Music’s Greatest Makeovers: 10 Covers That Topped The Charts

August 3, 2023 2:07 pm in by
Getty Images: Photo by Paul Natkin (Tina Turna), Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Lenny Krevitz), Christopher Polk (Joan Jett)

Grab your headphones, because we’re taking a musical journey through time, exploring the best cover songs that not only outdid their predecessors but also made some serious waves on the charts. So, buckle up and let’s dive into some of the best musical makeovers of all time. 

Fast Car – Luke Combs (Originally by Tracey Chapman)

Country superstar, Luke Combs recently revitalised Tracy Chapman’s hit Fast Car. The cover reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and No. 2 on Hot 100 last month. Combs, known for his traditional sound and heartfelt lyrics, was first drawn to Chapman’s Fast Car while driving with his father when he was younger.

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All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix (Originally by Bob Dylan)

Hendrix’s 1968 version of All Along the Watchtower electrified this Dylan classic, transforming it into a psychedelic rock wonder. It soared to #20 in the US and #5 in the UK, surpassing Dylan’s original, which didn’t chart. Hendrix’s intense guitar riffs and impassioned vocals imprinted the song into our hearts forever.

Killing Me Softly – The Fugees (Originally by Roberta Flack) 

Roberta Flack’s soulful ballad Killing Me Softly found a fresh urban beat in 1996 when hip-hop group The Fugees released their version. Lauryn Hill’s expressive vocals, combined with the group’s innovative hip-hop flair, helped this cover become a hit worldwide, giving a modern spin to the heart-rending lyrics of the original

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston (Originally by Dolly Parton) 

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The Bodyguard soundtrack of 1992 gifted us Whitney Houston’s breathtaking rendition of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You. Houston’s unparalleled vocal range transformed this country ballad into a pop and R&B powerhouse, and it topped the charts in multiple countries. Sorry Dolly, but Whitney took this one to another level. Listen to the original.

Proud Mary – Ike and Tina Turner (Originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival) 

Proud Mary was a hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969, but Ike and Tina Turner supercharged this song in 1971, transforming it into a high-energy soul classic. Their fiery version added a lot more funk and sass, propelling it to great heights and making it a staple of Tina Turner’s live performances. 

Hazy Shade of Winter – The Bangles (Originally by Simon and Garfunkel) 

The Bangles reimagined Hazy Shade of Winter in 1987, turning Simon and Garfunkel’s folk-rock number into a driving pop-rock tune. The cover, recorded for the Less Than Zero movie soundtrack, brought an added layer of energy and urgency to the song, making it a chart-topping success. 

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American Woman – Lenny Kravitz (Originally by The Guess Who) 

Lenny Kravitz’s rock-infused 1999 version of American Woman added a modern grit to The Guess Who’s 1969 classic. Kravitz’s guitar-heavy version, featured in the Austin Powers movie, carried a heavier edge and reached the top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

Red Red Wine – UB40 (Originally by Neil Diamond) 

UB40 put their reggae spin on Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine in 1983, turning it into an infectious, slow-burning hit. Their chilled-out, laid-back version gave the song a unique twist that resulted in it topping the charts in the US, UK and Australia. 

I Love Rock ‘n Roll – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (Originally by The Arrows) 

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Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ fiery 1982 version of I Love Rock ‘n Roll became a rock anthem, outshining the original by The Arrows. Jett’s gutsy vocals and the infectious guitar riff turned this cover into a chart-topping hit and a staple at rock concerts. 

Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinéad O’Connor (Originally by The Family) 

Sinéad O’Connor’s 1990 interpretation of Nothing Compares 2 U struck a chord with the audience in a way that the original by Prince’s project, The Family, didn’t. O’Connor’s raw emotion, combined with the poignant music video, helped this song reach number 1 across multiple countries when it was released. 

There you have it! Familiar tunes, freshly reinvented, and delivered with a new spark. These cover songs have climbed the charts and resonated with listeners, offering a convincing argument that sometimes the reprise can be even more compelling than the original.