayed at number one in the singles charts in Germany for 32 weeks. Prince later recorded the piece again and published it under his own name – the song title remains in the collective memory but associated with O’Connor.