The Most Covered Songs in Musical History.
Unlike films, where it’s a rare occasion that a subsequent attempt at a remake even matches the original, let alone tops it, music is a different beast. Just because one artist did an excellent job on a song doesn’t mean that someone completely different can’t do something as good in a brand-new way.
Cry Me a River
Written by Arthur Hamilton in 1953, female artist extraordinaire Ella Fitzgerald made sure this torch song was remembered when she recorded it in 1961. Since then it’s been redone by Barbra Streisand, Etta James, Joe Cocker, Shirley Bassey, and even Justin Timberlake.
Leonard Cohen’s slow-burning hit Hallelujah was first recorded by the artist himself in 1984. The versions with arguably the most impact have been by Bob Dylan, Imogen Heap, Jeff Buckley, Regina Spektor, and Rufus Wainwright. It’s one of the most-covered songs written by this musical genius.
House of the Rising Sun
House of the Rising Sun is an American Folk song thought to have been written by Bert Martin and Georgia Turner and dates back to at least the 18th century. It tells the story of a young man who’s lost his way and finds himself in what some refer to as a brother and others a prison and shot to fame in 1964 when The Animals recorded it. Much like the online Bingo Canada and other countries offer today, it’s remained very popular and has been covered by many magnificent musicians. The list includes The Be Good Tanyas, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Jimi Hendrix, and Joan Baez.
Over the Rainbow
This ballad was composed by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg for The Wizard of Oz film in 1939 and was sung beautifully by Judy Garland. She’s not the only singer to have taken a crack at it, and her fellows include Chet Atkins, Eva Cassidy, Patti LaBelle, Tori Amos, and Willie Nelson. A Hawaiian rendition by the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is also something that must be heard, ranking up there with one of the finest covers of all time.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
We have The Rolling Stones to thank for this homage to sexual frustration, and the track was written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger in 1965. Since then it’s been redone by the likes of Aretha Franklin, pop star Britney Spears, Jerry Lee Lewis, Otis Redding, and Vanilla Ice.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
This popular Christmas song was originally written by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots in 1934 but it’s become a favourite worldwide and has seen many makeovers since then. Everybody from The Andrews Sisters, The Beach Boys, and Bing Crosby to Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen has had a go.
Summertime ranks as possibly the most covered song on earth and was written in 1934 by the great George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Since then the world has enjoyed new versions of it featuring Billie Holiday and her orchestra, Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, R.E.M., and The Ray Charles Singers.