In the nearly 28 years I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to music, a countless number of cover songs have crossed my path. Some are awful, most are forgettable, but some stand out. This list is my five favorite cover songs of all time. I’m not claiming they are the best or the greatest, simply my favorites. I included a small description of why they are special to me.
5. With A Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker
Album: With A Little Help From My Friends
Original: The Beatles
To be honest, the main reason I love this song so much is because it reminds of The Wonder Years. That was one of my favorite shows growing up. Even as I write this, I can picture the opening credits and hear Joe Cocker crooning in the background. It has become one of those shows that everybody within a few years of my age knows about.
4. Turn The Page – Metallica
Album: Garage, Inc.
Original: Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
A whole album of covers by a legendary metal band? It could work. A harder version of a song about a road weary traveler? It definitely works. Metallica managed to somehow capture the smokiness of the song even as they ramped up its intensity. Just all around excellence from Metallica.
3. Black – Aaron Lewis of Staind
Album: The Family Values Tour 2001
Original: Pearl Jam
When Aaron Lewis, the lead singer/songwriter of Staind, took the stage in 2001 to record a live version of the smash hit Pearl Jam had recorded a decade earlier, few people knew what was about to happen. Lewis laid down a gut-wrenching acoustic version of the ballad. If you listen closely, you can hear the stunned reverence of the crowd as Lewis hits every note perfectly. The pain in Lewis’ voice is almost tangible.
2. Angel From Montgomery – Bonnie Raitt
Original: John Prine
I had no memory of this song until seeing the film Into The Wild, during which two of the main characters sing a part. I immediately found out that while Bonnie Raitt didn’t write the song, she had made it famous more than 30 years earlier. A gorgeous, gorgeous version of a song written by a man that strangely includes the lyrics “I am an old woman/named after my mother.”
1. Lonely Feeling – Cross Canadian Ragweed
Album: Back To Tulsa: Live And Loud At Cain’s Ballroom
Original: Robert Earl Keene
Choosing to end their final live album with a cover, C.C.R. introduced this song as “music that made us want to play music forever.” Few people know about Robert Earl Keene, or for that matter Cross Canadian Ragweed, but that doesn’t make their cover any less special. The song is stunningly heartbreaking yet sweet and tender. It’s my all time favorite cover, and anytime it I hear it I’m transported to a different place.
If you haven’t heard of some of these covers, do yourself a favor and find them online. They are fantastic in every sense of the word.