Playlist: Cover Songs Are Great Part II

Recently I went to a Bob Dylan concert, which was exciting, but I thought I wasn’t going to get much out of it because I’ve never followed Dylan’s work particularly closely. Once I got there, though, it became clear that I actually know a lot of his songs — because I had heard so many of them covered by the badass woman singer-songwriters that were played in my Lilith-Fair-fan household growing up. (Same goes for Leonard Cohen, it would appear.) All hail the cover song, and the artist who does such a mindblowing version of another person’s work that, let’s be honest, it’s now just as much theirs as the original artist’s. Especially when they’re ladies. (I would apologize for the multiple Prince songs, but I will never apologize for Prince, so.)

We already did a covers playlist in 2011, but that was back then, and this is now, with a few all-new songs that didn’t even exist then! Whee!

photo credit Johanna Páramos Santalucía

photo credit Johanna Páramos Santalucía

Playlist: Cover Songs Are Great Part II


Amazing Grace – Ani DiFranco (original by John Newton)
Silver Springs – Lykke Li (original by Fleetwood Mac)
Tangled Up In Blue – Indigo Girls (original by Bob Dylan)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Cat Power (original by the Rolling Stones)
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – Joan Baez (original by Bob Dylan) (and they dated!!!!)
Graceland – Hot Chip (original by Paul Simon)
Hallelujah – k.d. lang (original by Leonard Cohen)
Toxic – Yael Naim (original by Britney Spears)
Chelsea Hotel – Regina Spektor (original by Leonard Cohen)
Naked If I Want To – Cat Power (original by Moby Grape)
The Beautiful Ones – Fol Chen (original by Prince)
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor (original by Prince)
Fortunate Son – Sleater-Kinney (original by Creedence Clearwater Revival)
God Only Knows – Ben Kweller (original by the Beach Boys)
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Mal Blum (originally by Taylor Swift)

Obviously this is by no means a comprehensive list of awesome covers. What are your favorites?

Want to suggest a playlist theme? Hit Crystal up on Formspring and someone from the team will make it for you, if you’re lucky.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Hallelujah was not originally by Jeff Buckley, it was written and first recorded by Leonard Cohen. You could easily make a playlist of great Leonard Cohen covers. The documentary/concert film I’m Your Man had some great ones.

  2. This is such a stellar list.

    More great covers by sisters and brothers from other mothers:
    “Golden Slumbers”- Ben Folds
    “Gloria”- Patti Smith
    “War Pigs”- Cake
    and finally
    “My Neck, My Back”- Richard Cheese (please listen to this immediately to enhance your life, preferably with headphones in if you’re near small children, women who are pregnant or nursing, or those with heart conditions)

    • I had to put the kibosh on me listening to “My Neck, My Back” in public because I just giggle uncontrollably the whole time, so I can’t even imagine the immature behavior I’m going to get up to listening to that cover version.

  3. I’ve long wanted to see a list of cover songs that don’t bother to change the gender aspect of the lyrics to suit notions of just to assure the relationship described is a straight one. You know, song lyrics that are clearly directed toward a woman usually song by a man or vice versa.

    One contender I’d like to hear covered unchanged by a woman is “Jesse’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. Just because it could add an extra layer to sad awkward feelings conveyed.
    Haven’t seen that happen yet, but than there is Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young.” Great rhythm, but the stories a little smarmy with this guy telling a Catholic girl she needs to loosen up all an attempt to get busy with her. I thought it would sound very, very different coming from a woman, especially repeated rap of “come out Virginia!”

    So, I find this article a few hours ago and go to a TV Tropes page on gender changing song covers and covers that avoid it. When low and behold a find this gem:
    A little sadder in tone than the original I’ll admit, but still a great find!

  4. I like to collect cover songs, to be honest.

    Faves include:
    “Iron Man” – The Cardigans
    “Personal Jesus” – Johnny Cash
    “Hot in Herre” – Jenny Owen Youngs
    “Stairway to Heaven” – Dolly Parton (SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL)
    “Eleanor Rigby” – Aretha Franklin
    “Can’t Buy Me Love” – Ella Fitzgerald (which I have on vinyl and it’s kick ass)
    “Just Like Heaven” – The Watson Twins (which they don’t change the pronouns and I have already decided that if I ever tried out for a singing show, I’d use this song)
    “Pursuit of Happiness” by Barbara (it’s a band, not a lady, and I guess it’s actually more of a mash-up with Iron and Wine’s “Trapeze Singer”)
    “Real Love” – Regina Spektor
    “Hey Ya” – Obadiah Parker
    “Fell in Love with a Boy” – Joss Stone (fuck I wish she hadn’t changed the pronouns, but it’s still a great song)
    “Call Your Girlfriend” – Erato (it’s all played on Tupperware)
    “I Can’t Make You Love Me” – Bon Iver (*falls slowly in a circle, crying*)

    But long story short, I need to listen to that Sleater-Kinney CCR cover immediately.

