10 Hit Songs That Are Actually Covers
There are certain songs that we instantly connect to a specific artist even though they are covers.
Perhaps the most famous example is the powerful ballad “I Will Always Love You”, recorded by Whitney Houston (and produced by Canadian David Foster) for the 1992 soundtrack. The bodyguard. Houston’s biggest hit, it topped charts around the world and was named Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards.
But, of course, “I Will Always Love You” was written and recorded by country queen Dolly Parton nearly two decades earlier.
Other covers that fared better than the originals included UB40’s 1983 hit “Red Red Wine” (a 1967 Neil Diamond song), Blondie’s 1980 single “The Tide is High” (recorded by the Paragons in 1967) and “Ring of Fire” in 1963 (recorded earlier that year by Anita Carter).
A number of original Canadian songs have been popular with artists who have covered them – “American Woman” (from The Guess Who) covered by Lenny Kravitz, “What About Love” (from Toronto) covered by Heart and “Hallelujah” (by Leonard Cohen) covered by Jeff Buckley and kd lang.
Wondering what other hit songs were actually covers? Well, we’ve got you covered:
1. “Nothing compares to 2 U” – Sinéad O’Connor (1990)
Sinéad O’Connor’s signature song, the emotional ballad “Nothing Compares 2 U”, was written by Prince for The Family, a band he formed for his label, Paisley Park Records. The song was track #6 on the band’s self-titled debut album, released in 1985.
O’Connor recorded his version in 1989 and included it on his 1990 second album, I don’t want what I don’t have. Released as the second single, it topped the charts in Canada, the United States, and countries around the world. The clip was named Video of the Year at the MTV VMAs and was nominated for three Grammys, including Record of the Year.
2. “I Like Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (1981)
This ’80s rock anthem is easily – and naturally – associated with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. Released in 1981, it topped the charts in the United States and Canada and became the group’s only No. 1 hit. Jett’s signature song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016.
Written by Alan Merrill, the song was originally recorded by British rock band The Arrows in 1975. Jett, touring with the Runaways in 1976, saw the band perform the song on British television. She recorded a version in 1979 then redid it with the Blackhearts two years later.
3. “Girls just wanna have fun” – Cyndi Lauper (1983)
The fun song was the lead single from Cyndi Lauper’s debut album, She’s So Unusual, and earned her Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. He also came up with a video that was named Best Female Video at the MTV VMAs.
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was written and recorded by Robert Hazard in 1979.
4. “Ripped” – Natalie Imbruglia (1997)
No other song is more closely associated with Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia than her 1997 debut single, “Torn”, which became a worldwide hit.
Written by Scott Cutler, Anne Preven and Phil Thornalley, it was recorded in 1993 by Danish singer Lis Sørensen then in 1994 by Ednaswap, a band formed by Cutler and Preven. Singer Trine Rein also covered the song in 1996.
5. “I Want Candy” – Bow Wow Wow (1982) and Aaron Carter (2000)
Few songs can claim to be breakthrough hits for more than one act – but “I Want Candy” was a hit for Bow Wow Wow and Aaron Carter nearly 20 years apart.
Although Carter’s version has often been described as a cover of Bow Wow Wow, the song was actually first recorded in 1965 by the Strangeloves – a studio group consisting of songwriters Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer (Bert Berns is also credited as co-author). Released as their second single, it was a Top 10 hit in Canada.
6. “Achy Breaky Heart” – Billy Ray Cyrus (1992)
Billy Ray Cyrus brought line dancing into the mainstream with “Achy Breaky Heart”, his debut single and a hit on the country and pop charts. (It was his biggest hit until it appeared on a remix of Lil Nas X’s “Old Time Road” in 2019.)
The song, written by Don Von Tress, was first recorded by the Marcy Brothers in 1991 as “Don’t Tell My Heart”. They took the song after it was rejected by the Oak Ridge Boys.
7. “Blinded by the Light” – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (1976)
“Blinded by the Light” was the lead single from Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut album. Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ but failed to make an impression on the cards. But, to this day, it remains the only song written by Springsteen to dominate the Billboard Hot 100 – thanks to the British rock band’s cover.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their version of “Blinded by the Light” on their 1976 album The Roaring Silence. The song went to No. 1 on charts around the world, including the United States and Canada – and became a rock classic (perhaps most famous for its misheard lyric “Revved up like a deuce”) .
8. “Alone” – Heart (1987)
Mention the powerful ballad “Alone” and someone is bound to be called Heart. Indeed, the Wilson sisters had a big hit with the song, which Heart released as the lead single from their album. bad animals in 1987. It was a worldwide hit (including #1 in Canada).
“Alone” was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, who originally recorded it as i-Ten on their 1983 album take a cold look.
9. “Stained Love” – Soft Cell (1981)
British pop duo Soft Cell had a No. 1 hit in Canada (and Top 10 in the US) with “Tainted Love”, the song for which they became best known.
Written by Ed Cobb, it was recorded in 1965 by Gloria Jones but failed to make an impact. She tried again, dropping a new recording of the song in 1976 – but it too didn’t explode.
10. “Time is on my side” – The Rolling Stones (1964)
Ask friends who’ve sung “Time Is On My Side” and chances are they’ll answer Mick Jagger. That’s because it was the first Top 10 hit in the US for the Rolling Stones when they released it in 1964 (it went to No. 3 in Canada).
The track was written by Jerry Ragovoy (under the pseudonym Norman Meade) and recorded in 1963 by jazz musician Kai Winding, with backing vocals from Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick and their aunt Cissy Houston (mother of the late Whitney Houston) . The following year, “Time Is On My Side” was released by R&B singer Irma Thomas.