Sometimes a cover song is just as good as — or even better — than the original. Check out these four memorable covers from some of music’s most talented artists.
1. Jimi Hendrix All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
Bob Dylan’s haunting, narrative ballad got an electric makeover when legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix recorded it with his band, The Experience. The song appeared on Hendrix’s album Electric Ladyland only six months after Dylan recorded it. But Hendrix’s version is so powerful — due largely to his driving guitar riffs and grainy vocal interpretation — that it’s often considered to be the superior version. Dylan spoke highly of Hendrix’s cover, stating the infamous rocker’s take “overwhelmed” him, and that he feels he’s paying tribute to Hendrix each time he performs it.
2. Johnny Cash, Hurt (Nine Inch Nails)
At first blush, country music and industrial rock may not seem like a match made in musical heaven. But when crossover country icon Johnny Cash chose to cover Nine Inch Nails’ haunting ballad “Hurt” for his album 2002 American IV: The Man Comes Around, he created one of the emotionally resonant recordings of the 21st century. Cash was recovering from illness late in his life, and his low, shaky vocals — combined with the spare, driving piano — reveal a deep vulnerability that’s both powerful and memorable. Critical response to both the song and its accompanying music video was almost universally positive. Nine Inch Nails’ frontman Trent Reznor said he was Cash’s take on his song gave him “goosebumps.” It added a beautifully moving footnote to the late singer’s already illustrious career.
3. Sid Vicious, My Way (Frank Sinatra)
The Sex Pistols’ raucous frontman was well-known for his rock and roll lifestyle. So some may have scratched their heads when he chose to take one of Frank Sinatra’s legendary ballads and turn it into a punk rock showpiece. Vicious recorded “My Way,” which was written by Paul Anka and made famous by the Rat Packer, in 1978 for his album The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. Since he didn’t know most of the lyrics, he improved many of his own, turning the song into a defiant anthem. Lyricist Paul Anka said he was originally uncertain about Vicious’s version of the song, but that he appreciated Vicious’s sincere delivery.
4. Aretha Franklin, Respect (Otis Redding)
Perhaps one of the most recognizable recordings of the 20th century, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” has become the go-to power anthem for women all over the world. Many don’t even know that the song originated with another great soul singer, Otis Redding. His version of “Respect” is considerably more low-key, but by no means unremarkable. Still, there’s something about the way Franklin belts out her demand for fair treatment that stirs the soul and makes you want to sing along.