  5. Some of my favorites…

    1. My War – My Ruin (Black Flag cover)
    2. Wicked Game – Mimi Page (Chris Isaak cover)
    3. Mon Amie La Rose – Natacha Atlas (Françoise Hardy)
    4. Crazy – Kidneythieves (Patsy Cline)
    5. Tainted Love – Marilyn Manson (Gloria Jones > Soft Cell)
    6. Who Is He And What Is He To You – Me’Shell NdegéOcello (Bill Withers)
    7. Love You Down – Me’Shell NdegéOcello (Ready For The World)
    8. Rock The Casbah – Rachid Taha (The Clash)
    9. Runnin’ Out Of Fools – Neko Case (Aretha Franklin)

  6. Frank Ocean’s, “Thinkin Bout You,” covered by Yuna is all rainbows and angels and sunshine. Just wanted to be in on the cover fangrrrling.

  7. I have 5 different covers of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” in my iTunes.

    No regrets.

  8. -Girlyman’s cover of George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord
    It is a pretty good cover, it’s not drastically different but their harmonies sound so good.
    -Fiona Apple and Johnny Cash covering Simon&Garfunkels Bridge Over Troubled Water
    My favorite cover ever.

  9. lately i’ve been infatuated with all of seu jorge’s portuguese covers of david bowie songs

    musical swoooooon

  10. Cover songs are my whole life! I have hundreds and hundreds of cover songs in my itunes. This is a great article and playlist! Some of my favorites are:
    Atlantic City- The Hold Steady (Bruce Springsteen cover)
    Time after Time- Tegan and Sara (Cyndi Lauper cover)
    These Days- The Tallest Man on Earth (Jackson Browne cover)
    Romeo and Juliet- Indigo Girls (Mark Knopfler cover)
    It’s My Party- Amy Winehouse (Lesley Gore cover)
    The Con- The Manifest Electric (Tegan and Sara cover)
    The Boys are Back in Town- Reggie Watts (Thin Lizzy cover)
    The Sign- The Mountain Goats (Ace of Bass cover)
    Spit on a Stranger- Nickel Creek (Pavement cover)
    Be My Baby- Nina Sky (The Ronettes cover)
    Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right- Metric (Bob Dylan cover)
    Ring Them Bells- Sufjan Stevens (Bob Dylan cover)
    And about fifteen different covers of “Book of Love” by The Magnetic Fields

  11. True story – my ex put “Tangled Up in Blue” on a CD for me, except it cut off about 2/3rds of the way through the song so I never knew how it ended until just now. So thank you for solving that mystery/giving me closure to that relationship.


  12. I’m still reallllly partial to the Johnny Cash version of “Hurt.” His version is so entrancing and heart-wrenching, and every time it comes on I find myself distracted and forced to pay like superclose attention to it. AHH favorite cover ever.

  13. Thanks for all of the suggestions – I love hearing artists reinterpret other perfomers songs! Here are some of my favourites:

    One of Us Cannot Be Wrong (Leonard Cohen) – Gregory Alan Isakov
    Bad Romance (Lady GaGa) – Lissie
    I Still Miss Someone (w Johnny Cash) – Joni Mitchell
    A Case Of You (Joni Mitchell) – Prince
    I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself (Dusty Springfield) – The White Stripes
    Lola (The Kinks) – The Raincoats
    Fool to Cry (The Rolling Stones) – Tegan and Sara
    When Doves Cry (Prince) – Ani DiFranco
    I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams) – Elvis Presley homerecording 1974
    The Seeker (Dolly Parton) – Shelby Lynne
    Heaven (Bryan Adams) – Brandi Carlile
    Creep (Radiohead) – Brandi Carlile
    Can’t Help Falling in Love (Elvis Presley) – Ingrid Michaelson
    Jack You Off (Prince) – Robyn

