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8 Songs You Never Knew Were Covers

8 Songs You Never Knew Were Covers

Never underestimate the power of a good cover tune. You may not realize it, but we’re willing to bet at least a couple of your all-time favorite songs are colorful renditions of an original you’ve probably never even heard before. Don’t believe us? Here are 10 Songs You Didn’t Know Were Covers:

Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

MTV Unplugged in New York is a thing of legend among Nirvana fans because it wasn’t just any other live session. The set list was filled with b-sides, covers, and a lot of the band’s lesser-known stuff. Many fans and historians regard it as one of the most intimate live performances Kurt Cobain ever delivered. Nirvana concluded their set that evening with a rendition of the blues classic, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” It’s often mistaken for an original Nirvana tune because its actual writer wasn’t very popular with an audience of grunge-loving white folk, that original writer being blues legend Huddie William Ledbetter, known more familiarly as Lead Belly. The crowd originally didn’t recognize the famous tune from Lead Belly’s repertoire, and thus, began mistaking it for a Nirvana original. Cover ❙ Original

Tainted Love – Soft Cell

One of the biggest British chart toppers of the 1980s was actually a cover song. “Tainted Love” by Brit synth-pop band Soft Cell wasn’t by Soft Cell at all, but by Gloria Jones, an American artist who dabbled heavily in the Motown and Northern Soul scenes in the 1960s and ‘70s. While many forgot about Gloria Jones’ version of the song, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” topped the UK singles chart for months, and was even the best-selling single in the UK for the year 1981. As of 2012, it is believed to have sold over 1.27 million copies worldwide. Not bad for a cover, eh? Cover ❙ Original

Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix

“Hey Joe” is one of the most well known songs Jimi Hendrix ever played. Period. It’s this fact that makes it even more difficult to hear that this classic rock and roll staple wasn’t actually a Jimi original, but rather a cover from a lesser-known band, The Leaves. The original Leaves tune is a hell of a lot more frantic and lo-fi than Jimi’s version, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps the only consolation to this tragic news is that Jimi Hendrix essentially re-wrote the song, save for the lyrics and chord progression. Both versions sound completely different, but we’ll take Jimi’s any day! Cover ❙ Original

Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley

There are many tragic stories in rock and roll, and Jeff Buckely’s is among the most tragic. Buckley died at the height of his career after embarking on a spontaneous late night swim in the mighty Mississippi back in 1997, when he got caught in the wake of a boat and accidentally drowned. The most famous song of his career, “Hallelujah” was actually a cover. The original, composed and sang by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, is actually kind of creepy and weird and it feels like the song didn’t really come into its own until the Buckley cover.  Good thing it did too. Cover ❙ Original

Jolene – The White Stripes

There aren’t many out there who would debate Jack White’s musical genius. He’s responsible for a lot of the great rock and roll music released over the last decade or so, but that isn’t to say the boy doesn’t know his roots. The White Stripes’ popular song “Jolene” is actually a cover of a Dolly Parton classic of the same name. It just goes to show that great music can span genres pretty seamlessly if its message is universal enough. Cover ❙ Original

That’s All For Everyone – Tame Impala

It makes perfect sense that a poppy, electronic, very ‘80s-sounding psych-pop band like Tame Impala would be out here covering Fleetwood Mac songs. Tame Impala covered the song for a Fleetwoood Mac Tribute record that also featured the likes of MGMT, Best Coast, Karen Elson, and The New Pornographers, and it just kind of took off from there. They did a seriously good job on the track, and while it sounds super similar to the Fleetwood Mac original, they managed to make it their own in a really, really good way. If you haven’t heard this one—even if you’re not the biggest Fleetwood Mac fan—definitely give it a listen! Cover ❙ Original

California Sun – The Ramones

You know, we never really questioned why a couple pale skinny kids from Queens, NY were singing a song called “California Sun.” We always just figured that The Ramones wrote it for the film in which it originally appeared, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, which was, in fact, set in California. But now that we know it’s a cover, it all kind of makes sense. “California Sun” was actually first recorded in 1961 by New Orleans singer-songwriter Joe Jones. In its original incarnation, it’s more of a doo-woppy, poppy kind of diddy, but still carries the high-energy 1960s-surfer-beach-party vibe as The Ramones’ version. We’re definitely fans. Cover ❙ Original

Mad World – Gary Jules and Michael Andrews

If you were an emo kid at any point in your life (or you just like really, really good films), you’ve heard Gary Jules’ and Michael Andrews’ rendition of “Mad World.” The sad, minor chord-driven classic was so popular when it was released that it won Roland Orzabal (the original writer) an Ivor Novello Award. Jules’ version was featured in the 2001 cult classic film Donnie Darko, and it was such a hit that it prompted Jules and Andrews to release it as a bona fide single, which immediately rose to the top of he U.K. charts. The original, first written and recorded by British New Wave band Tears for Fears, did well in its time, but achieved nowhere near the status and acclaim as the Jules and Andrews cover. Go figure. Cover ❙ Original