10 Rock & Roll Covers That Are Better Than the Original

10 Rock & Roll Covers That Are Better Than the Original | Society Of Rock Videos

via Sonny's Oldies / YouTube

It’s not an easy task to take someone else’s song and completely make it your own, to the point where people forget about the original version.

Here are 10 instances where this happened.

‘All Along the Watchtower’ – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Original: Bob Dylan)

Although Bob Dylan’s version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ is good, it has a dusty blues sound on his 1967 album ‘John Wesley Harding.’ Jimi Hendrix completely transforms the song into a cosmic psychedelic masterpiece. His rendition is tougher, sharper, and more unconventional than the original. Hendrix completely took ownership of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ less than a year after Dylan released it.

‘Black Magic Woman’ – Santana (Original: Fleetwood Mac)

There isn’t much difference between Fleetwood Mac’s original 1968 version of ‘Black Magic Woman’ and Santana’s cover two years later. The main distinction is that Santana’s version naturally incorporates a Latin groove. Both versions feature smoky vocals and impressive guitar work, but Santana’s take on the song is more energetic and captivating compared to Fleetwood Mac’s relatively mellow rendition.

‘Blinded by the Light’ – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (Original: Bruce Springsteen)

Bruce Springsteen’s original version of ‘Blinded by the Light’ from his 1973 debut album ‘Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.’ isn’t bad. It showcases a stripped-down Springsteen with minimal backing. However, three years later, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band turned the song into a soaring rock anthem that reached No. 1. Springsteen has never achieved that level of success with any of his own songs.

‘Downtown Train’ – Rod Stewart (Original: Tom Waits)

We really enjoy Tom Waits’ original version of ‘Downtown Train’ from his 1985 album ‘Rain Dogs.’ However, Waits’ rough voice doesn’t quite match the warm sentiment of the song. Four years later, Rod Stewart delivered a warmer rendition of ‘Downtown Train’ and had a Top 3 hit with it. Stewart’s raspy voice suited the song better and made it more successful overall.

‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Original: The Arrows)

Joan Jett’s rendition of ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ is noted for its impact, given that the original version by The Arrows remains relatively unknown, especially in the U.S. Originally crafted by the London-based band in 1975, Jett brought the song back to the spotlight for her 1982 album, even naming the record after the track. Her interpretation not only soared to the top of the charts for an impressive seven weeks but has also become her most iconic piece of music.

‘The Man Who Sold the World’ – Nirvana (Original: David Bowie)

Originally penned and performed by David Bowie, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ in 1970 didn’t quite reach the same level of focus and clarity as Nirvana’s take on the track during their ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’ showcase. While Bowie was still establishing himself as a top artist, Nirvana’s cover revealed hidden depths within the song with its sharp and poignant rendition.

‘Me and Bobby McGee’ – Janis Joplin (Original: Kris Kristofferson)

Kris Kristofferson’s limited vocal abilities didn’t hinder his songwriting talent, exemplified in ‘Me and Bobby McGee.’ The song found greater recognition through Janis Joplin’s posthumous album ‘Pearl,’ where her version quickly claimed the No. 1 spot and solidified itself as the definitive interpretation of the song.

‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ – The Byrds (Original: Bob Dylan)

Though Bob Dylan’s original ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ isn’t lacking in quality, its length and acoustic nature stand in contrast to The Byrds’ electric and succinct rendition. The cover not only kickstarted their musical journey but also played a significant role in popularizing the folk-rock genre.

‘Without You’ – Nilsson (Original: Badfinger)

Nilsson’s recording of ‘Without You,’ originally written by Badfinger, surpassed Mariah Carey’s later rendition as the definitive version of the song. Climbing to the top of the charts for four weeks, Nilsson’s rendition on his album ‘Nilsson Schmilsson’ solidified its place as the standout interpretation of the track.

‘Woodstock’ – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Original: Joni Mitchell)

Joni Mitchell’s reflective and mournful release of ‘Woodstock,’ inspired by her boyfriend’s experiences at the iconic music festival in 1969, captured a different essence compared to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s electrified take on the song. The group’s version brought forth the celebratory and joyful spirit of the festival, resonating deeply with listeners.

Don’t Miss Out! Sign up for the Latest Updates

Premium Partners

Society of Rock partner World War Wings
Society of Rock partner Daily Rock Box
Society of Rock partner Country Music Nation
Society of Rock partner Country Rebel
Society of Rock partner I Love Classic Rock
Society of Rock partner Rock Pasta

Interested in becoming a partner?

Contact us for more info.