    And as mentioned by others, one of my absolute favourites Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen) – Tegan and Sara

    • Gregory Alan Isakov :) he’s such an understated musician but everything he does is so perfect. His cover of John Hartford’s ‘In Tall Buildings’ is also very beautiful

  14. Some great suggestions here! To add my two penneth worth after a quick look at my ipod:

    Billie Jean (Michael Jackson) – The Civil Wars (check it out on youtube, incroyable!)
    Get Your Freak On (Missy Elliot) – KT Tunstall
    Blackbird (The Beatles) – Sarah Mclachlan
    A Forest (The Cure) – Bat For Lashes
    Umbrella (Rihanna) – Biffy Clyro
    A House is Not a Motel (Love) – The Duke Spirit
    Jezabel (Edith Piaf) – Anna Calvi
    Thirteen (Elliot Smith) – Garbage
    Across the Universe (The Beatles) – Fiona Apple
    Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin) – Karen O and Trent Reznor
    See Emily Play (Pink Floyd) – Martha Wainwright
    Jolene (Dolly Parton) -The White Stripes
    Melt with You (Modern English) – Nouvelle Vague
    River (Joni Mitchell) – Scott Matthews

  15. If it Makes You Happy – Screaming Females (originally Sheryl Crow)
    Are You That Somebody – The Gossip (originally Aaliyah)
    Mother – Wye Oak (originally Danzig)

  16. I have to listen to Chelsea Hotel by Regina Spektor, as the original is one of my favourite songs. (Used to sing it around the campfire at my hippie school camp which is a bit weird now I think of it!)

    I recommend the Mrs Robinson cover by The Lemonheads which remains one of my favourite songs of all time, and is better than the original!
    And Greatest Day by Frank Turner…again, a million times better than the Take That original.
    :-) xx

  17. I’ve always been a fan of the Radiodread cover songs of Radiohead….especially “Airbag”.

  18. This is an awesome list and I’ve found some awesome new music to listen to in the comments!

    Tainted Love- My Ruin
    Where Eagles Dare-Bratmobile
    A lot of things by Joan Jett/the Runaways, but I particularly like Dirty Deeds and Wild Thing
    Shirley Manson-Samson and Delilah
    Helter Skelter-Siouxsie and the Banshees
    I Heard it Through the Grapevine-the Slits
    More than a Feeling-Lunachicks
    Enter Sandman-Vice Squad
    Me and Bobby McGee- Janis Joplin
    Your Love-The Butchies
    Cherry Bomb-Bratmobile (Okay, it’s not that different than the original… but Bratmobile, yay!)

  19. these days by nico and the velvet underground is my all-time favourite song, and it’s a jackson browne cover.

  20. So many good ones here! Covers are some of my favourite things. I really like
    Placebo cover of Johnny and Mary (Robert Palmer)
    Amanda Palmer The Ship Song (Nick Cave)
    Grant-Lee Phillips doing Boys Don’t Cry (The Cure)
    Belle and Sebastian Here Comes the Sun (Beatles)

  21. Slightly off topic, but the pics used above with the record sleeves over peoples faces… it was my mate Carl who started that trend! it’s called “sleeve face” (see what he did there?) and has been on the news and all that shit over here for it.

    Anyway… yes to all these songs. all of them.

  22. This is great. I would also include:

    The Be Good Tanya’s For the turnstiles (orig Neil Young)
    I’m on fire – Tori Amos (orig Bruce Springsteen)
    Loping along through the cosmos – Katie Moore (orig Judee Sill)
    Battle of evermore – Ann and Nancy Wilson (orig Led Zeppelin)
    Comfortably numb – Scissor Sisters (orig Pink Floyd)
    Poor wayfaring stranger – Natalie Merchant (orig Carter family, Emmylou Harris)
    Pusher man – Nina Simone (orig Steppenwolf)
    Kumbaya – Nina Simone (orig spiritual)
    Dark was the night – Ry Cooder (orig Blind Willie Johnson)
    Where did you sleep last night -Nirvana (0rig Leadbelly)
    Stand by me – Holly Miranda (orig Ben E King)
    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Kicking against the Pricks is a great cover album.

  23. I’m still reallllly partial to the Johnny Cash version of latest track “Hurt.” His version is so entrancing and heart-wrenching, and every time it comes on I find myself distracted and forced to pay like superclose attention to it. AHH favorite cover Songs ever

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